Sunday, February 09, 2014

An open letter to Stay-At-Home Moms from a Stay-At-Home Dad

As a stay-at-home dad I have certainly dealt with stay-at-home moms. They are our peers. I've exchanged kid watching with them. We've joked about poop together.

But when Jenna Karvunidis got Pissed Off about stay-at-home dads featured in the newspaper (and a lot of women agreed with her) I thought maybe there is some miscommunication between some stay-at-home moms and their male counterparts.

I get it. You see us in the grocery store and some woman comments on how great it is dad is out with the kids. Meanwhile you are your second grocery trip of the day because your husband just invited his boss over so you have to pick up extra food and your 6 year old just took off down the isle with a box of Captain Crunch screaming "Ahoy there captain." And you think, where is my pat on the head? Why is he getting recognition for going to the store with just one damn kid?

The truth is we don't enjoy the lowered expectations. These are not compliments on our great parenting ability they are condescending acknowledgement of our existence. Like when your kid gets excited because a monkey on TV was "wearing pants like a person."

It would be like every time you went to the drive through pharmacy to pick up another med for an ear infection the man behind the counter said, "It is so great your husband lets you drive all by yourself." Trust me, this is not kind of compliment that builds you up.

We don't want to be complemented on meeting the minimal requirements of parenting. We don't think our contributions are somehow greater because of our gender. We are your peers. We know what it is like to have to function after staying up all night with a sick kid cleaning up vomit. We know what it is like to spend a day doing 6 loads of laundry knowing that it is only going to reappear to be done again. We know what it is like to declare pizza night because at some point, even if you like to cook, the daily grind of coming up with a healthy meal every single night is too much.

We are the few men in the world that know what your job is like. We are you allies. We want respect for parents who stay home full time, not just the dads.

And while seeing us in the media may make you "rage vomit" you need to understand that we are working from a media deficit. It may seem like we are being praised for doing what mothers have been doing for ages, but it is because we have been portrayed as totally incompetent of taking care of kids. Still today this is Nick Mom's bread and butter for laughs.

They have been so bombarded with these images that when they see a dad taking care of his own kids without loosing an arm it is like seeing sasquatch.

Granted, we each have our own battles.

The mommy wars are real. Women who work outside the home and those that stay-at-home seem to be entrenched in a battle of who is most important. Certainly not all, but enough to write books about it and to be immortalized in countless blog post.

We are Switzerland here. Almost by definition we have wives in the workforce. We understand that women are smart and talented and have great potential in the workplace. We support that. We want women to have equal pay not just because it is right, but because it impacts our family budget.

But we also know how much work staying at home is. We do it everyday. We don't devalue women who have taken on the same role we have. We are your allies in wanting respect for those who choose to stay home and raise other human beings. Why a stay-at-home mom would choose to devalue a man doing the same job is beyond me.

And it seems like there is a competition among stay-at-home moms. With your Pinterest boards showing the elaborate crafts you need to do for each and every holiday. The 800 post on the proper way to celebrate National Waffle Day and the 200 recipes for waffles you have to dig through to find the best one.

Maybe this is where we can teach you something. It is OK to just use the boxed waffle mix. Your kids will be fine.

Parenting doesn't have to be a competition.

So instead of starting a new war between stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads. Instead of referring to a dad taking care of his kids as "momming." Before you get worked up into a frenzy about the next article to talk about stay-at-home dads. Let's meet at the park, let the kids play and talk about how you get those damn ketchup stains out.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Are we there yet?

So Jenna Karvunidis from High Gloss and Sauce is mad at stay at home dads.

What great crime against society did they do this time?

Was it daring to volunteer as a helper at school?

Was it asking if her kids wanted to play together?

Oh no, much worse than that, they were featured in a story in the newspaper.

Oh, the humanity.

She writes, "I love how they throw that in there like dads are extra special for momming AND doing things men traditionally do (I guess.)"

She has to say, I guess, because the article doesn't say these are men's jobs. But she does refer to a man taking care of his own kids as "momming." She is blind to her own prejudice.

Most stay-at-home dads I know look forward to a time when the bar isn't so ridiculously low for men. We look forward to a time when there are not articles about stay-at-home dads because there is nothing seen as unusual about it.


We're Not There Yet

Because stay-at-home dads are not valued the same as stay-at-home moms.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads don't have equal access to play groups.

And while some groups are working on that.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads don't have equal access to parental leave.

We're Not There Yet

Because PBS Parents showed this right before father's day.

But would never think of showing this right before mother's day.

We're Not There Yet

Because a children's television channel devotes itself to jokes like this and women think it is funny.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads are still shown as the incompetent parent and the butt of jokes in the media.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads are still told they are going to hell for raising their kids rather than a salary.

We're Not There Yet

Because men have to worry about taking the baby out because a place may only have a changing station in the women's restroom.

We're Not There Yet

It is true what stay-at-home dads do is not all that special. Women have been doing it for years and many still do it today. The bar for fatherhood shouldn't be "showing up" and stay-at-home dads is one group trying to raise the bar. But until we value parenting when a man does it as much as we do when a mommy does it, until we include dads when we talk about parenting issues, until we get past this idea that moms are naturally better parents, we're not there yet.

What is particularly frustrating about Jenna Karvunidis complaining about this article is that she has complained about dads volunteering at her kids school. She has said she is not comfortable having men in her playgroup. She is the problem

The original post has been removed so the text is below if you care to read it.

Get your buckets out, I'm about to rage vomit. Did you see the cover of the Trib today? ChicagoNow's very own stay-at-home-dad is on the cover for his stay-at-home-dad gig, the hardships of which are praised mightily. Of course they're praised now that a man is doing it. All hail the mighty stay-at-home dad! Dads! They so amazing!

I've got news, people. Women have been doing this job for centuries. Show me a cover of the Sunday Tribune about a mom doing the exact same thing. Has a mother ever been praised in all of history - genuinely praised, not condescended, but legitimized - for doing this job in all of its mundane facets? He's grocery shopping on the cover. A mom does it - a billion moms a day do it - and she's "spoiled" to be home with her kids. I live a life of "leisure" full of bon bons and soap operas. Sure, we traded our mothers moo-moos for yoga pants, but the same dismissal is there. But the second a man does it? A stay-at-home-dad? Oh, hell, it's a damn hardship on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Yes, journalism is dead.

"[The stay-at-home-dad] scrambles to find time to work out, install a sink, do laundry, clean the play room and get dinner started". IT SAYS THIS. Yes, please, tell us how you struggle. Isn't it just "adorable" how a dad does "mom" stuff and it's a real accomplishment and we're supposed to pat his head? And please, yes, tell us how many sinks you installed. I love how they throw that in there like dads are extra special for momming AND doing things men traditionally do (I guess.) I refinished all the furniture upstairs when I was behemoth pregnant and had two children in my care. My mother-in-law shingled a roof during my husband's nap time. Where are our lollipops?

Listen to this, "[these dads] care much less about being perfect". Hmmmm, guess why? Guess why dads don't have to worry about being perfect? Because they're praised just for showing up. I'm sick of this! If a mom were quoted in the paper as wiping her child's mouth with the sock she is currently wearing, well, I can't even imagine.

I'm not criticizing dads staying home. Families all have to make decisions that work for them. Childcare and income responsibilities don't need to be assigned by gender. The problem I have is that women who stay home are perceived as pampered and their work is invisible, but a man in such a role is celebrated with a front-page article. Why is it suddenly such a hard job when a man has to do it? Why is staying home a legitimate contribution when the contributor has a penis?

If you want to remove the stigma from stay-at-home-dads, then don't treat them like special snowflakes. Legitimize the work women do and there will be no stigma when a man does it.

Rage. Beast. Angry. It especially smarts they chose this man, who put my maternity pictures on his Facebook page and solicited "thoughts" about my body. Remember? The pictures I posted when I wrote about being pregnant with a dead baby? Cool times.

I guess the Tribune is right: stay-at-home dads don't have to worry about being perfect. (They just have to show up.)

Would you take a minute to help me make a difference. I am asking ChicagoNow to follow their own Comment Policy. Please sign the petition.