This applies to other areas, but right now it annoys me most when I see this happening in parenting: The expectation that men won’t be good, involved, equal parents.
Some of this is people actively putting men down, insisting that they’re not capable of it. Some of this is attacking stay-at-home dads or making disparaging remarks of dads who are actively involved in their kids’ lives. Some of this is just talking about the current status quo without pointing out it needs to change. Some of this is over-the-top congratulations to men who do the bare minimum of parenting, making it clear that this is seen as an exceptional thing for men to do even though women are expected to do far more. Some of this is referring to men caring for their own kids as “babysitting”. Occasionally, I do see people pointing out that this is just gender stereotypes, that men are perfectly capable of being good, active, even primary parents- but not nearly often enough.
This isn’t some “but what about men” thing. This hurts women.
This stereotype means that when two working parents discuss who should give up their job to stay home, it’s more likely the woman will. This stereotype lets companies justify offering much less paternity leave or non at all. Leave which would allow dads to stay home with their kids and bond and help out. Leave which would ensure women have support at home during a very vulnerable and difficult time. (and let’s not forget the argument that women deserve lower pay because men don’t take paternity leave)
Stereotypes that say men aren’t capable parents and only women are may sound empowering, but they aren’t.
Parenting sites and resources and books are aimed primarily at women and often talk with the assumption that women are always the primary caregiver, with very little lip service given to men. While we were still reading the “your X week old”, we noticed that it wasn’t until 3 months that some resources suggested encouraging dad to bond with the baby. 3 months that parenting sites just assume dad won’t be at all involved in childcare.
As two queer daddies, this chafes. It’s isolating and alienating. It’s frustrating and demoralizing. At least we’re forced to
For straight parents, it’s just as damaging.
Right now, in some ways, we set up a system where women are practically single parents despite having a live-in partner. I have seen so many mothers complaining about getting virtually no help from their male partner, working 50 hour weeks and having to do almost all of the housework and childcare because it’s “women’s work”. As fewer families can afford to have a stay at home parent, there are still too many where women are still expected to do most of the childcare and housework.
Why? Because we just accept, and sometimes intentionally teach, that men aren’t active parents, that childcare is “women’s work”.
I don’t want my kids to grow up learning this. Any of them, either way. I don’t want them to learn that only one parent in a relationship is actually capable of raising children. I don’t want them to learn that they can’t be capable parents, so shouldn’t even bother trying. I don’t want them to learn that if they want a supportive, equal co-parent that this isn’t possible.
How about you:
Have you been guilty of thinking these things? Are you doing anything in your own household to fix it?