Let Dads be Modern Parents

Mixed messages about being an involved Dad persist

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“Dads need to be more involved in parenting.”  That’s what society has been saying for the last ten years.  But move beyond being the soccer coach and society still sends mixed messages. Dads should be an integral part of a child’s care but stereotypes still remain. Consider the following:

Both my wife and I participate in our children’s physician visits.  Once the exam is over, the pediatrician typically turns to my wife and asks, “Does Mom have any questions?”  As if Dads wouldn’t be interested in the exam.

Try taking your kids to a swim lesson and “Mommy and me” classes abound.  The only time a “Daddy and me” class exists seems to be in the evening or the weekend.  And there’s typically only a couple.  I guess Dads shouldn’t be home during the day to take kids to a swim class. It seems they should be working or at least too busy to take off.

Want to arrange a playdate?  My experience has been that moms email other moms despite both parents typically being on email distribution lists.  Why does one assume that  the Dad couldn’t arrange or want to arrange time for their kids to play with other kids?

Many schools still use the term “homeroom Mom” instead of “homeroom parent.” The modern Dad knows how to bake as well as do arts and crafts, and can equally fill this function. But why are they often automatically excluded or subtlely discouraged? Those tasks and activities don’t see to fit in the traditional masculinity assigned to being a Dad, do they?

Did your child have a “kissing hand” during kindergarten?  A  hand  picture stays in school and one stays at home so when the child misses a parent he/she can go kiss the hand when he is scared or sad.  Yet, the story is based on a racoon missing his mother.  Of course, it is.  Because the racoon simply can’t miss both. When are we going to see the story about missing Daddy?

Have you ever noticed commercials on kids shows? It’s all about cosmetics , beauty supplies, housewares — all advertising clearly focused on women.  So how should Dads who co-view shows with their kids feel while watching them?  Is there something strange about you watching these shows as opposed to go building something or doing something “manly”?  I recently saw a Dad featured in a commercial on detergents and I felt it was so out of context.  Society still conditions us that Dads don’t do housework, and certainly not laundry.  So much for changing stereotypes.

Interested in reading a magazine for parenting?  It’s almost always a Mom, and occasionally both parents.  I challenge you to find one with just a Dad.  Perhaps the rationale is Dads won’t read them.  But if you never market towards Dads, they won’t come. The classic “catch-22.”

But need someone to coach baseball?  Ask Dad.  Want someone for the finance committee at school or the PTA? Ask a Dad.  But social club? That’s for moms.

I do recognize that being a Dad in today’s society is much different than it was for Dads 30 years ago.  And we have made many advances in evolving traditional norms. But we need to stop promoting the stereotypes of what Dads should do versus what Moms should do.  And it’s the same for Moms who often can fill the traditional roles assigned to Dads.

I’m off to cafeteria duty at school in a couple of days.  I will let you know if I’m the only Dad.  I’m hoping there might be one or two others.

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