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Why Are Mothers Treated Differently Than Fathers?

Photograph by Twenty20

Every time I work later than normal or some other life event circumvents my ability to be home on time-ish and interferes with my typical schedule, an inquisition is initiated regarding who’s taking care of my children in my absence. My nonchalant response of “My husband’s handling it” is often met with the most annoying surprise and shock. “He’s taking care of all of them? Awww, you’re lucky.” Their reactions aren’t always phrased in these exact words, but the ignorant undertone always remains, along with an obtuse outlook of a father’s role and responsibilities.

Worse is when serious judgment is placed on a mother who dare decide to engage in alternate activities unrelated to taking care of their children and families. When agreeing to an after-work happy hour invitation, a fellow coworker questioned whether or not I would be present to kiss and tuck my children into bed followed with an all-too-familiar, “Who’s taking care of the kids?” and how my husband feels about allowing such behavior. Eff that!

Do the fathers of our children deserve extra kudos and praise for their participation in child-rearing? Key word "our." My husband is just as capable and resourceful as me or any other parent. He’s been and continues to be there every step of the way throughout this wild ride of parenting. He is a trusted and dependable gent and is, most of all, responsible. Yes, he knows how to feed and bathe our offspring, change diapers and put them to bed. Not only does he know how, he does a pretty damn good job.

I don’t need praise and extra attention, but whether dads seek it out or not, they get it tenfold.

Why is it such a surprise when the needs of my children rest upon his shoulders instead of my own? You know what reaction I would get if I told people I kept my own tiny humans alive and met their basic needs? Crickets and side-eyes. Maybe a slow clap, if I was lucky. When my husband stays late or enjoys a night out with friends, no one is giving him the third degree into the whereabouts of his children and the caretaking involved. It’s assumed that I’m there without a second thought.

By nature, we mothers don’t gallivant around, boasting about our spectacular parenting abilities, and even if we did, I can only imagine our audience’s irritation in thinking we chose our lifestyle when deciding to have children. No, I don’t need praise and extra attention, but whether dads seek it out or not, they get it tenfold. Why are fathers and mothers treated so differently?

My husband will attest to this severe separation in parenting roles based on gender. During discussions of my husband's parenting efforts when I'm out of town—or better yet, when I plan to meet coworkers after work for a much-needed drink—everyone and their mother has something to say about this poor husband and father left to do it all. Replace "husband" with "mom" in this equation and feelings don’t compare in the least. I took three kids under the age of 5 to the grocery store. Did I get a medal? A participation award? No. Acknowledgement of any kind? Besides the crusty old lady who rudely muttered something under her breath after my kids' presence annoyed her? No. Do I expect it? No. Either does my husband—but, alas, here we are.

I don’t feel as though our relationship is so revolutionary it should result in everyone’s feathers being rustled—especially when many of our friends with kids operate in the same fashion. So, until it catches on and people acclimate themselves to this “new way” of partnership among parents, I’ll just be over here, defending my actions when people see me in public sans kids, as they question my love for my children and family.

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