When my first child was 6 weeks old, my husband and I took her to see her relatives four hours away. I was stressed out from working, lactating, not sleeping and still recovering from giving birth. So I asked my husband to pack her some clothes. A 6-week-old baby doesn't need a lot of planning when it comes to outfits, just throw 20 sleepers in a suitcase and call it good.
But when we got to our destination I discovered and completely unusable mélange of onesies, skirts and tights. My family laughed a lot when I showed them the pile. But it was irritating. Plenty of people gave us clothes so we survived. That's not the problem. The problem was that he could laugh off it off as a parenting gaff, while I got criticized by old ladies at Target for not putting shoes on an infant.
Moms are amazing because they are all these things. Dads? Well, they fart and grill, apparently.
When it comes to parenting, fathers in America are held to a low bar, which seems to be the basic survival of the child. Recently, a young father went viral for dressing his infant daughter in overalls with no shirt and a giant hair bow.
"Oh dads!" Seemed to be the general response of the internet. Meanwhile a mother who lost her son for a few seconds at a zoo is still being dragged through the mud. The consequences of each action may have been different, but the situation stands. Dads being horrible parents is a punchline. Moms being horrible is a tragedy.
Any mother who's been glared at the grocery store for buying food with tired children can tell you that she's seen those same people who told her, "Maybe your kid is tired" praise a father for doing the same thing.
Last year, I put off a dentist appointment for three months because I couldn't find anyone to help me with the children. But when I left for a few days, my neighbor brought food to my husband and offered to babysit and my mother-in-law drove in for a few days to help as well. The problem is not just in how fathers are seen as failures, but that mothers are seen as everything else—the perfect cook, house cleaner, chauffeur, social calendar keeper, organizer of clothing, groceries, mittens, toys, and oh yes, she still has another job.
How do women have it all? We ask. Meanwhile we don't bat an eye when a man manages to have children and a career. He's a good dad.
The problem is particularly insidious because it's this very double standard that we use to laud women. Take a look at greeting cards. Moms are amazing because they are all these things. Dads? Well, they fart and grill, apparently.
Why can't moms be amazing for grilling and farting? I do both excellently. Why can't dads be amazing for doing it all? And this double standard affects men, too. Since becoming a father (and excellent parent) my husband chafes at the condescension that is tossed at him by other people when they see him take the kids to the park or the grocery store. "You are such a good dad!" People say. And he is a good dad, just not for that.
I too have made some pretty dumb parenting mistakes. There was the time I thought my daughter had a deadly rash and it turned out she'd just colored on herself with markers. And let's not forget the time I actually dropped the baby.
The popular Twitter account @manwhohasitall parodies this double standard.
And while it is funny, I'm not laughing. I'm sick of father's being the punchline while mothers are the straight men. I'm tired of viral memes about LOL Dads and stories that ask if Kim Kardashian is "too sexy for a mom."