I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this. From family members, friends and co-workers. Granted, I may not be He-Man over here, but we will be 2 MEN raising a child. While my partner will technically be the “full-time bread-winner” and I will be the “stay-at-home parent” (for only a couple of months mind you), suddenly people picture me with an apron on, running to the front door with a baby in one hand and blueberry pie in the other, to greet my partner after his long day from work. I’m the first to admit that I love to cook. I love to bake. Hell, I love to clean. My eyes literally light up at the sight of the cleaning aisle at the supermarket. I consider myself to be a caretaker and I think i am pretty damn good at it. Nevertheless, I do not want to be considered a mother. Because I am not a mother. I am the other father. The Daddy.
I made phone calls on Mother’s day to many woman and the conversations transpired like this:
“Happy Mothers Day!”
“Hi James! Thank you so much! Happy Mothers Day to you too, Ha ha”.
I stared at the phone wondering why someone would wish me a Happy Mothers Day? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand where their hearts are and I truly do appreciate their consideration. But when our child is finally here, I do not want to be wished a “Happy Mothers Day”. There is no reason to confuse my child, so I would much rather put an end to it now than later.
In my opinion there has always been a bias against men as parents for many possible reasons that I can name just off the top of my head. One….people regard women as “nurturing” so quite natural a fit for parenting. In fact, when it comes to the way society portrays men as single parents (for example), it’s often as awkward, bumbling men- without a shred of responsibility. Whether it’s the classic “Three Men and a Baby” to any of Adam Sandlers movies…it’s a long running movie gag to drop a child in a mans lap and watch him stare at that child like an alien from mars, before feeding him twinkies for breakfast and waiting for both of them to learn to bond. And the scene where the guy has to change his first diaper? While that’s comedy gold! This is how a lot of people think dads parent.
But the not so funny part is that there are a lot of people in the world that secretly believe this about men as parents. I know them personally! There is this assumption in our culture that Moms can change the diaper, put a hot meal on the table, keep up with the homework, after-school activities as well as the functions of the home, while also teaching kids how to be in relationships with others, in a way that dad’s aren’t seen as being naturally capable of. We are seen as having to catch up to those skills.
So when we see cool characters on T.V. that rock the stereotypes and give the world a more realistic view of what it means to be dads with kids (i.e. Modern Family’s gay couple Cam & Mitch, Parenthood’s straight stay-at-home dad Joel Graham) it makes us want to stand up and cheer. Not only are some of them opening the door for acceptance of gay people, but more importantly, they are also helping to teach the world that dad’s are responsible, nurturing adults that know how to put a good dinner on the table once in a while. It used to be such a big deal just to see a gay character in a T.V. show and often that character was single…and most of the time just a side-kick, funny character. Little by little we have been baby stepping our way to accepting a gay person as a full human being with a full range of desires, values, and emotions. It only seems logical that having a family would be the next step in that evolution. but just like every other step along the way there has been struggle, controversy, and confusion.
So…next year on my (hopefully) first fathers day as a father, I will bottle feed my child, bake a cake, clean up the kitchen, and relax with my child and his other father….breaking down the stereotypes together with my family.