The television is on in the background while my husband and I are getting dinner together for ourselves. It’s a show that neither of us have seen before, a typical family sitcom, and we each catch a few lines here and there and chuckle. At one point, my husband asks me what is actually happening on the episode, as he has been unable to garner the theme from just the few scattered scenes he has watched. I stop and pay attention for a minute or two and it becomes very clear that this is the type of episode of family television that I absolutely loathe – the kind where the dad is a bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to parent and is attempting to prove to the mom, the overachieving perfect parent, that he can do the bare minimum of tasks without her help.
I find this theme completely insulting for my husband and all the other wonderful dads that I know. From the dawn of television this has been a common subject among family sitcoms, one that portrays the dad as an incapable and inept parent and the mother as the goddess of parenting. It often portrays a savvy, strong completely competent mother magically doing it all, while the father comes home from work, cracks open a beer and sits his tuchus on the couch for the remainder of the evening ignoring his family. This is such a demeaning and insulting way to portray men. We spend so much time focusing on equality for women (which, yes, is MUCH needed) that we seem to ignore when we are doing the same thing to our male counterparts. This outdated portrayal of the father who works all day and can’t be bothered with household duties such as parenting is almost as antiquated as the idea that women can’t work outside of the home and be a quality employee just like their husbands.
We rightfully spend an incredible amount of time teaching our little girls that they are equal to men. We make sure they understand that they can become astronauts and rocket scientists, Supreme Court Justices and Presidents, but for me, it is just as important to teach my son that he can be a quality parent equal to that of his wife. Just because I am a female, a mother, it does not make me a better parent then my husband, a father. The definition of a parent is literally, “a father or a mother.” My husband and I are equally qualified to provide support to our children. Yes, there are some things that I will do better and there are some things my husband will do better, but together we make one excellent parent.
When we decided to have a family, we made the decision together, with the understanding that they would have two equally competent parents. Since then, there has not been a single day since when my husband comes home from work and does not participate in the parenting duties on some level. He does it—despite being obviously exhausted after an entire day of work—because he loves his children and wants to be involved in their lives. He does it with a smile on his face and the care and attention that it deserves. He is directly involved in every aspect of their lives. He knows, without asking, what will make them stop crying, what they eat, how they like to sleep, how well they are doing in school, and what areas of life they struggle in.
I do a lot of volunteer work and I recently returned to school. This would be impossible if I didn’t believe that my husband was an equally excellent and competent parent. Many nights I miss bath time and putting the children to sleep. He doesn’t “step in” to any role. He is their father and does it seamlessly because that is the task that our children require that moment. There are just as many nights that my children call out, “daaaadddddddyyyyyyy” to come in and help them with whatever is ailing them. This does not make me jealous, it warms my heart. They love him and understand that they can rely on him in their most trying times just as much as they can rely on me. Together we are teaching our daughter that her role as a mother is a shared one, and our son that being a parent is equally as important as being an employee.