I sent my husband a text today about a cute, little indoor play spot that I brought our girls to.
His reply: The moms don’t talk to me there.
Enough to break your heart, right? Except, this isn’t an anomaly, this is how he’s treated more often than not.
I’ll start by explaining that my husband is a stay-at-home dad to our two young girls a couple days every week. That means (for those of you wondering how this stay-at-home parenting thing works) that he takes them to swim lessons, play dates, random appointments, and generally tries to keep them happy, entertained, and alive. To me, this has been a blessing. It allows us both to work outside the home. It gives us both the opportunity to spend days alone with our kids. It means that we both know what it’s like to deal with drippy noses, poop explosions, sinks filled with never ending dishes and living rooms that look like a bomb dropped.
But, do you know what I get that he doesn’t get? Respect and support from the community around us. I get it. Most stay-at-home parents are moms. But, it’s 2017, people, there’s no need to be shocked into silence (or worse, condescension) when you see a dad out and about on a weekday with their children.
The first few times that someone joked about him “babysitting” our kids, we laughed. Four years later, it’s gotten stale. He’s not babysitting, he’s parenting. And there’s a big difference.
He goes to the park and the other moms ignore him. He takes the kids grocery shopping and people ask if mommy’s out of town or sick. He brings them to parent-and-me preschool and overhears all the moms planning a group playdate that he’s not invited to.
He’s not a second class parent. He’s living and breathing the parenting thing day in and day out, the same way I am. He works hard at his job and hard (probably harder, if we’re being honest) at home.
Luckily, we have one or two mom friends that don’t feel intimidated by his y-chromosome, and they happily include him in group playdate arrangements and other kid friendly invitations. But, when I hear how most moms treat him, even after showing up to the same class for weeks in a row, I’m appalled.
Moms, we will never turn the men in our lives into the dads and husbands they could be if we continue to treat them like a second class version of ourselves. We need to acknowledge that dads can be fantastic parents, not just for an hour here and there, but constantly and consistently.
I’m tired of hearing from friends that they “can’t” leave their young kids alone with their husbands because they “poor guy” wouldn’t know what to do. Give them a little credit! We were all new at this, too. And how did we learn? By screwing up and trying again. We’ve all been peed on, vomited on, unable to prevent a toddler meltdown, or cooked the “wrong” food for dinner, resulting in tears. And we’re still here to tell about it. So, let them learn. I promise, they’re up for the challenge.
And, next time you see a dad out somewhere with his kids, give him the same knowing side smile you’d give another mom. Make a little small talk with him. Maybe go so far as to invite him and his kids to play at a park sometime. It could go a long way toward helping those long days with littles – because we all know how lonely those days can be.