The sexist return-to-work comment I wasn’t expecting…

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Um, the 1950s called and they want their sexist bullshit attitudes back, people.

I dunno whether we’re going to file this one under “collective brain snap” or “well-intentioned idiocy” but you’ve got to wonder just what exactly society has been up to for the past, you know, 60 years when such stereotypically gendered questions prevail.

After one week of work I’ve fielded all sorts of queries from friends, family and colleagues about my time as a stay-at-home mum and my readiness to return to work (veeeeerrry ready people, just in case you didn’t know that) but there’s one particular comment I’ve received several times that has made me want to jam my head in the fridge and close the door repeatedly.

It usually goes down like this:

You’re going back to work? Yeah, three days a week – Sunday to Tuesday. I can’t wait!
So who’s looking after the kids? My husband on Sunday, my mother on Monday and Tuesday.
Your husband on Sunday? Boy, he won’t know what hit him!

Um, what hit him? You mean the whole caring for his children for – gasp – one whole day – gasp – by himself? You know, the ones HE HAS BEEN RAISING SINCE BIRTH?

Excuse me while I return to the salon for a cup of tea, a Bex, and a good lie down to ponder this quandary….

You’ve got to be f*****g kidding me! … is what I would honestly like to say, but instead I generally laugh awkwardly and respond: “Oh not at all, he’s great with the kids. He’s got it all worked out.”

But that’s a cop out. He never really had to “work” much out – he has been an adoring, diligent, switched-on dad from the moment we bought the little screamers home.

Sure, I get that I’ve spent more one-on-one time with my children than he has (which was the most practical arrangement for our family).  And yes, he once made a near-deadly rookie error (one made by many a new dad, mind you) lamenting the state of the house and questioning if a breastfeeding mother really had to spend that much time sitting on their arse all day after the birth of our first daughter. (How ironic it would’ve been had the What To Expect When You’re Expecting book I’d lobbed at him actually hit its mark and put the poor sod out of his misery).

But really, aside from birthing and breastfeeding, there is nothing I’ve done with those children that he hasn’t.

He knows who to feed what, when. He knows favourite movies, foods, outfits and all the best ways to stem a teary outburst. He can recite The Cat In The Hat from memory and sing The Lorax soundtrack. He paints nails, plaits hair, builds towers and tutors in the arts of drilling and playing guitar (not at the same time).

He is a bloody fantastic dad.

So the idea that he would somehow struggle to care for his children for any period of time is preposterous. And completely sexist.

It buys into a whole raft of unhelpful stereotypes: that women are “naturally” more suited to caring for children because we’re apparently more nurturing, emotional beings; that real, tough, masculine men are too busy earning money out in the real world to know anything about childrearing; that men are only capable of “babysitting” their children for short periods of time, rather than actually contributing to their upbringing in a meaningful way; that men generally prefer to avoid childrearing; that they find it unnatural.

For God’s sake, people, it’s not like I married a single-celled, dribbling buffoon. Or the captain of a douche canoe.

Yeah, there are some crappy dads out there. They can be disconnected, or absent, or just plain lazy. But there are some crappy mums out there too, OK? So let’s quit it with your sexist assumptions.

Daddy daughter jam session.

Daddy daughter jam session.

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Has someone in your life experienced this kind of sexism? Is your partner/husband a switched-on father? Feel free to brag about their awesomeness below (and earn yourself some brownie points).

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Comments

  1. GREAT ARTICLE!!!! Thank you for standing up for dads as caregivers. We involved dads really appreciate it (after all moms and dads are supposed to be on the same team, right?). BTW, a few SAHDs I know were on a nationally syndicated daytime talk show and the audience questions were very consistent with those ignorant comments you encountered.

    My wife works evenings and weekends, and she goes nuts whenever people say things like “that must be hard for you and your son that you can’t tuck him in at night,” as if she is being neglectful or I am somehow lacking as a parent.

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    • Thanks for the comment!
      I was honestly taken aback by the attitude of these people. Many of them were well-meaning and didn’t know my husband very well, but it’s just so offensive to assume that fathers are any less capable than mothers of looking after their children.

      I feel for your wife – we’re not immune to the bad working mum judgements either. Sadly, I was more prepared for those.

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  2. There is this entire dad-bashing thing going on with society that makes no sense and is just plain irritating. It makes me proud to be the kind of dad, like your husband, who knows what he’s doing and can raise his kids. Thank you for writing this from your side of the story. If more women and wives would voice their opinion like you have, things would change really quickly! All the active dads voicing their opinions and letting it be known that we know what we’re doing, is certainly helping, as well. Many of them are together in New Orleans this weekend for the Dad 2.0 Summit and it will only help to change peoples mindsets about this.

    And, if you don’t mind me sharing a link (I don’t like dropping links on other people’s blogs), I wrote a similar post about all the “dad-bashing”. http://papabrownie.com/2013/12/03/the-dad-bashing-needs-to-stop/

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    • Thanks for your contribution Nick! I couldn’t agree more with your dad-bashing post.
      If mothers and fathers were respected equally as caregivers -regardless of who stays home with the children more- families would be better off for it.

      Like

      • Thanks for reading the post, always appreciated! Hopefully, one day, parents will all be viewed equally by society, the media, and peers.

        Like

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