Give a Dad a Break: guest post from Dave Taylor of Gofatherhood.com

It’s coming into the height of the holiday season and that means one thing: we’re going to see more portrayals of clumsy, incompetent Dads and more warm, loving housekeeper Moms who can somehow juggle it all and still find time to look fabulous when they crawl into bed. You know what I’m talking about, it’s the holiday specials from our favorite TV series, it’s the ubiquitous (and, sadly, typically banal) holiday movies, it’s the print advertisements from companies that assure us that dads are basically just another child to take care of, and moms are the ones who are the cornerstone of the family.

Now I’m not going to say that this never happens, but when I think about the couples, the families, the extended families I know, they’re characterized by the dads being active participants, smart, and focused on their mission in life, whether it’s to put up the holiday lights in time for Christmas (yeah, been there, done that) or grab an extra shift or two at work to make sure that there are some nice presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

On the other hand, as a single dad who is raising three children (15, 11, 7), I am hyper sensitized to the media and contemporary cultural image of fatherhood that we experience. Watch TV. Better, watch daytime TV and pay attention to the advertisements. Dads are for the rough and tumble, are for imparting “lessons” to the children while tuning up the car in the driveway or throwing a baseball around, while Moms are the ones taking care of the children when they’re sick, cleaning the house and making sure that there’s a hot meal on the table.

Really? Do you know of any families that work that way? Sounds like a nostalgic version of the prototypical 50s family to me, actually, but even in the 50s when my parents started seeing each other — for the record, they were married 58 years, until my Mother passed away earlier this year — my Dad was right in there taking care of the baby, cleaning up the kitchen and doing the laundry, and as my sister and I got older, my Mom was out working to help make ends meet and give us a good lifestyle. My vision of the 50s and 60s family is far more balanced and participatory than even what we see typically in mainstream media today.

And it’s not just mainstream media, now that I bring that up. Pick up some typical Boulder Bubble magazine and you’ll find that they have “Mothering” and “The Compleat Mother”, but not much in the way of how to be a dad or father.

I was recently at a Colorado-based company office and saw that they proudly supported a number of local charities, charities to help women get their business started, charities that helped women in abusive relationships, charities that honored mothers who had done a great job raising their children. Support for men, for fathers? Not a one.

So what’s the story? Why do we men get the short end of this proverbial stick so often?

I realize that the predictable jokes about men being schlubs, being child-like with our enthusiasm for sports and fanaticism for the local home team, for being sometimes less patient with children or pushing them to excel in a way that their moms might just be saying “nice job, honey, good attempts at the goal, sorry you didn’t make it” and, for that matter, for being appreciative of an attractive woman are parts of who we are, but come on, you know that there are just as many facets of women and moms that aren’t so wonderful when you really peek in the window on a typical family.

To truly understand the difference, imagine a comedy club where a guy got on stage and made a joke about being in the middle of some housework and getting distracted by that “fine young thang” walking past the window and doing something stupid. Cue laugh track. Now, same situation, same funny guy, but this time the joke’s about a mom who gets distracted and does something stupid. Funny? I imagine somehow that he’d be booed off stage and the manager would have to call him the following morning to say he’d been fired.

As we enter this holiday season, therefore, a plea from me, a single dad, to you, the reader of Denver Parent: Cut us dads some slack. We’re doing a whole lot better than you think we are, and a “nice job” goes a long way to helping create family harmony and happy men in your life than all the humorous, yet cutting, portrayals of men you’re going to see in the next 23 days…

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Dave Taylor is a proud single dad of three fabulous children, a 15yo girl, 11yo boy and 7yo girl. They can drive him crazy at times, but the house is clean and warm, everyone’s got nicely furnished rooms and when the going gets tough, it’s his house that the kids gravitate towards. Read more about his life as a single dad and his musings on divorce and parenting in the modern age at GoFatherhood.com.

 

Comments

  1. I can definitely see your point! Having been raised by my Dad and also having two stepsons and seeing my husband raising them before we were married – yes I agree that Single Dad’s contributions are minimized and undervalued in our culture quite often. That doesn’t mean that moms aren’t in the trenches trying to balance everything too – but I hear an awful lot of sympathy for single moms and not even close to the same attention or sympathy for single dads. I’m not quite sure why, a single parent is a single parent is a single parent. It is a tough job!

    I do think there is some truth to moms bearing the brunt of the day to day making sure people are fed, baths are taken, there is milk in the fridge etc. And Dad’s being more engaged in the “play” part – let’s go rake leaves, or go camping or fishing or just plain tickle the kids. I know my husband gets down on the kids’ levels in a way that I don’t – he engages them, plays with them and understands them beyond just feeding and clothing them.

    Does he worry about whether the meals he feeds them include a vegetable? Or whether saying “yes” to his baby girl will turn her into a terror as a teenager? Not as much as I do.

    But there is a ton of research that shows that play and having different ways of showing love and caring for kids is good for them. They thrive when they have BOTH. Neither is better or worse, but I do believe they are equally important.

    That’s just my opinion of course.

  2. I don’t think that dads get the short end of the stick, Dave, but it sounds like you do. I’d love to hear another example besides the one you shared which seemed like a generalized whine about not being included in some company’s pr material.

    Single parents – of either gender – have it tough, no doubt. When has anyone said otherwise? I know Mary-Francis, author of this blog, has never suggested one gender is better or one gender should get the short end of the stick.

    I’d love to see your argument backed up with specific data to persuade me to your point of view — which I still don’t quite understand. What is short end of the stick anyway?

  3. As a separated single parent, I wish I could say that I fit that profile of a Mom who can juggle it all and still find time to look fabulous when she crawls into bed.

    Give a Dad a Break? I think it would be more fitting to give single parents a break, not just dads.

    Sounds like you are doing an amazing job at this single parent thing. Hope you have a wonderful holiday with the kids.

  4. Thanks for the comments. In my, um, rant, I didn’t mean to suggest for a second that being a single mom is any easier — it is indeed tough to be a single parent. However, I still say that there’s a lot of support and sympathy in our culture for single moms and almost zero for single dads. We’re all reading parenting blogs, so de facto we’re not the normal mainstream parents or adults in society, but here’s a fun data point: Search Google for “single mom” and you’ll find 11mil matches. Search for “single dad” and there are only 2mil matches. Search Google News for “single mother” and there are 3100 articles that mention this phrase in the recent news, while only 352 mention “single father”. Are there less single fathers? Or is the egg being created by the chicken? (I know, another obscure metaphor 🙂

  5. Or, for that matter, consider this research piece from the US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/prod/3/97pubs/cb-9701.pdf It talks about divorced parents vs never married parents. They never say the ratio of single moms to single dads, but the graphs are all about the situation with single mothers, while there’s a passing reference to how divorced dads are “more likely to be part of a family with a higher median income than those living with a single mom.” So, um, where are the graphics about single and divorced dads? My take? institutional bias.

  6. I feel for you as a single father……just as I feel for any single mother or father. But I think you are focusing too much on the FATHER part and not enough on the SINGLE part. In married couples, more often than not, it is harder for the women. There are more things expected out of us, and there are more things we tend to do than the fathers. I guess an advantage to being single is that you don’t have the nagging wife asking you to put up lights, they get put up if you want.
    I have no doubt you are a great father and you work your butt off to accomplish all that you do and I think it is fantastic. But I feel slightly offended that yet again I am not being recognized for the things that I do during the holidays, or any time of the year.

    I guess instead of focusing on what you aren’t getting (and I agree with the above comment, what is the short end of the stick anyway? You do realize that women still make less than men, right?) you should try and focus more on recognizing all parents and spouses for what they do. For giving a smile and an extra kind word when any parent is looking frazzled running through the store trying to get it all done. Advising to give each other a kind word or phone call, to encourage each other as parents. We all get some sort of short end of the stick. I think I would have liked the article better if you wrote how strong you were for doing it all…….and not needing a wife to remind you to do it.

  7. I was in a marriage with a man who, sadly, did nothing to break the stereotype of dads not being involved in the day-to-day running of a household. He loved his children, no doubt, but he gleefully played into the stereotype of ‘a woman’s work is never done.’ At that time, I worked outside of the home, often more than 50 hour weeks.

    Then I was a single parent for seven years, working as much if not more. I think no matter your gender, it’s the hardest job in the world. I think parenting, in general is the hardest job we’ll ever have.

    I’m now in a much more equal parenting marriage with a home run by both parents. I work mostly in the home. It’s still not a cakewalk, but having a team approach is so much more efficient, rewarding, loving and appreciated. I don’t go to bed looking like a commercial but then again, neither does my husband.

    I will add that I’ve often wondered why so many Disney movies seem to have an absent mother. The fathers are often front & center and much loved. I won’t deny that mainstream media can do a better job of portraying fathers as involved and crucial to the well-being of any family. I think the onset of fathers who blog is certainly helping that important voice to be heard.

    Happy holidays, Dave.