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…
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.