Jump directly to the content
Don't Call Him 'Mr. Mom'
Don't Call Him 'Mr. Mom'

Don't Call Him 'Mr. Mom'


Feb 7 2013
Quit patronizing. It's OK for dads to be dads.

When strangers see a dad and his kids at the grocery store, library, park, or pool, they make a remark like, "Oh, you're babysitting today." My husband developed a standard response: "No, I'm being Dad." He was gracious, but it was puzzling and offensive to think caring for one's own children could be called babysitting.

Trevor was an at-home dad from the time our oldest was 9 months old to the day our youngest started kindergarten. We opted for this arrangement more than a decade ago, when at-home dads comprised 1.6 percent of all stay-at-home parents in the U.S. In 2011, that percentage had risen to 3.4 percent. That's 176,000 at-home dads raising more than 332,000 children.

While their ranks are growing, dads still make up a very small percentage of at-home parents. This exacerbates a problem many at-home parents face: loneliness. While women have groups, both formal and informal, to help them combat isolation and support one another, men find few companions who can relate to their everyday experiences. One father, quoted in Wall Street Journal, said "when he took his kids to public parks, 'moms would talk over me as if I was not even there.' "

My husband got the cold shoulder from moms at the park, but was fortunate to make friends with another at-home dad who lived a few houses away. They spent a lot of time together, working on home improvement projects while the girls played together. Some men have a harder time.

In addition to excluding them, it's ironic that women often show dads the same kind of—I suppose the right term is maternalistic—attitudes and behaviors our paternalistic brothers sometimes show in the workplace and elsewhere. We laugh over ironic images of men in domestic situations, like Porn for New Moms, mixing desire with mocking. Yes, they're funny, but only because of our assumptions about men. Would they be funny if they were pictures of women doing the same thing? Would we find them funny if they depicted hapless women in traditionally male roles? We patronize dads as they care for little ones, saying things like, "Isn't that cute?" and "Here, let me help you with that diaper." We fuss over them the same way powerful and insecure men might be tempted to fuss over women when they're changing tires or using slide rules.

As those condescending attitudes become less acceptable when aimed at us, we must drop them when they're turned the other way. Women had to fight to prove they could do what men had been doing for so long. Men shouldn't have to prove they can be skilled parents. This means more than just showing confidence that dads can do what moms can do—we need to affirm that it's okay (good!) for dads to be dads.

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Lent in the Shadow of Cancer

Lent in the Shadow of Cancer

Three writers reflect on breast cancer, bodies, and resurrection hope.
Bring Back Blind Dating

Bring Back Blind Dating

Online matches put the pressure on us, while setups offer a sense of community support.
Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote a kids Bible so popular that they’re releasing an adult version.
We Don’t Age Out of Our Sexuality

We Don’t Age Out of Our Sexuality

Balancing love, desire, and the demands of midlife.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote a kids Bible so popular that they’re releasing an adult version.

Twitter

  • RT @VanityFair: Who drank Felix Felicis to get us another Harry Potter book? Thank you for your service https://t.co/tW265J8lbS
  • RT @lkoturner: Christianity isn't a "positive" religion: On Ash Wednesday and dust https://t.co/PgbVtfn3Ma
  • Suffering from cancer and waiting for Easter https://t.co/mPYSnrGk63 #AshWednesday @HolyDreaming
  • @leslielfields Thanks for the RT!
  • RT @TIME: Breaking news: Carly Fiorina ends her presidential campaign https://t.co/9VnInZIn1F


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Don't Call Him 'Mr. Mom'