You know that Clorox commercial that shows the mom coming home from the grocery store or the gym, walking into a chaotic scene, with the dad unable to handle the simple task of watching his own son while mom is simply out for what appears to be a short amount of time? The one where the dad has managed to completely fail, with the kitchen disheveled and the baby is sitting bare-assed on the counter, while the dad proclaims, “everything is fine!”, when everything clearly isn’t? Where mom has to come in and clean up?
After seeing that commercial dozens of times, today, it struck a nerve.
Just curious, why is the father portrayed as entirely incompetent of watching his own child?
Why is this a thing in 2017?
I know I’m picking apart fiction here but it truly annoys me that we don’t hold fathers to higher standards. Still.
Before I dive in here, I will admit- I’m guilty of holding far lower standards for fathers than I do for mothers.
I see a dad alone in Panera with his well behaved children, eating their mac&cheese and talking about the grocery shopping they’re about to do and my nonexistent ovaries jump while my brain simultaneously goes into some ridiculous narrative of, “Awwww. What a good dad he must be!”.
Whaaaaattt? Why does this happen?
He’s eating lunch and going food shopping with the children that he actively agreed to raise into decent humans. There’s no big fucking deal, no bravery, nothing terribly challenging, there’s literally nothing to see here.
When I see a mom with her children in the same scenario, my brain registers very little emotion, except perhaps a little empathy.
Both examples are that of parenting. Both are capable. Both are competent. But perhaps because one birthed the children and carries a label of “nurturing by nature” more than the other, the scene plays differently in my head? I’m not sure.
So many of us do this. Why are our standards so different for each parental role?
And this literally starts happening in pregnancy.
A father accompanies his wife or girlfriend to prenatal doctor appointments and he’s praised as if he’s done some magnificent thing. When the truth is, he is just sitting there, scrolling Instagram and texting his buddies about how awesome it must be to be elbow deep in vag all day long as a gynecologist. Meanwhile, mama has a fist in her birth canal, checking to see if he cervix has started opening yet so she can push a watermelon out of the opening of a straw. You know, the actual work that goes into birthing a human.
But he’s the one everyone oooohs and ahhhs over. She’s just…the mom. The expectations are just beginning for her.
When the baby is new and everything is so fresh, forget it. The second the father does something we as mom’s do on an daily basis, the red carpet is rolled out.
He straps the kid into the car seat, heads to the mall for some new onesies and every passer-by is commenting about how “you just don’t see that often!”. And some women even look on in envy that someone else’s husband is so involved.
Meanwhile, mom is probably home doing one of the 50 loads of laundry that has piled up, trying desperately to get the shit stains out of the few onesies that have survived the body fluid explosion, or perhaps she’s actually taking her first shower in three days.
Is that really a break? And even if it is, doesn’t she deserve it?
When my (now ex) husband and I had our daughter, I cannot tell you how many people praised her dad. Because he fed her in the middle of the night. Because he took her to the grocery store. Because he changed her diaper. Oh, how he was held in such a high regard.
Well. Yeah. That’s kind of what he signed up for, isn’t it? We kind of both expected to raise this child. I sure as hell didn’t sign up to do it all alone.
Why do men get free passes in parenting, held to little expectation of actually participating in everyday tasks and responsibilities? Why does the double standard still exist?
Women have been equal financial contributors to many households for decades. We aren’t in Leave it to Beaver land anymore, yet, women are still expected to carry all of the weight.
I get it, some families have traditional roles, and that’s fantastic if that’s the agreement and that’s the expectation within the family, but as a whole, why are we still so shocked when that isn’t the case?
As a mom who traveled for work when my daughter was an infant and a toddler, I was time and again questioned, and almost ridiculed, for being away from my child while on business trips.
“How can you possibly stand that?!”, was said more times than I can count.
And now, as a single mom, when I get into a conversation with someone who asks if “the father is involved”, and I respond with “yes, he has her two nights a week”, I am met with, “oh, that’s great! At least he sees her!”
Um. Well. Yes? I suppose that’s great that he is a parent…some of the time?
But let’s switch that up for a moment. What if that was me that saw her two nights a week and her dad had her for five? Would that be acceptable? I am quite certain that I would be side-eyed and deemed a questionable mother. I’m sure people would speculate that I must be unfit.
Not to mention, single moms are often viewed as having “baggage” or deemed “complicated, while single dads are “such a good catch!”.
Just the other day, I was listening to this talk radio show with two male hosts and one was planning a Disney World trip with just him and his two children. The second host was losing his mind over this, praising him, telling him how lucky his wife is and how single moms will be hitting on him, swooning over him left and right. Like, literally making a hero out of him for taking his own children away for a 3 day getaway.
Why? Why is this hero status?
I’m full of questions about all of this.
Men put in mediocre effort into fatherhood and that’s sufficient. Women attempt to self care and we are guilted, mostly by our own conscience, into thinking this isn’t ok.
We have to work to change this narrative. We have to make it equal in our brains.
When we continually praise fathers for putting in equal, or often times less than, towards parenthood, we are suggesting that women should, and will, do it all.
And listen: we can’t do it all. Nor should we be expected to when there are two capable parents.
Perhaps some of you already have the proper equality in mind, and if so, kudos. But for the rest of us, let’s practice the thoughts in our minds that yes, dads are just as capable and competent in parenthood as moms. They are equal. They are able.
And, Clorox, please make a commercial reversing the roles because guess what? Parenthood can be difficult for moms, too. I know we appear to be superheroes, as we often are, but sometimes our kitchen is disheveled with our bare-assed kids on the counter and ain’t no one coming in to clean up after us!
Let’s continue to work towards changing the narrative and perception of what expectations we should put on fathers. Let’s reprogram our brains.
If moms can do it, so can dads.
This post originally appeared on VanessaLeenic.com
Vanessa Nichols is a single mom of one amazing redhead, living in southwest Florida. Her writing has been featured on Scary Mommy, Blunt Moms, Elephant Journal and Thought Catalog. She’s a lover of yoga, a sun worshiper, a traveler, and a dreamer.