Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In defense of dads

I went to the doctor this morning because I sprained my finger yesterday (apparently, I cannot work the trunk of my car without causing myself bodily harm). The Boy came along to watch the baby while I went in. There was an older woman in the waiting room, and she had fun chatting with the Cheeto. When I emerged from my appointment, she looked at me and said "She was a good girl while you were gone, and he was a good daddy." I thanked her and I think I said something to the effect of "He's always a good dad," but I didn't think anything more of it.

Until we got in the car, and it was clear that The Boy was bugged by the lady's comment. Apparently, this happens more than I'd realized -- people checking up on him or reporting back to me about his performance as a dad. It's as if the world expects that he's an incompetent boob that needs my supervision to be a parent.

In real life, nothing could be futher from the truth. The Boy is a great parent. He comes to all of Cheeto's doctor's visits, gives her a bath every night, changes diapers, hoovers her nose when she has a cold, cleans up vomit, sings her songs, makes her laugh, feeds her and cuddles her on a daily basis. In addition, he lets me sleep in one day a week, he mows the lawn, helps keep the house clean, cooks on occasion, does his own laundry, and takes care of those million little maintenance tasks that a house requires. He is completely competent in all that he does, and doesn't need me to tell him what to do or how to care for his daughter.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be married to my husband, but I cannot imagine that he is unique in being a great dad. Yet it seems that more often than not, dads are portrayed in our culture as either absent or bumbling, unable or unwilling to see to the most basic of child rearing tasks. For instance, Leslie Morgan Steiner, the editor of Mommy Wars has written more than once on her blog for the Washington Post about the battles she and her acquaintances have to get their husbands to help out with the kids. And a recent issue of Parenting magazine recently published a poll that said 50% of the women who responded wanted their husbands to watch the kids while also doing housework. The title of the article? Keep Dreaming.

It must suck to be a guy and constantly be told that, simply by virtue of having a penis, you must be incapable of taking care of your own kids without supervision from their mother. I wonder if at some point, these pieces about incompetent dads don't become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, if all that people are going to see is a bumbler, why try to be anything better than that?

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