Stop Praising Dads And Do This Instead6 months, 17 days ago
Last November I sent an email to my coworkers letting them know that my daughter was sick and I’d be taking the day off to take care of her. I got a number of emails praising me for taking time off because my daughter was sick. One person even called me “a wonderful father.” Each time I stay home with one of my children, I receive this kind of praise. And I’ll admit, as I read those compliments, I felt pretty good about myself. But honestly, am I even doing anything special by staying home with a sick kid?
My wife works full time at our children’s school. She takes time off to care for our children when they are sick, and I can say, with 100% confidence, no one from work sent her a message letting her know she’s great mother.
So what gives? Why do I receive so many compliments for merely doing the some thing moms do with regularity?
I see it online all the time, mothers praising their husbands for doing the dishes, or folding the laundry, or falling asleep next to their child. A few months ago I wrote an article about how I showered my friend with praise when he told me about flying alone with his three children. I ended up having to step back a bit, and ask myself why when he flew alone, it was a big deal, but when a mother does it, no one even bats an eye. I ended up apologizing to his wife.
I suspect the reason no one praises my wife when she stays home with our kids, and no one praises a mother when she flies alone, and a million other duties a mother just does, is because they are socially expected of her. This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve gratitude. Mothers deserve much more gratitude than they could ever receive in a lifetime. But it’s hard not to notice this dichotomy and ask: Why are we getting all goofy over fathers simply for being fathers?
I’ve been writing about fatherhood and parenting for a number of years now, and I receive a lot of messages, and what I’ve come to find out is, on the whole, most fathers are stepping it up and becoming equal partners. They are pitching in, being more involved, caring more for their children, and taking on domestic obligations without chagrin. The majority of fathers I encounter love and respect their egalitarian relationship, and don’t need praise for doing what they really ought to be doing as a father.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t show gratitude for the father in your life. You should. But praise is something else, and I think this is where we need to take a step back and examine the difference. For instance, back to the story about my friend who took his three young children flying alone. As he got of the plane, a group of people clapped. They patted him on the back, and called him a wonderful father.
Now that’s praise.
Yes, flying with children alone is 100% hell. But have you ever seen that kind of praise given to a mother traveling alone?
I think there was a time 30 years ago when a father traveling alone, or doing the dishes, or getting up with their children might have been seemed more praise-worthy. That dad was breaking the mold. But we are past that. Don’t get me wrong, if a father does something truly exceptional like build a small amusement park in the backyard for his child with autism who can’t attend an amusement park, then yeah… praise him.
But doing the dishes?
Staying home to be with his sick children?
Frankly, this sort of thing should be expected of fathers. It’s the bar. It should be something that a man comes home to a kiss from his wife, perhaps a thank you, but not a social media post or a crowd of strangers cheering him on as he exits a plane.
Listen, you need to love the person you are with. You need to show them gratitude. Good marriages are rooted in gratitude, and contributions should be recognized. But we need to move away from the understanding that if a man does anything outside of the ’50s bring-home-the-bacon, fatherly stereotype, we should be showering him with praise. NO. ENOUGH.
Many fathers are good men who care about their families, and deserve to be treated as an equal in the parenting battle, not someone who deserves to be praised for doing the minimum.
So the next time you see a dad do something fatherly, save the praise and just show him a little gratitude.
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