DADDY KNOWS LEAST?
(Originally printed in the Capitol News, Corydon, IN, 2007)
NOTE: Here is the first of a series of articles I wrote for a local paper before it went under. Waste not, want not.
Is it just me, or does American society think of dads as little more than donors of genetic code, capable of being pressed into pack mule service after baby’s arrival?
During my wife’s first pregnancy, I was a team player and read all the books and articles I could find on raising babies. The books were very informative, detailing virtually every medical scenario for mom and baby imaginable. The many magazines were helpful too- revealing that fatherhood wasn’t just going to be about staying up all night, changing diapers and trying to figure out where all the noise was coming from.
Somehow, during all this reading, something escaped my notice. The gender bias against dads.
During and after my wife’s second pregnancy I began to notice the hidden message of the "parenting" literature- the slant towards a female audience. When I pointed it out to my wife, she suggested that more women read about parenting than, so the material is tailored for a female audience. I wonder if there is a statistic out there somewhere to back that up?
What if the gender bias is intentional? What if the parenting magazines truly believe dads to be inferior buffoons more like Homer Simpson than Ward Cleaver? What supposedly makes a woman a better parent than a man? And don’t give me the "I carried the baby for nine months" line. I’ve been carrying 60 pounds of extra weight around my middle for nine years.
Changing a diaper isn’t so hard. I can whip up a bottle of powdered formula with the same ease I could a pitcher of instant lemonade. I also know enough to not let the kids stick their fingers in electric sockets or run with sharp objects. Why then is there such a condescending tone towards men in the magazines? I don’t mind a good, illustrated article on breast feeding now and then, but where are the articles about giving dad a day off? Or that special meal to cheer dad up?
And it’s not just the magazines. I keep hearing all these stories on the news about celebrity women adopting children. I never hear about some celebrity guy adopting a bunch of kids. Instead you hear about how many children they’ve fathered illegitimately then failed to pay support on.
In fact, when single mothers are usually discussed, it’s in a matter-of-fact tone, like it’s perfectly normal and dads aren’t really needed. When you hear about a single dad, you hear a story of one man overcoming his solitude, prevailing against all odds to raise his child without a mother in the home.
I take great offense at the idea that I am any less capable a parent because I can’t lactate.
Frankly, I think it’s all a front to cover up an inferiority complex. I call it "Father Envy".
Look at the prominence of father figures in the world and history. God, our Heavenly Father, is a guy and the ultimate Handyman- capable of creating whole universes. The Holy Father- or Pope- lays down Catholic law from the Vatican. Santa, also known as Father Christmas, is a fatherly type who brings children presents. And don’t forget the Wiggles, four goofy Australian guys, dancing and singing children’s songs around the world.
I think the moms of the world, once relied upon for all the cooking and cleaning are feeling their former special attention waning. Take for example Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Thanks to stores like BassPro and Radio Shack, dads can look forward to their parent day with as much anticipation as moms do for Mother’s Day. And frankly, we get cooler stuff. After all, what can you really do with roses and candles? Give me a new shotgun or a bigscreen TV and I’ll be happy all year round.
I see it clearly now. It’s all a conspiracy from the mothers’ sisterhood to keep dads down. Everyone knows Dads are cooler anyway. Dads take you fishing. Dads can carry you to bed past the age of three when you’re too heavy for mom. Dads teach you to drive. Dads take you to ball games. Dads roughhouse with the kids, despite moms’ pleas to "Stop before something gets broken!"
Moms bake cookies, put on bandaids and give hugs.
It’s all spin. There’s really no difference between moms’ and dads’ parenting skills. Raising a child is not rocket science. All a child needs is to be loved, clothed, fed, and sheltered.
And a cool dad.