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Why the Hell Do We Clap for the Dads?

Something unusual happens at our weekly mommy-and-me class, and I wonder if it happens at others. Whenever a dad comes, we clap. On days when a dad graces us with his presence, the teacher points it out to everyone.

"We have a daddy with us today," she says, while clapping and gesticulating at the moms to join her in applause. I clapped along with everyone else the first time a dad visited our group.

But the next time it happened, and the time after that, I caught myself wondering, "Why are we clapping at all?"

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The room is filled with moms—and grandmothers and aunts—who are there week after week. We could be at Sephora right now. But we're not. We're sitting on tiny chairs guiding our toddlers as they push shapes into wooden boxes or make masterpieces with stamps carved from potatoes. We watch out for each other's kids. We quash conflicts (usually arising from lack of sharing). We pack healthy snacks and then wipe up the crumbs. I made play doh from scratch and cooked it on a hot plate in the classroom. I'm committed, as is every other woman in the room.

We could be at Sephora right now. But we're not.

I genuinely enjoy our class, and I'm not even saying we deserve an applause for being moms (nah, we totally do). What I'm saying is that it's preposterous to praise dads for doing what moms do all the time. It's not fair to dads either. Dads shouldn't have to feel like being in a class with his kid makes him some counter-culture revolutionary. And no, he's not filling in for mom—he's being a dad.

This has happened in other ways too. A cashier remarked to my husband that she thought it was so sweet for him to be out grocery shopping with her. My husband was praised by family for changing diapers and getting up at night when she was a newborn.

When I do those things, it's unremarkable. When he does them, he's a saint.

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I probably wouldn't mind if moms got equal praise in other ways. But when moms become the primary income earners in their families, they don't get the same kind of fanfare. No one is saying, "Jane came into the office today despite having a baby at home, let's all clap for her!" If anything, many working moms face judgment for their their perceived lack of professional commitment. Meanwhile, hardly anyone asks men how they balance work and family. And on top of all that, they get praised for showing up to mommy-and-me?

I'll clap for every one of us, or none of us. But I won't clap just for some.

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Image via Twenty20/Darby

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