I opened my Instagram account this morning to once again see a meme belittling Dads, making fun of the “fact” that Dads do nothing around the house to help out. This time it was specific to cleaning. This one really bothered me because I have always done the bulk of the cleaning around our house, even before I was a stay-at-home Dad. Since having three kids and being home with them, the cleaning responsibilities have tripled, and I’ve been expected to bear that weight. It was even more ironic that I would see this post this morning because just last night my wife and I had a conversation about chores and she admitted that she doesn’t do them because growing up, they were never enforced and if she didn’t do something she was asked to do, her mom just came behind and did it for her. So, now as an adult she treats them the same way knowing I’ll clean up if she doesn’t. .
I kept re-reading the post, silently changing the words “Dad” to “Mom” in my head, and it worked perfectly for my life in my home. But judging from the tens of thousands of likes the post had and the hundreds of comments, I assumed no one would want to hear that. I clicked on the comments because I wanted to say something but I also wanted to see what was being said. Sadly, most were women - Moms, tagging their partner - obviously the Dad and then adding a winky face or an LOL behind. Some even hash-tagging the word “truth”. But then I found the comment from a mom that left me speechless as I quietly turned off my phone:
“In my next life... I wanna be a Dad”
And then she tagged what appeared to be the Dad (her significant other) in her family. Now, there is nothing wrong with that comment if you don’t know the context... but I’ve already shared with you that this post was all about belittling Dads and spotlighting how little they do to help or assist in parenting - essentially making it sound like Dads live on Easy Street. This Mom obviously interpreted the meme the same way I did, because a trip to Easy Street sounded like a great idea to her - one that she would welcome in her next life.
But what about this poor Dad? I can’t imagine how emasculating it must be to be tagged in a belittling post like this. I tried to imagine how I would feel, and I would be furious and then I would probably (somewhat out of spite) do nothing; to live up to the expectations of the post. I would grab a drink, collapse on the couch and watch my wife clean the house without offering to help. .
If we keep telling Dads that they’re useless, lazy, distant, uncommitted, etc. don’t you think they’re going to eventually believe it? I think many Dads enter parenthood worried about this already, so it doesn’t take much to keep them down. Why is no one empowering Dads? Telling Dads they can figure this parenting thing out, just like Moms can? Explaining to them that just because no Dad has even won the Parent of the Year award, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
As far as I scrolled through the comments I didn’t find a single comment defending a Dad, saying “my guy is not like that... in fact he goes above and beyond for his family”. This makes me sad because I know why this stereotype exists. There is truth behind it. There is truth behind EVERY stereotype. People didn’t just make it up. There are a lot of Dads out there not pulling their weight. But, there are amazing Dads out there too. Lots of them. You might be one. You might be aspiring to be one. You might be married to one. .
Listen, actions speak louder than words. Here is my challenge to any Dad reading this. Don’t ignore these belittling memes; but don’t leave a rude comment asking or begging a million Moms to look at your differently either. You start with one. Do you know what I did after I was done with that meme and those comments, I closed Instagram without saying anything and I went and cleaned the house. In doing so, I took one like and one comment away from that post, because when my wife read that post later that day... she just scrolled right by.
If someone (or god forbid the internet) tells me that as a Dad I’m lousy at changing diapers, I’m gonna change diapers non-stop until I’ve perfected it. If someone tells me that Dads don’t engage, I’m gonna engage with my kids until their begging for a break. And if I read somewhere that Dads don’t clean, I’m gonna scrub, vacuum and mop until my house is spotless.
Imagine what would happen if every Dad did this. Right? The people that matter the most would sit up and take notice. Our kids would notice and our spouse or significant other would notice and isn’t that good enough? But yeah, the Mom bloggers around the world would notice too as they would be frantically searching for new content. .