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Let's Not Perpetuate the Dumbing Down of Dads

Photograph by Getty Images

If you want to irk a perfectly intelligent woman, who is also a mom, applaud the father of her children for doing something that she does all the time, except for zero recognition.

“Oh, Daddy brushed your hair today? Isn’t he a hero!”

“Wow, you have such a great daddy — he took you to the park!”

“Your daddy is so sweet for bringing you along to the grocery store.”

There are plenty of advertisements, TV shows, books and movies that perpetuate the notion that dads need applause for the thankless tasks moms do all the time. There are even more that show dads as dunderheads who need hints and tips for the most menial of parenting-related chores (“Silly Daddy got the diaper on backwards!” “Oh, that dad was so sleepy he put breast milk in the coffee!”).

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One dad out there is not helping his own kind. Dave Burton, 32, became a first-time dad a couple of years ago. When his second kid was born, Burton quit his day job to develop an app that would suggest raising a child is something that can be figured out via an app.

Quick Tips for New Dads, available in the iTunes store for $1.99, has sections for bottle-feeding, crying, bathtime, diapers, “looking after mum,” and — wait for it — breastfeeding. (Admit that you want to spend $1.99 just to read a dad’s breastfeeding advice.)

Of course it’s lovely that a new dad wants to help other dads who feel as clueless as he did after the birth of his first child. Many dads (and moms) are terrified when they bring home a new baby for the first time. No book can prepare you for that pathetic wail that either means the baby is wet/hungry/tired/in need of cuddling/if I knew what was wrong with me I wouldn’t be crying.

If I were a dad, I’d feel insulted that one of my dad-brothers thinks I need my own gender-specific survival guide separate from my baby’s mom.

“It soon became apparent [after bringing home a new baby] that we [dads] all felt we wanted a quick database of practical information, ideally with loads of pictures to show us what to do,” Burton told the Daily Mail.

By all means, if you’re a new dad who needs to be told via your smartphone to “be patient if your partner lashes out at you,” then go buy this app. Also, offer your partner the chance to run away right away. Also, you do realize your smartphone is smarter than you, right?

While the act of making a child might be intuitive, the act of raising one is infinitely trickier. Sure, not one book will tell you everything about your specific child. Absolutely, getting tips from an experienced dad can be helpful. But “the ultimate survival guide” for new dads? Puh-lease.

If I were a dad, I’d feel insulted that one of my dad-brothers thinks I need my own gender-specific survival guide separate from my baby’s mom. After all, aren’t we both caring for the same baby? Just because a mom might have been a little girl who played with dolls doesn’t mean she knows what she’s doing the moment she brings the baby home from the hospital.

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It would seem this app is geared toward men who perhaps don’t get that they sometimes need to just do instead of waiting to be told what to do. Because so often is seems the stereotypical dumb dad is waiting for his marching orders. Wouldn’t it be great, instead, if what was in this app was simply this:

"Just do. Short of dropping the baby, the last thing any new mom wants is another baby to take care of, especially one who is eminently capable of taking care of himself and, yes, the actual baby, too. And if you stare at a smartphone instead of the baby, no one will blame the baby’s mom for having you stand in the corner for a while to stare at the wall and think about what you’ve just done."

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