Why Dads Matter: A Feminist Mom’s Perspective

Anne Theriault and her husband thought they had their roles all planned out, but parenthood changed those plans.

From the moment when I told my husband that I was pregnant (in a Cabbagetown pet store, while my sister was admiring a tank full of milk snakes), he knew that he wanted to be as engaged and involved a father as he possibly could. And to be honest, while our bundle of joy was still in utero, that was pretty easy; mostly it involved making midnight cupcake runs to the grocery store, and rubbing my feet when they were sore.

We also started a nightly ritual that all three of us (mom, dad and our adorable little parasite) seemed to enjoy: just before going to bed, my husband would rub lotion on my expanding belly, and then he would read to the baby, either something classical (Shakespeare was a favourite), or from a more age-appropriate source.

Our kid (we didn’t know yet whether we were having a boy or a girl) was always pretty active during this time, kicking and squirming at the sound of my husband’s voice. We even joked that the baby had a favourite book, The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton, because the nights when my husband read that particular piece of infant literature always seemed to coincide with some kind of intrauterine dance party. The fact that our baby already seemed to love my husband’s voice, combined with the mad swaddling and diaper-changing skills my husband had acquired in our prenatal classes, made us think that having an equal and shared parenthood was going to be a breeze.

We’ve got this, we told each other. Everything’s going to be great.

Then I went into labour at 34 weeks, spent a week and a half in the hospital on bed rest and gave birth via c-section at 36 weeks. After that everything kind of went to hell.

I was intent on breastfeeding, but our son wouldn’t, or couldn’t latch. My husband, desperate to be an involved, helpful co-parent, could only watch as I cried and struggled to feed our son. I don’t know who felt more helpless – my husband, who really couldn’t offer any kind of aid on the breastfeeding front, or me, with my abundant milk supply and seemingly no way to get said milk into our kid’s tiny belly. We tried everything: suck-training, cup-feeding, pumping and bottle-feeding – nothing seemed to work.

After having failed to have the natural, drug-free birth that I’d wanted, being unable to breastfeed seemed like pretty much the end of the world. On top of that, it felt like it was all my fault, and all my responsibility. I was acutely aware of the fact that if I couldn’t get my son to nurse, there was really nothing my husband could do about it. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little bitter about that fact.

So much for equal parenting, I thought.

Because we live in Canada, I was able to take a year of paid maternity leave, but my husband went back to work after only a week off. I’d had big plans about how I was going to spend my leave, thinking that with an infant who slept all day I would finally be able to excel in the cooking and cleaning departments. Those of you who have kids can stop laughing now – I definitely learned my lesson about what life with a small baby is like, and quickly. Knowing that it was impossible to get housework done didn’t make me go any easier on myself, though; I beat myself up on a daily basis for not getting the dishes done, not tidying the living room, or not cleaning the bathroom, again.

Even after my son and I had got the hang of breastfeeding, things were tough. All of my friends seemed to have babies who slept through the night at six weeks and would happily sit for what seemed like forever in their swing or bouncy chair. Meanwhile, I had a kid who woke up every hour like clockwork and cried if I tried to put him down.

If I found life with a baby stressful and perplexing, it was even worse for my husband. When he came home I would try to hand our son off to him so that I could take a nap, but more often than not I would hear a knock at the bedroom door after 10 minutes, and would answer it only to have my husband tell me, “The baby’s really upset! I think he wants you!” How the hell was I supposed to tell him that while, yes, the baby might want me right now, I really, really just wanted some time away from my son.

The stress started to take its toll on our relationship. While I felt badly about the fact that my husband couldn’t take cat naps during the day like I did, I was jealous that every morning he got to return to the land of adults for eight hours, while I was still stuck in baby-town. I was irritated with other mothers that I met who described their male partners as “babysitting” their children while they were out, rather than thinking of their what their partners did as just plain parenting. Even more annoying were the reactions that a friend of mine, who had recently become a stay-at-home father, received from friends and family. People kept congratulating him on being such a wonderful father for being willing to give up his career for a year in order to stay home and look after his sons; the way his friends and family acted, you’d think he’d just agreed to donate both kidneys to a complete stranger. Meanwhile, many of my friends seemed to think that I was on some sort of vacation, and didn’t understand why I was so miserable.

Things slowly got better, though. One thing you can say about babies is that they change, and quickly. Sometimes this is to your benefit, like when they outgrow a phase that you really hate, and sometimes to your detriment, like when you finally find a groove that works and you enjoy a week or so of peace and happiness only to have your kid change just enough so that you carefully calibrated routine totally falls apart. After a few months, our son finally grew up enough so that he didn’t feel the need to cling to me 24/7, and that, plus experience, helped my husband feel more secure in his parenting.

Now, two years into this crazy journey, I would say that we parent pretty equally. That’s not to say that we parent the same, or that our son never prefers one parent over the other, but I don’t think that either of us feels like we’re doing more of the legwork than the other person. It helps that we seem to complement each other on a lot of the big stuff. For example, my husband is great at imaginative play, and general horsing around, whereas I’m good at the stuff that requires time and patience, like teaching our son his alphabet and his colours.

Another big one is that our kid will go straight to his dad when he wants to have fun or listen to music, but will more often come to me when he wants quiet reading time or comfort for some hurt or other.

My husband and I discipline differently, too. I’m more of the, hey kiddo, let’s talk about your feelings type, whereas my husband’s style is more like get in my office right now. As much as in the heat of the moment it can be difficult to try to co-parent with someone who has ideas that are sometimes at odds with your own, at the end of the day I think that our son benefits from having both styles in his life.

What seems most important to me is that while our son does get different things from my husband and I, those things are equal in terms of how they’re helping him to grow and develop. My husband plays a crucial role in our son’s life, and so he should.

Why, then, does it seem like society thinks so little of fathers?

You only have to turn on the TV to see how the media portrays fathers – they range from totally absent, like Meredith Grey’s father on Grey’s Anatomy, to unfeeling assholes, like John Winchester on Supernatural, to just plain ridiculous, like Homer on The Simpsons or Peter on Family Guy. The fact that we have such low expectations for dads helps explain why people treated my stay-at-home dad friend as if he was some kind of superhero, whereas I felt like just being a mom all day long without managing to keep a sparkling clean apartment or maintain a busy social calendar made me some kind of failure. It also explains why people refer to their husbands as “babysitting” their children, as if looking after their own kid was some kind of job their husbands had been hired to do.

So how do we change this?

Well, first of all, we need to see more smart, thoughtful engaged fathers, both in real-life, through celebrities and other prominent men, and in the media.

A great first step would be to see more stay-at-home dads.

The problem is, before we take that step, there are a few, or maybe a lot, of things that need to be addressed.

First of all, we have to look at the reasons why more women stay home. Some of it is biology – staying home is definitely easier if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, for example. Some of it is monetary – it often makes more financial sense for a woman to stay home, partly because the gender wage gap still exists, and here in Ontario women who are working full-time, full-year jobs still make 28% less than their male counterparts. Some of it is just plain societal expectations – staying home is still viewed as a woman’s job, and men who stay home with their children are, at best, treated as a joke, and, at worst, thought to be emasculated and dominated by their female partner.

All that being said, how do we fix this?

Biology we obviously can’t change, but we, as a society, can continue to make breast pumps cheaper and more accessible to women who want to breastfeed. We can also encourage workplaces to make themselves into pumping-friendly environments, instead of asking women to pump in the washroom or only during their lunch breaks. We can renew the movement to close the gender wage gap, which seems to have lagged in recent years. Most of all, though, we can work to break down traditional gender roles, and get rid of the idea that men have no place staying at home with their children. Because, honestly, I wonder if growing up in a world where only girls are encouraged to take up babysitting as their first after-school job, where men are shunned from events like baby showers and the thought of a dude changing a diaper seems downright hilarious helped contribute to my husband’s discomfort in his early days as a parent. The plain truth was that, as a woman, I had spent far more time around babies and small children than he ever had.

Look, I’m not saying that all men should stay home all the time, or that women, even feminist women, have some kind of obligation to go back to work after having kids. And before you jump in to tell me that some women want to stay at home, and some women like traditional gender roles, trust me when I say that I already know that, and I’m totally fine with it. I don’t want to take anything away from anyone; all that I really want is for people to have choices. I want men to feel like they have an equal opportunity to be a stay at home parent. I want women to feel like they can go back to work, if that’s what they want. Most of all, I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to behave in a certain way just because of what’s between their legs.

So what does all this mean? How does any of this prove that dads matter? I’m not really sure, except that I know that they should, both because they deserve to matter, and because women and children deserve a partner and parent who is engaged and caring. I know that when we live in a society that tells us that fathers are little more than wage-earning buffoons, everyone loses out. Above all, I know that this stereotype is something that we can, and should, change. It won’t happen quickly, and it won’t happen easily but I believe that we, as a society, are up to the challenge.

I also know that my husband is a great dad, and my son and I are lucky to have him.

 

Photo—eyeliam/Flickr

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About Anne Theriault

Anne Theriault lives in Toronto with her husband and young son. She spends her days teaching yoga, reading in cafés, and trying to figure out how to negotiate in toddler-ese.

Comments

  1. First of all, we have to look at the reasons why more women stay home. Some of it is biology – staying home is definitely easier if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, for example. Some of it is monetary – it often makes more financial sense for a woman to stay home, partly because the gender wage gap still exists, and here in Ontario women who are working full-time, full-year jobs still make 28% less than their male counterparts. Some of it is just plain societal expectations – staying home is still viewed as a woman’s job, and men who stay home with their children are, at best, treated as a joke, and, at worst, thought to be emasculated and dominated by their female partner.
    Small nitpick but I think something else to take into account here is not just that men that stay at home with the children are treated as a joke but the fact that men are outright expected to be the ones that work outside the home. In fact chances are that is where the wage gap came from in the first place. Probably someone thinking, “Men are the ones that are supposed to be working outside the home so they should get paid more for it.”

    (Again small nitpick because it seems like your reasoning for men being treated this way when it comes to parenting is collateral damage of trying to limit women, rather than being a feature in itself.)

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Oh I totally agree! Traditional gender roles, and the expectations that they bring about, definitely play a HUGE part in why men choose not to stay home. I’ve known several men who have ended up being stay-at-home dads (usually after being laid off), and have felt ashamed and embarrassed that they were not able to provide for their family. They often felt emasculated by the fact that their female partner was the breadwinner. And it SUCKS that we live in a society that makes them feel that way.

      • Agreed. It’s a total mess.

      • OP: ” I’ve known several men who have ended up being stay-at-home dads (usually after being laid off), and have felt ashamed and embarrassed that they were not able to provide for their family.”

        No offense but again, you’re only looking at half the story.

        Though it’s changing, society still doesn’t value stay at home dads. Some of them still experience major prejudice and judgement from men and women when they choose to take up domestic life.

        So this shame doesn’t come from nowhere and we need to remember that. Otherwise, it’s just going to make stay-at-home dads more invisible.

        As an aside, regarding the breastfeeding problem in the beginning, you’re not alone. When my niece was born, she had to be c-sectioned as well. In addition, problems developed where her mouth just wouldn’t latch on to my sister’s breast to feed. So it’s a pretty common thing to experience when things go a different way amidst the process.

        • Anne Thériault says:

          For sure it doesn’t come from nowhere. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that! I think that there are a lot of reasons why men feel weird about staying home. And I definitely think that people are strangely judgmental about it. I also know that my experience (seeing men lauded for staying home, etc) isn’t typical – I have a pretty leftist, liberal family and group of friends.

          There’s definitely a hell of a lot that needs to change before men will feel great about staying at home. For example, I know that my friend who was a SAHD was frustrated that all of the programs/playgroups/etc were geared towards mom, and he felt really out of place. How do we fix stuff like that?

          And yeah, breastfeeding is HARD. I’m glad we finally figured it out, though. I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have it work for them.

          • Well, I look at it this way:
            When my wife were unable to make breastfeeding work after a harrowing crash c-section followed by a two week stay for our boy in NICU it turned into an opportunity for me to bond more with my child when I bottle-fed him. My wife were able to get more sleep at night as we divided the night.feeding between us. The time I spent bottle-feeding my son were treasured time for me which I’ll always remember and carry with me in my heart. So for us I’d say we were lucky that breastfeeding didn’t work out.
            The negative side were the judgmental and/or “well-meaning” comments my wife got from others, including health workers when they saw her bottle-feed rather than breast-feed. I seriously felt like yelling at some health-workers who for some reasons didn’t think we had heard that breast-feeding is best for the baby hundreds of times before he was 4 months old.

            When out daughter came by an unplanned c-section also followed with a two-week stay at NICU for her I was secretly very happy that breast-feeding didn’t work out for her as well.

            Just another persepctive on the “poor unlucky one’s who couldn’t make breastfeeding work for them”.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              I think that’s a great long-view perspective on something that wasn’t “perfect”, Tamen. I had trouble nursing, too, low milk supply, and sometimes that just happens.

              In the long run, I think it’s important to emphasize breastfeeding, however having a happy family that is balanced is what matters in the long run.

            • Anne Thériault says:

              Yeah. I think that a happy, healthy mom (and dad) are more important than the act of breastfeeding. It was just something that I, personally, really wanted for our family. It was the one thing I felt like I was doing “right” after having a whole slew of things go wrong.

            • Anne Thériault says:

              Oh man, I didn’t mean to imply that any woman who doesn’t breastfeed is wrong or unlucky! I should probably rephrase that and say that I personally felt lucky because breastfeeding was really, really important to me. It became even more important after I felt that going into premature labour and having a c-section meant that I’d somehow “failed”.

              I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with formula. I was formula-fed and I turned out great. And I’m so sorry that you encountered so much nastiness from breastfeeding advocates; there’s really no reason for that. I’m glad that bottle-feeding worked out well for you guys – I gotta admit, there were times when I wished that my husband could get up and do nighttime feeding duty, but even if you pump, and have milk stored away so that someone else can feed the baby, you still have to get up and pump at regular intervals to keep your supply up. So I would have had to get up anyway. (I feel the need to say all that because often when I say I wish we could have shared feeding duty in the early days, people always say BUT WHY NOT PUMP – the sad fact is that pumping is often twice the work of nursing :P )

            • Yeah, my experience with the nurses at the maternity wards were less than stellar after it started off with them preventing me from being with my child while my wife still were under general anashtesia at the PACU after the c-section . The maternity ward was closed for men after 10pm and they took my boy from me and told me I could just leave the hospital and come back the next morning. I slept on a couch in the corridor. My wife was in severe pain after the c-section and were wheelchair bound for several days. Our child was fighting a severe infection and yet the maternity ward nurses never stopped nagging her to pump in order to stimulate milk production. My wife then had bad pains as well as feeling inadequate and guilty for not being “good enough”.
              My experience with the nurses at the NICU were the exact opposite and I cannot thank them enough.

              Yes, pumping does not lessen the workload of breastfeeding and as you say it may often increase the workload. But based on my experience I hope women are willing to do that work at times as a gift to the father so he can with some regularity experience the bliss, happiness, joy and connection that comes from cradling your child and feed it – to be involved and not be outside looking at the twosome that mother and child often can be. A twosome which I’ve heard men say can feel rather exclusionary.

              I say with some regularity because the first few times one is pretty focused on the technicality of making it work and finally when the child takes the bottle one has maneuvered oneself into a position one don’t dare to change even though the shoulder hurts and one can’t feel the arm anymore.

            • Anne Thériault says:

              Oh man that’s brutal! We were really lucky when it came to our nurses, and our hospital actually set up a cot in my room for my husband both before and after kiddo was born. Ugh. I’m sorry you guys had to experience that. As if enduring something as scary as premature labour, major surgery and a sick baby isn’t enough – why would anyone pile on more crap after all that? What is wrong with people?

  2. Fathers play such a vital role in the development of their kids. It is frustrating to continue to see Hollywood portray dads as incompetent buffoons. This inaccurate depiction creates social norms that can strip fathers of their confidence and leave them unsure of how they fit into their children’s lives. Thanks for the article!

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Thanks!

      And yeah, the depictions of fathers AND mothers in the media drive me bananas. Like, in so many movies and shows moms are shrewish and mean and totally lacking a sense of humour, while the dads are funny, goofy buffoons. Uuuggghhhhh.

    • I just saw a cleaning-product commercial that had a Dad as the spokesperson. It was the first time I’ve seen an ad where the Dad wasn’t the inept “foil” for the Mom to correct, but just the straight-up product pitcher. My husband and I did a double-take.

      • Keri …. Have you seen the latest FedEx commercial? A wife walks into her daughters room to find the dad pillaging the room to get items like a stapler. She, being the wise business women asks him if he’s taking things from their daughters room? He claims to be looking for his “things” and is holding a pink stapler and a few other pink items. She advises him that she uses Fed Ex and saves money to buy office equipment. The final seen is she pulls his trench coat away from his arm and finds that he’s taken a few rolls of toilet paper too. Men continuously find themselves as looking like idiots no matter what position in the household they hold.

        • Tom B – That’s why I found the ad notable – because it portrayed a Dad in a domestic setting NOT looking like an idiot. That’s certainly not the typical image on TV these days.

  3. The sheer quantity of stay at home dads creating vast forum threads detailing their sexless (or low-sex) marriages makes me rather wary of that deal. I think a couple of Atlantic pieces have touched on this as well.

    • Definitely needs to be a culture shift in the States and Canada. Am from the UK, and the attitude is the same. Can’t speak for mainland Europe, but here in Scandinavia, we have it made- both parents encouraged to take paternity leave and a culture that is very comfortable with stay-at-home Dads.
      The biggest benefit is the bonding that occurs when you are soley responsible for your kid, and the appreciation of all the practical aspects of child rearing. So both patents are totally in it together. I wouldn’t have that dimension had I not taken 6 months off.
      Re: sex, that definitely has to be scheduled. Mind you, how is your partner going to find the energy for it if she’s been looking after the kid since 5 or 6 in the morning till 6 or 7 in the evening with no help? There is no way you can appreciate how tired she will be if you haven’t done it yourself. A day in the office does not compare.

      • Bly,

        I think you missed what CmE was saying there Re:sex. He was saying that the Stay-At-Home Dads are complaining about their working (at the office) wives not having sex with them, not the other way around.

      • Anne Thériault says:

        In Quebec the primary stay-at-home parent gets a full year of paid leave, and the other parent gets six weeks of paid leave. I wish we had that in Ontario, because I know that it would have made things much easier for us.

        On the other hand, I feel fortunate that we get a year, since in America the primary stay-at-home parent usually only gets 6 weeks, often unpaid, and the other partner gets nothing.

        • In Norway the family can choose between 47 weeks with 100% paid or 57 weeks with 80% paid.

          12 of these weeks are reserved for the father – that means that they are not transferable to the mother and if the father chose to not stay at home these 12 weeks then they are lost. 9 weeks are reserved for the mother (3 weeks immediately before birth and the 6 weeks immediately after birth). The remaining weeks can be divided between the mother and father as they see fit.

          In addition one the father has the right to two weeks unpaid leave straight after the birth – although most companies offers paid leave for these two weeks as a perk.

        • I’m really envious of all the *paid* leave provisions you have outside the States. Here in the US that is virtually nonexistent. IF you have managed to save up paid vacation time you can take that (assuming the employer allows you to take it all at once), but otherwise you are subject to limited legislative mandates and/or the generosity of your particular employer (and sometimes even your particular supervisor). We have a long way to go in the US before our minimum leave standards adequately meet the needs of all families.

          • Free money is always nice, won’t argue there!
            But most employers won’t budget in paid baby-leave, the costs can be astronomical. Most employers treat pregnancy as an employee’s choice. Depending on the size of the employer and your role in the company, most US employees’ jobs are protected under FMLA and use supervisory latitude to give people enough time off for child care or pregnancy.

            • The FMLA was a big step forward, but it’s still not enough to meet the needs of most families. First, it only applies to larger companies, so employees at smaller companies aren’t protected. Second, it’s unpaid, so even if you work for a “covered employer” many low- and middle-income families can’t afford take advantage of it. Third, the reinstatement provisions have not been robustly enforced so even if you are eligible and can afford leave, some employees are risking their jobs/careers if they take it. Too often the “protection” afforded still comes down to the individual supervisor, which seems like precisely what federal legislation should eliminate.
              Despite all this, the FMLA was written in a gender-neutral way, which is good. And it covered a much wider array of family leave situations than just the birth of a child, which is also good. And it was really important in establishing a new “floor” in employment standards, which helps support new norms for employers of all sizes.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      I wonder why that is? And I wonder if changing how people view the role of staying at home will affect that view? It’s so interesting all of the big and little things that make up the idea of what’s attractive or sexually satisfying to us.

  4. Annie…it can change when gender blaming is dialed down ,egos are put in check and folks speak truth to power. One big issue,among many,is mommie territorialism. We must stop acting as if it is simply a matter of men making the choice to be active in the nursery. Some women have lost sexual attraction for their husbands as a result of the role reversal.Role reversals are not to be taken lightly.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      I’m not 100% sure what you mean by gender-blaming, but I have a feeling that I agree with you. It would be lovely if people could stop seeing staying at home as a woman’s sphere, and working and providing as a man’s sphere.

  5. John Schtoll says:

    What a great article RIGHT UP TO THE GENDER WAGE GAP MYTH.

    Lets get some facts for Ontario, where I live

    What does FULL TIME FULL YEAR mean, most (I believe) think that it means 40ish hours per week for 52 weeks per year but in fact, it doesn’t. It means, 30+ hours per week for 6 months + 1 day per year. IOW, if you work 30 hours per week for 7 months per year, you are considered Full time , Full year.

    Even the link you provide explains a large portion is because women CHOOSE different career paths then man, iow, they make a choice to do this. only 10 – 15% of the gap, but the way, what most don’t realize when they say 10 – 15% of the gap is discrimination, they don’t mean if the gap is 25% then 10 – 15% is discrimination, what they actually means is 15% of 25% or 3.75% is discrimination.

    They also don’t mention in that link that in Ontario, women currently work an average of 36.5 hours per week vs 41.2 hour for men, that gap alone accounts for a large portion of the wage gap.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I wondered about that, too, though I thought it was a very minor issue in the article. Aside from the issues you mentioned, in the U.S. there appears to be a very strong age or generational factor. My understanding is that although the average gap is slow to change the gap is closing and even crossing over among younger people. For example, among 20-29 year olds, the income is at parity or even women making more than men.

      Aside from that, however, I think this is a very honest, reasonable viewpoint about parenting and parenting roles. Whatever problems I might have with some of the points, I’d rather read something like this than most of the other drivel out there.

      • John Schtoll says:

        You are right Well, the article was beautifull and well written. I have been involved a number of times over the years in my org with regards to pay equity and I am still amazed how many people don’t know the actual facts when it comes to the wage gap and the reasons for it.

      • Anne Thériault says:

        Thanks. I also find that a lot of parenting stuff is very divisive and often downright nasty. And you know what? Sometimes you gotta get angry when faced with injustice, but usually being nice and reasonable is going to be better in the long run :)

      • My feminist visions of equal parenting were dashed in week two postpartum. Although we were both at home, my hormones seemed to make it possible for me to function (more or less) on three hours of sleep while my husband couldn’t anymore. Up until then my husband had gotten up for every feeding and changed the baby and delivered him to me in bed to breastfeed. The first tiny crack in the damn was that very first night I let my husband sleep through a feeding or two. From that moment on, the slope into traditional gender roles was indeed slippery. For all the feminist advances in breaking down the old “biology is destiny” regime, I think there is still some biological underpinning that matters when a couple gives birth to a baby. It’s small, perhaps, and can be overcome, for sure, but at least in my house it made all the difference.

        • Anne Thériault says:

          Awww that sounds so rough! I was the opposite – I was going nuts on no sleep, but my husband seemed to be functioning better than I was.

          I mean, for sure, we did a lot of things that fit into traditional gender roles in my family too – I was the one to stay home, and I actually ended up staying home for 19 months rather than 12. Also, I breastfed, so obviously my husband couldn’t do that. But now that kiddo is 2, it feels like the playing field is a bit more even :)

          • It seems to me the birth of the first child, in particular, is a critical junction point. Families and marriages and the division of labor can be so fluid over time, but that window when a-baby-makes-three is somewhat unique and I don’t think we (feminists/sociologists/etc) have a good way of understanding or talking about it yet.

      • In the US, the gender wage gap (for whites, at least) is pretty small up until the birth of the first child, then mothers take a hit. The gap gets wider with each additional child. It’s due to a number of factors, but the trend is that mothers work/earn less while fathers work/earn more. Some of it is a holdover from the “family wage” days in the middle of the 20th Century. Some of it is the lack of adequate paid leave. What’s tough for the Dads is that this increase in our social expectation of involved parenting happens at the exact same time that their breadwinning pressures increase too. So Dads are caught in a real double-bind when it comes to the work/family split – BOTH spheres require *more* of their time.

        • It sounds like the wage gap can, in part, be explained by women’s choices to stay home and the resulting requirement for the man to take on more or all of the financial responsibility for supporting the family.

          Yet the only explanation feminists seem to come to is that women get paid less because men use financial dependence to keep women subservient, or that a woman’s work is seen as “less than” a man’s work because a woman is considered less than a man.

          • Drew – Yes, some of the wage gap is due to interruptions in employed labor as women are often (statistically speaking) still the primary caregivers for both their children and their aging parents. But none of the feminists I know still think it’s a plot by men to keep women down. Rather, we think it has more to do with social norms about what an “ideal worker” should look like. These norms are based on an outdated breadwinner-father/homemaker-mother model where the male employee is freed from domestic responsibilities and can work long hours and have uninterrupted tenures in employed labor. When that model was more common, employers also paid a “family wage” which allowed a family of four to live above poverty on one income. Most families don’t look like that anymore. Most families (statistically speaking) are two-earner households. And, unfortunately, many families are stuck in poverty even with two incomes. My point is, the situation is much more complex than just valuing “feminine” labor less (which still happens, regardless of whether a male or female is performing it).

    • Anne Thériault says:

      So just to clarify, do you think that the wage gap doesn’t exist, or you don’t like the source that I provided? The reason I picked that one is because it’s a government site.

    • John, good point. There are many factors in how wages are determined and many of the articles I see are flawed or too narrow and perpetuate a myth of unfairness. It depends the slant of the research or the creative use of statistics.

  6. I, too, find it very sad that dads disparaged by our media. My husband use to “talk to the belly” when I was pregnant with my son twelve years ago. When my son was born, he came out crying. After the cord was cut and he was bundled up, James was placed under a heat lamp. As he lay there crying, my husband went up to him, patted his back, and right away, my son stopped crying and stared intently at the man whose voice he no doubt recognized from all the one-sided conversations the previous three months. My husband has been a great dad. Our son respects him and looks up to him. Twelve years in, my husband and I alternate being the go-to parent for James. I feel blessed to have my husband as my baby daddy, and I know my son feels the same way. All children deserve nothing less than this.

  7. Well done, Annie. Loved the honesty throughout. One of the toughest parts of parenting is minding the marriage. This point serves everyone, especially your son. “That’s not to say that we parent the same, or that our son never prefers one parent over the other, but I don’t think that either of us feels like we’re doing more of the legwork than the other person.”

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Thank you so much! I’m very flattered that you like it.

      I think it took me a while to get to the point where I realized that we didn’t have to be the SAME to be equal. I’m glad I’m at this point, though :)

  8. The title given (by the editors?) to this piece suggested we would have an answer to why it matters to have a father in the life of a child.

    Instead, the article fails to make any reasoned argument, or research data, and simply concludes that in the opinion of the author fathers should matter.

    The jury is still out on whether fathers, per se, matter. We know from lots of research data (see the piece the Atlantic Monthly ran about 18 months ago — in the Fathers’ Day edition, no less) that children turn out better with two parents than one. But we don’t know that one of those two parents has to be a father (or a mother for that matter). Children in two-dads and two-moms families seem to be fine.

    So, can this website and the editors please step up their game? If you are going to claim that fathers, as such, “matter” please make an evidence-based argument.

    • If you can’t understand why it matters to THIS WRITER to have a father in the picture, you are not reading what is being presented, you are only reacting to your misperceptions. Use the search box, JustAMan. You will find “evidence” throughout on why fathers matter, though it may not be quantified in the manner you expect. If it’s scientific studies you want, troll the journals where studies of the kind you want are found.
      On fathers and crime: http://goodmenproject.com/social-justice-2/social-justice-the-end-of-fatherhood/
      On the male perspective’s influence on boys: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-young-men-need-the-good-men-project/

    • If nothing else though I think it does bring up a worthwhile question.

      Regardless of how much they may or may not matter, why are fathers being actively pushed out of their chilren’s lives? They aren’t all abusive, they aren’t all cheaters, they aren’t all abandoning them chilren. But that is just what we are told when people try to speak up for fathers.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Admittedly, there is a lot of heteronormative language used in this piece, mostly because I was speaking about my experience living a heteronormative life.

      I chose this title because there has been a sort of ongoing series on the GMP about why fathers matter, and I thought it would be useful to add my voice, that of a feminist mother, to the mix, and add my own personal story.

      For sure not all families “need” a father, or a mother for that matter. I know gay and lesbian couples who have kids, and I don’t feel like they’re depriving their kids of anything. And I come from a single-parent household and I turned out great! But for the dads who want to be there, who want to be involved and want to co-parent, what does that mean? What does it mean to be a dad in today’s world? That’s what I was trying to look at, although obviously I did it through a very personal lens.

  9. Thank you for a first-hand insight in a perspective that is often neglected by the radical “equal-sharing” proponents, that is, what do we do when “Nature” just doesn’t want to cooperate with our carefuly laid out plans.

  10. John Schtoll says:

    Though apparantly fathers don’t matter to some

    I read this while researching adoption agencies.

    https://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/handlingadoption.html

    This part in particular is disturbing

    “Many states have a putative father registry, a valuable tool in terminating a biological father’s rights if you are uncertain of his identity or whereabouts”

    Now remember folks ask anyone who worked on these registeries and they will tell you they were done to protect fathers rights, but right there in an adoption lawyers own words it says that it is a tool to remove fathers rights. And from the American Bar Associations own website no less

  11. I remember when my wife tried to breast feed our daughter in the hospital and she was having a hard time latching on. They gave her some thingamajig to put over her nipple. Later in the day an older nurse came in, grabbed the thingamajig and threw it across the room saying babies been breast feeding for years, if baby wants to eat, baby will latch on. My wife never used the thingamajig after that.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Was it a nipple shield? Cause I totally used one of those for six weeks! That thing saved my hide when it came to breastfeeding. Healthcare workers are totally divided on them, though – some think that they’re a godsend, and others think that they’re detrimental to the breastfeeding relationship.

      • @Anne….That sounds like it may have been one of those. It was almost 30 years ago and even my wife can’t remember what it was called. In her case, her nipples were small and “Mugs” (daughter) was having a hard time.

        Each generation, there seems to be something different where some so called professional claims what’s best. 15 years earlier, when my brothers kids were born, it was determined that formula was better for the baby.

        I have to admit that when we had our kids, breast feeding was almost cultish. There were actual groups that women could belong … I think was called the Laleche and women really did have attitude roward women who didn’t breast feed.

        • Anne Thériault says:

          The La Leche League is still a thing :) I know ’cause I’m a member, hah. The chapter I’m a part of is super laid back and non-judgmental, but once I went to a different chapter and holy hannah they were awful towards non-breastfeeding mothers. Ugh.

          I think that a lot of it is that, as a society, we see science as being beneficial to a lot of things. And often it is! But then sometimes we find that doing things the good old fashioned way wasn’t so bad either. The problem is now that we have a whole generation of women who didn’t breastfeed, so there’s no one to teach mothers now how to do it! Not that I’m anti-formula, and I think it’s a totally valid choice, I just think breastfeeding can be really hard for women and it can be tough to get proper education on it!

  12. I think the article made some valid points, but it left me a bit disappointed. I guess I feel like fathers matter whether there’s a wage gap or not. Fathers matter whether breastfeeding is easy or difficult. Fathers matter if women staying at home with infants often lack for adult interaction. Fathers matter even when the author feels slighted because a male friend was lauded for doing what she did, apparently with insufficient lauding. Fathers matter.

    When the author writes,

    “How does any of this prove that dads matter? I’m not really sure….”

    with “this” being the things she cites in her story, I feel the need to agree. Maybe fatherhood will matter more if an undiluted message stating that it matters and how it matters is consistently expressed. Some of that message is in this story, but it gets lost, at least for me, in the authors personal disappointments and in the poorly supported thesis that women’s less than equal place in North American culture contributes to fathers being devalued. Those things cloud the issue for me because they aren’t the issue. Fathers matter, is the truth that needs to be told.

    Some commenters cite stats showing that children from intact families fare better than children from single parent families, or divorce. That may be as much about the difficulty of parenting as it is about fatherhood. I’m pretty sure kids with two active parents, whether two men or two women or one of each, do better. Kids are tough to raise and outnumbering them can help.

    Fathers matter because they teach boys how to be good men. There are lost of ways to be good, and lost of ways to teach. Most of this teaching happens when an adult takes time and is with a child, really present and attentive. I think a woman can teach a boy how to be a good man, and I suspect most good men became good men in part due to that time, attention, and presence from a woman. It’s easy to think of examples, though, where a man’s touch and example, literally and figuratively, might complete that learning.

    When my son was young we probably encouraged him to act out by encouraging him to be active and loud and demonstrative. It was probably natural that one of his early strategies to attempt to control his environement was to try to overpower it. When he was young I’d hold him at arms length until his 4 year old rage subsided and then we’d talk about better ways to deal with whatever angered him. It was clear to me that he didn’t want to be out of control and that he longed for a better way to cope. A woman could provide that teaching, but at that point when a boy is asking how to be a boy’s version of a good man, men (under control men) may be best equipped to teach that moment.

    As an adult I see him holding his rage in check as he thinks about what he can and should do. I hear him check off options and think rather than react, at least most of the time. I only know my experience, but I think I helped him get there in a way that at least might have been more efficient because I’m a man.

    Fathers also teach their daughters about men. When I touched my daughters when they were young I always hoped that they “heard” what my touch meant, that no one should ever lay a hand on them with anything other than gentle intent, and that men were indeed gentle and thoughtful and not the silly or frightening caricatures we’re so often portayed to be. When they got older and we talked about the issue I spelled it out clearly for them to expect men to be decent because they’ll most often have their expectations met, but also that they had an obligation to keep themselves safe. I hope I’ve helped them understand what safe means. Part of that message included the kind of crap boys and men may try to do and may continue to do if if a woman doesn’t know to say “stop” with minor stuff and to GTFO if a man crosses an important line.

    And I deserve to feel the good feelings I have as a parent. I earned them. “Father” is the first word I use to describe myself. I matter. Fathers matter. It angers me that this has to be discussed or explored or defended. It angers me that in this piece about fathers, fathers were somewhat secondary to other considerations, which while hugely important, could have been set aside this once to let this be about dads.

    Do we really matter if we only matter in relation to something else? Ironic how that question seems familiar.

    • Eibhlin Folan says:

      Adrian,
      I enjoyed your thoughtful and well expressed article. Of course fathers matter, mothers matter and grandparents matter and any other adults who play a positive role in rearing a child. But I’m not sure why you say “It angers me that this has to be discussed or explored or defended.” It never does any harm to explore/discuss our attitudes towards fatherhood or motherhood.
      In Ireland, (where I live) mothers were up until relatively recently, undervalued, overworked, deprived of basic rights such as contraception, equal pay for equal work etc. Single mothers (ie unmarried) were treated abominably and shunned by ‘respectable society.’ Fathers suffered too under this regime.
      It’s only through constant debate,discussion,exploration and yes defending people’s rights that we managed to improve life for mothers and fathers.
      On your final point – ‘Do we really matter if we only matter in relation to something else?’ – I don’t understand your point. We don’t live in a vacuum so yes we only matter in relation to something/somebody else.

      Having said that, Annie’s article is honest and well meaning and she made her point very well but perhaps not entirely to your satisfaction.

      • I think fatherhood ought to be discussed and I agree that discussing the current state of something is often the first step to improving it. I’m angry that it needs to be improved, and therefore needs to be discussed. Maybe “lament” is a better word than “anger” to describe my emotion

        I was angry that fatherhood is discussed and defined as it relates to women’s issues, as important as those issues are. For example, motherhood in Ireland is something that needs to be thought through and discussed, and wasn’t/isn’t that lamentable? And if motherhood in Ireland was written about by a man who suggested mothers were less respected because their husbands were often unemployed and because fatherhood was more difficult than he expected, might you have wondered where he was coming from and why?

        • You made some valid points there, Adrian. Anne’s article was probably a bit frustrating for a father who feels perfectly confident and proud in his fatherhood as it could be construed to imply that their role can only be discussed or reflected upon in relation to how they effect women’s issues.
          But I would have no problem at all with motherhood being discussed by men and in relation to their own issues. I probably would disagree with some of their opinions and think “what the hell does he know, he’s a man!” but I’d be happy that the discussion was taking place.
          Sometimes women can provide insights to men on how to be good fathers. Not all men are naturally endowed with “good daddy genes” and some need to learn on the job. Just as all women don’t take to motherhood and may need help from their partner/husband/friend to get it right. I am possibly going a bit off topic here. I have a tendency to waffle a bit:(
          I never heard of this website before today (It’s really interesting!) and this is the first time I ever posted an online comment. I was born back in the time when surfing involved waves, and webs involved spiders.

          • Ia see what you’re saying, Eibhlin. I don’t object to women offering their perspective, and that’s the part of the article I appreciated. And you know, I am only speaking for myself. For example, I couldn’t imagine handing one of my children to their mother because I couldn’t deal, but men taking a bit of an out may be more common than I’d like to admit. And my refusal to take that out is at least part prideful, and not necessarily because I always had a good clue what might work to get the little, umm, angel, to let me get back to sleep or peace.

        • Anne Thériault says:

          I’m sorry that this is what you took away from what I wrote! It certainly wasn’t my intent with this post.

  13. Annie…it happens,I believe, for 2 reasons:1) conditioning 2) lack of flexibility in how some women percieve themselves as sexual beings.My ex said I wasn’t as sexually attractive to her because I was wearing an apron rather than carrying a briefcase.Coming home to gourmet meals-no kidding-a clean house, happy clean kids and a smart goodlooking guy wasn’t enough:imagine my surprise. Some women’s uterus are married to traditional gender roles.

  14. Annie…it happens,I believe, for 2 reasons:1) conditioning 2) lack of flexibility in how some women percieve themselves as sexual beings.My ex said I wasn’t as sexually attractive to her because I was wearing an apron rather than carrying a briefcase.Coming home to gourmet meals-no kidding-a clean house, happy clean kids and a smart goodlooking guy wasn’t enough:imagine my surprise. Some women’s uterus are married to traditional gender roles that are connected to their libido’s.

    • ogwriter, it sounds like your ex lacked appreciation for your efforts. Either clinging to traditional roles or embracing feminist visions of equal parenting, neither works in my opinion. There is no utopian state of a marriage; it’s about helping each other and appreciating the other’s contributions above all.

      Work is work. Whether it’s cutting the grass, picking up after the kids 600 times a day, cooking a meal, or paying bills…somebody put the effort in. Hopefully, feminism isn’t attached to every woman’s libido and attached to her ability to show respect and gratitude to her husband, no matter what uniform he wears to work each day.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      Well, the family life you’re describing definitely sounds ideal to me! I wish I came home to a clean house and gourmet meals every day :)

  15. Annie…We don’t live in world where babysitting is thought of as a female’s job.In poorer families like mine, the older sib pulled childcare duties and all that it entails.This often the boy.This tradition continues today but feminism ignores these contributions from males in the upbringing of children.When have you ever seen an article on this subject? My mother,though she got all the credit for raising us,my older brother did yoeman’s work, behind the scenes,never getting credit or asking for it.Poor people don’t have the luxury of choosing what jobs they perform in deference to gender convention.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      I’m talking about babysitting outside of the house, for money.

      I was also from a poor family, a single parent household, and, as the oldest, I did a ton of babysitting. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an article on that subject, either. I’m not quite sure what you’re driving at here? We all contributed in our own way so that the family could survive the tough times, and it did, so pats on the back all around.

  16. Annie…I’m watching a tv show called Mom’s Friends Forever, and in the opening sequence the mom’s say,”Being a mom is THE HARDEST job in the world!” Mom’s and culture believe this.What about dads?Both mom’s pretty,educated have all the resources they need to raise their families.

  17. Kari…Thank you for this.It is so damn true.I know,I lived it.I worked 65 hours a week and was expected to keep up my schedule with kids.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      I think it’s fucked up that we live in a world where ANYONE would be expected to work 65 hours a week…

  18. Adrian…I was a SAHD 30 years ago and am completely frustrated from much of what I hear from many SAHD today. I cannot fathom why there is still so much negative stuff fathers have to go through. Perhaps most frustrating of all is how little regard too many women give this issue.
    Damn, if you want someone to do a job then it makes sense that one would do two things; provide support and then get the hell out of the a way. For me, even after the solid job I did raising my kids, mom is still THE parent. It serves no one to treat men as secondary to mom and yet place the same expectations and more on the father. If women can organize around equal rights why they organize around equal rights for fathers?

    To continue to act as if equality is a one-sided coin is insanity and is why I still don’t trust feminism. I am tired of the splitting and of the division in the home. In the home environment, between men and women, what one does affects the other. The needs of the team-family- should take precedent over that of the individual. If a man stays home with the kids, respect him honor him, treat the same as you would like to be treated.

    This endless conversation, the endless sparring, that keeps men from executing their role as parent, that always has men trying to prove themselves, doesn’t work well.
    The truth is that the average woman isn’t born with anymore knowledge of how to in the nursery than a man. The fact Is that 26% of moms will experience PPD, which can be devastating, disabling mom. Someone skilled must be able to step in. Many women are scared to death and are overwhelmed in the nursery, though not many would admit to that truth. Admit to, then get rid of, the territoriality in the nursery. Admit that you don’t know it all. Admit to your power and control and surrender.

    • Ogwriter – You said it all “The needs of the team-family- should take precedent over that of the individual.” More importantly, the needs of the family should take precedent of an elusive concept of equal parenting. I suspect many people walk into marriage and parenting these days thinking it’s going to be equal…and discuss equal rights and fuss over the role of washing dishes. Parenting and marriage is not about equal rights, it’s about people and work.

      Whether it’s cooking meals, picking up after your kids 600 times a day, teaching them how to read, or paying bills, it’s still work and someone put the effort into it. That work needs to be respected and appreciated. If a man works all day, it doesn’t matter what his uniform looks like, but he still needs respect and gratitude for the effort he put into the team. In my experience, when men don’t get respect at home, they find respect in the arms of another woman or stop getting married altogether.
      Equal rights don’t drive a man out of the house, but a lack of respect and gratitude can drive a man out of any house.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      I’m not sure of ANYONE who talks of equality being a one-sided coin. All the feminists that I know are pretty pro-equality for everyone.

      “The truth is that the average woman isn’t born with anymore knowledge of how to in the nursery than a man.”

      Yes, and this is why I’m saying that both boys AND girls need to be exposed to babies, encouraged to take babysitting jobs outside of the house, etc.

      And by the way, I was one of the 26% of women who had PPD, although I didn’t talk about it in this post.

      • By “know” do you mean feminists that you associate with? If that’s the case then I’d be willing to believe that’s true.

        But otherwise are you saying you’ve never seen feminists that deny the experiences of men, those that put conditions on concern for male victims of violence, dictate that women simply cannot commit sexism against men, actively deny that men are harmed by false accusations of rape and dv, use double speak (as in making a claim followed by words or actions that contradict that claim), extend a sympathy and compassion to violent women and then deny the same to men, etc…..(not just feminists but any walk of life that talks of such limiting and offensive points)?

        • Anne Thériault says:

          I think that there are certainly people who think and say those things. I’m not sure that it’s helpful to phrase it as “some feminists do this” and “some feminists do that”, since I don’t think that those women and/or men speak for the movement as a whole.

          I could say that there are men who think that sexism doesn’t exist, who are misogynists, who use double-speak, who deny that violence against women is a problem, etc., and that would be true, but it’s not fair or accurate to frame it as a “this is a thing men do” issue.

          I mean, for sure, it’s a touchy subject for me, since I identify as a feminist and feel that I and many other people have benefitted greatly from the movement. I don’t think that it’s perfect, by any means, but I don’t like seeing it used in a pejorative sense either.

      • Anne, as a feminist and I presume a profession in business, other then the road being paved for opportunities in the business world for women, what did feminism do to provide you in the area of motherhood? I get the distinct feeling you didn’t “luck out” with the man you chose so there is no doubt in my mind that what you have in your relationship as a family is what the two of you made.

        You mentioned “equality” and I’m curious as to who set the norm as to what “equality” is. One last thing … I’ve enjoyed reading your article and your responses but what bothers me is that you consider yourself a feminist. Although many view your views as being different then what they’ve experienced with feminists, you still see yourself as one. IMO and you know what they say about opinions, I don’t see you as a feminist at all. I see you as a level headed women who has great compassion and passion for motherhood and family. I wish we could start eliminating labels.

        BTW, My wife’s name is Anne and is pronounced Annie. Good name.

        • Tom B – I can’t speak for Anne, but as a feminist and mother I can say that the movement has provided a great deal to me. First, and foremost, it ensured that I had real choices – to work or not, to have babies or not, to get married or not, or all points in-between. It wasn’t so long ago that women couldn’t make these choices for themselves. Second, it changed how I approach my identity as a mother. I’m not just so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s mother. I’m a person with my own needs and desires and goals and those don’t have to be set aside now that I have children. Third, it guaranteed that I can be financially autonomous. I can have a credit card and bank account and investment savings in my name. When I was born, married women still weren’t allowed to do that. Fourth, it gave me the tools to build a more equal partnership with my husband so that we make decisions together, share responsibilities for our family, and approach the division of employed and domestic labor as a fluid agreement. Women didn’t always have that kind of voice or equality in their marriages. Fifth, it helped create space for all sorts of examples I can show my kids where sex and gender aren’t linked – boys can like dolls and girls can like trucks, boys can hold hands and girls can climb trees – so that I can help foster even more tolerance for difference in my kid’s generation. And one of the most important examples of this is my husband, who does traditionally “feminine” things like take care of his children and wash dishes and iron clothes. My grandfather did none of those things. Finally, feminism helped make the world a safer place for me so that I don’t have to live in fear just because I’m a woman. If my husband abuses me, I can get help and I can leave. If I’m raped, I can report it and (hopefully) prosecute the perpetrator. If I cheat on my husband, I won’t automatically lose my children (and I don’t have to walk around with a big “A” on my chest). In short, I have freedom of movement and action as an autonomous person that generations of women never experienced. Even if none of these things ever happens to me, I still feel better knowing I will be treated far better than my great-grandmother would have.
          I could list more but hopefully you get the idea.

        • Anne Thériault says:

          I think feminism has done a lot of things, including in the area of motherhood! Helped promote the birth control pill, i.e. helped women take their fertility into their own hands. Feminism has promoted the use of formula, which allows men to feed children and women to work more easily outside of the home. Feminism has helped normalize public breastfeeding, which only a generation or two ago was taboo in many circles. Feminism has helped women realize that they have options when it comes to childbirth, and things are much better than they were in my grandmother’s time, when a woman was put into a “twilight sleep” and was basically awake but totally incoherent and psychotic during childbirth. Feminism has helped pass legislation allowing for paid parental leave – again, going back to my grandmother, when she had her kids maternity leave was only 6 weeks in Canada.

          There are many types of equality that I don’t think are as available to women as I wish they could be. Honestly. this is something that I could go on about all day, so maybe I’ll save that for another post.

          I’ve noticed that feminism is something of a dirty word around here. The truth is that most feminists are not irrational man-hating bitches, but are lovely, smart, logical women. I think my new mission might be to prove to the readers here that feminists aren’t evil :)

          • I’ve noticed that feminism is something of a dirty word around here. The truth is that most feminists are not irrational man-hating bitches, but are lovely, smart, logical women. I think my new mission might be to prove to the readers here that feminists aren’t evil
            While appreciate your enthusiasm I have to ask.

            Are you expecting to prove that the evil in feminism does not exist or trying to prove that there is more than evil in feminism?

            I’m asking because those are two very different questions and frankly it seems that most feminists I’ve seen try to accomplish the former while calling themselves accomplishing the latter.

  19. Annie…you,my dear, articulated my point.Which is that over generations boy’s and girls have helped many moms run their homes.This is a big deal. It means that boys are already babysitting and have been for generations.This is history here happening everyday.

    • Anne Thériault says:

      True. I guess I meant it more in the sense that when a girl’s ready to get her first job outside of the house people encourage her to babysit, whereas for boys they’re usually encouraged to get a paper route or something. My husband is the youngest of three, so had no siblings to babysit for, and was barely able to tell which end was up when we had our kid.

      I mean, that’s obviously a joke, but he’s pretty open about the fact that he didn’t know much about babies before he had one. Now he’s an expert!

  20. Annie… If these hidden stories,of others helping mom run the house, and all that they imply were openly honored and included in the narrative,its a game changer.

  21. Annie… If these hidden stories,of others helping mom run the house, and all that they imply were openly honored and included in the narrative,its a game changer.I had a paper route! It was fun.The sunday papers were heavy.

  22. Icelander says:

    As long as women don`t desire mcuh to have sex with a stay at home dad husband, and they most certainly do not, being a stay at home dad husband is a really, really bad choice. It is perfectly up to the women. If you find stay at home dads SEXUALLY desirable and this can be PROVEN by your actual BEHAVIOR then being a stay at home dad might be something to consider. Since this is so clearly not the case today with women desperately searching for men that have nigher status than them in terms of education, career achievement, income and other status being a stay at home dad is statistically a horrible choice for your personal happiness as a man. It is basically all up to the women. SHOW us through actual behavior that men who desire to be stay at home dads are SEXUALLY desirable and then we can talk. Until then it is up to YOU to change your desires. Until then stop complaining about more women than men being home with the children. Your own desires are what is holding this back. Personally I don`t think this will ever change because of female hypergamy but if you think it does it is up to women to bring about this change. In stead of demanding that everyone else (men) change to adapt to you as you always do you need to change yourself and only then can you demand change.

    • the Census Bureau counted 189,000 last year, up 78% from a decade ago. But men still comprise only 3.6% of all at-home parents, fostering a sense of isolation for some. One father in the Journal of Consumer Research study lamented that when he took his kids to public parks, “moms would talk over me as if I was not even there.”
      Read more at http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/families-mr-mom-is-dead-reports-the-wall-street-journal/#mesKR5Vug1ZerLWH.99

      ice so you can defend yourself (as you too have worked that one of the, or possibly the main driver of what femmminists call femmephobia. is western hetero women’s disgust for their male partner doing what is or more importantly BECOMES ‘firmly feminine’. which has been shown over the last 100 yr s to be markedly greater than the reverse – look at the vast difference between the dress, behaviour etc of victoedwardian women of all classes and modern western women)

      just 3.6% of all at-home parents are men

    • <bPersonally I don`t think this will ever change because of female hypergamy but if you think it does it is up to women to bring about this change. In stead of demanding that everyone else (men) change to adapt to you as you always do you need to change yourself and only then can you demand change.

      it can change but not by women finding it attractive. from what ive seen in western history, the definition of what is masculine usually altered by:
      1. economic necessity eg. in the 80s Here in the UK with the end of heavy industry like mining or ship building, formally ‘womans’ work like being a general shop assistant or admin work, over 10/20yrs became unisex. As it was the only world available for the unemployed men near to their home
      2. opinion shaping men, usually of the dominant class. in the past it was the royal courts of europe, that set the dominant masculine ideal. then when the merchants broke the royals power, the merchant idea of masculinity (which was a noveauriche version of royal masculinity, meets puritan practicality) became dominant

      so it is more likely that if being an stayathome dad comes to be seen as unisex as admin work, it will be driven by the forces of economic necessity.

      • Jameseq…Another reason women will have to lead the change is because ALL most men seem to do is COMPLAIN about the problems.

        • there was a quote error, in this part i was quoting someone
          Personally I don`t think this will ever change because of female hypergamy but if you think it does it is up to women to bring about this change. In stead of demanding that everyone else (men) change to adapt to you as you always do you need to change yourself and only then can you demand change.

    • You’re an idiot. Sorry, but it had to be said. As much as they are usually off limits, there is NOTHING sexier in this world than a dad being a great dad. Then again I wasn’t raised by insecure men who think that they have to “prove their masculinity” every five seconds. It’s isn’t emasculating to parent your children, it’s empowering for them and yourself.

      • Danny Saunders says:

        Oh, jeezus. Anyone who claims “there is NOTHING sexier” about one thing or another, without acknowledging that what is sexy and attractive to them has nothing to do with how it is for anyone else, shouldn’t be calling other people idiots.

        Many have said this, and far more convincingly than I can, but it bears repeating: What women say they’re attracted to and what women actually show they’re attracted to are entirely different things.

        Icelander’s point was a bit crudely made perhaps, but to deny the essence of what he’s saying is simply willful ignorance. As a culture we have our notions of what’s masculine and what’s feminine. Our culture has determined childcare to be feminine. (As it has done for elementary school teachers, hospital nurses, office secretaries, and babysitters.) Does that mean a man is automatically emasculated by any of these? Of course not. But it is the nature of human beings to seek to live up to expectations, and gender expectations are no different. This is why we tell a guy to “man up.” We speak of a “real man,” as if we are only truly, really men if we conform to what others believe is the masculine ideal. We use “wuss” as a shaming tactic.for non-masculine behavior that would go entirely unnoticed in females. This isn’t idiotic, it simply is. And none of this is more powerful than when we feel that non-masculine behavior gets in the way of finding romance, love, sex, etc.

        Whether fair or not, men are led to believe that women want them to be “masculine.” How each woman defines masculinity might be different, but a guy who seeks to be attract women can only go on what is broadly observable. And yes, broadly observable is that women are attracted to traditional masculine qualities. This has been proven over and over again, women who claim to want the “evolved” male don’t actually get turned on by them nearly as much as they do by the rugged cowboy. Whatever it is — biology or social conditioning — it’s real and it has to be reckoned with.

        TL;DR Men seeking to attract females would be well advised to live up to masculine stereotypes. Either that, or they can remain alone and loveless forever.

    • I did the stay at home dad thing and as much as I was the better cook (former restaurant chef), housekeeper, fixer of things and gardener as well as the story reader and take kids to the park person I get zero credit for any of that from my now ex-wife and teenage children.

      If you have one of those rare professional certifications that guarantees employment or a trust fund this might be an amusing sideline for a few years. Otherwise, gentlemen; don’t go there. Your professional status and income should be your priority if you want a devoted wife and access to your children.

  23. Icelander says:

    Fathers matter because they provide something UNIQUE that mothers generally do not. Namely this:

    http://stagedreality.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/men-dont-mother-the-cached-version/

    Masculine parenting. Very different from feminine parenting and a perfect yang to balance the feminine yin of parenting. It is very easy also to make the connection between testosterone and the behaviors described to be exhibited by dads in the study. It clearly has a biological basis. That you can reduce it or enhance it does not remove the fact that the basis is biological and changing it completely so that men parented in exactly the way women did seems impossible and most certainly undesirable. Why not let that difference be there instead of working against nature to eradicate any differences in order for someone not to have their feelings hurt because they don`t conform to “gender stereotypes”. Since it is unlikely that the difference can be eradicated since the origin is most likely biological you run a serious risk of doing damage by trying to eradicate the difference. When you fight against someones natural disposition you damage them. Consider also the fact that nature is unlikely to have created such a difference in parenting styles if it was not beneficial to the child as that would have reduced the chance of survival.

    • Kinza Carpenter says:

      My husband is mostly a stay at home husband. I love him, I love this, and I love his job. I am proud of him and very sexually interested in him. It is not WOMEN who decide who they are attracted to, but society really. It is society that seems disappointed in my husband, not I. It is those people who constantly ask, ‘what does your husband do?’ that think… ‘oh… he must be a bum…’
      You can’t make social change the prerogative of only women.
      I could complain all day about how dudes only like girls in magazines, but then again, they’ve taught you what to find attractive, haven’t they?
      You can’t just make social change someone else’s problem. If you think it is someone else’s problem, then shut up and let it be and go hide away in your own world.

      • No they haven’t Kinza. Men don’t learn standards of beauty from the media. Women do. Men are still attracted to what they always were: indicators of fertility and health. Just cause the media says that anorexic women are attractive doesn’t mean that men actually find them attractive.

        • I’m not so sure about that.

          Just cause the media says that anorexic women are attractive doesn’t mean that men actually find them attractive.
          But that’s exactly how the influence works. That’s why in school you hear mostly about fat girls getting teased in school, not the skinny ones.

          That’s how you have men that actually do try to shame women into working out, going on outrageous diets, and so forth.

          There are actually men that do pick up standards of beauty from media. That’s how we end up with guys that want someone that looks like a supermodel or famous actress with a specific body type.

          • Danny…to say nothing of the influence of culture on perceptions of beauty. and of course there are differences within different cultures.I thought this 3rd wave of feminism was smarter and didn’t generalize about men?

            • To quote Liz Lemon – ogwriter, I want you to pay attention to this over-the-top eye-roll: “Oh brother!”
              Pretty sure I mentioned already real life women come in all varieties, including non-feminist ones.

  24. Icelander…You bring up a good point about desire.However,I believe women can change this.There is no cultural imperative to do so.

  25. Annie…First of all Annie, let me get this out of the way: You are a bomb ass bitch and you are smart as shit too.What I mean is that you are SO far ahead of most feminists I have ever spoken with on these relative subjects in my life. You and Joan are lifelines for me—I don’t tell many women that!

    This is no small thing. I was raised in a feminist’s household,in the western cradle of the second wave of feminism, S.F., in the 60’s and 70’s. Part of my point is that there needs to be a reevaluation of the relationship between men and women because the current narrative reflects a one sided point of view. For instance, on another thread it has been noted that when household chores are ” officially ” measured, the point of view of men is lacking or is spoken of for men, with authority, by others. This has lead us to a big mess.

    I often find that your style of feminism doesn’t recognize the damage that has been done by old school feminism of my mothers generation, which, by the a way, is still the most powerful and influential in the world. Young feminists like yourself have yet to confront these mistakes and properly challenge the old school power.
    According to neuropsychiatrist Dr Lou Ann Brizendine, founder of The Hormone Clinic for Women and Girl’s at UCSF in San Francisco, (she is also a researcher, lecturer, author, Stanford and Yale graduate) mom’s are the gatekeepers of the relationship between dad and the kids. Some moms decide for dad and the kids what their relationship will be like. Many use mommie power to make dad feel like he isn’t as naturally capable as mom. There are many such issues, along with sex, that need to be explored around the dynamic of role changes that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

    • ogwriter – You are right that a fair bit of damage was done by feminists of older generations, to both men and women. In the US we have an ongoing so-called “mommy war” between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers. This is partially because at one time Feminists denounced homemaking as subservient, which it was then but isn’t so much now. And there was a lot of male-bashing in all that deconstruction of the patriarchy. Feminists of my generation see things much differently. One of my favorite books in college was “The New Victorians” by Rene Denfeld (a feminist herself) because it called the movement to the carpet on several issues. It may not be as visible to the general public but feminists have spent quite a lot of time criticizing each other. And we’ve done a lot in my generation to look at gender equality in terms of *both* sexes.

  26. Kinza…I agree,sort of.It is women who will have the critical voice in this matter.When women decide that for mating a SAHD is a viable,attractive, alternative, things will change. In other areas requiring change,men will have a bigger role and sometimes who drives change will be more balanced.

  27. Annie and Joan…My ex was is an amazing woman.We were raised differently and had differing worldviews.God knows I was a difficult husband for her.My choice to be a SAHD,for her family and I think for her,was very troubling. I was proud to run the house to the best of my ability and saw it as being a critically important job for the family. She had abilities and ways of delivering them to the children that I did not possess. Good woman.

  28. There’s a lot of contradictions and faulty logic in this article, but I’m going to address the most important one – the one pertaining to what I see as the point of the article based on the topic.

    The Value of Dads

    “Most of all, though, we can work to break down traditional gender roles, and get rid of the idea that men have no place staying at home with their children. Because, honestly, I wonder if growing up in a world where only girls are encouraged to take up babysitting as their first after-school job, where men are shunned from events like baby showers and the thought of a dude changing a diaper seems downright hilarious helped contribute to my husband’s discomfort in his early days as a parent. The plain truth was that, as a woman, I had spent far more time around babies and small children than he ever had.”

    Don’t you see that it is the breaking down of Gender Roles that has made men awkward and shitty around children? When you think of your own father, or if not your own because of the divorce hell that America has gone through, a stereotypical masculine father figure that went to work a blue collar job and was there in teaching kids from the start what the world was….. That was a traditional gender role. That’s how most men are built and desire to interact with children. When you break that down, you lead to exactly the situation you described:

    ” I was acutely aware of the fact that if I couldn’t get my son to nurse, there was really nothing my husband could do about it. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little bitter about that fact.”

    or

    “Why, then, does it seem like society thinks so little of fathers?”

    The first would be handled not directly, but by a traditional man knowing what he’s able to do, how he should protect and treat you to give you an environment that allows you to be a mother and fed your child. Maybe it was find a better pump, assisting you with something when he got home, playing with your child, or even just working hard so that you didn’t need to stress about a single financial concern. It sounds like this did eventually occur, but that it took each of you time and put stress on your relationship in an emotional time for you to figure out the basics of biology and what roles each of you could play.

    The second – what you see in the media – occurs because society has taken away every value associated with the traditional father. We have nothing to offer by society standards. Look at 90% of the depictions of traditional fathers that go to work with a stay at home wife in the media and you’ll see them as bumbling idiots who’s lives are held together by their wife. They have nothing to offer besides money and comedic value. You never see any Leave it to Beaver fathers who come home and teach their kids morals, carpentry, outdoors, help with math, help with homework, or anything else. You take away what most men value and enjoy about parenting….. and then you wonder…. why men make bad parents, check out, or want to do more but simply don’t know how.

    Then you call for more stay at home dads. More breaking of gender roles.

    The two desires you state are contradictory.

  29. Annie…I’m with Tom B.,you are simply a good person.No label can compete with that.

  30. Kari…Feminists seem to forget that Civil Rights legislation is the legal backbone of their movement.They give no respect to those folks.Yet,for me, another reason to doubt and distrust feminism.What has the feminists movement done anyone else?And you fail to mention feminism’s historic classissm,homophobia,-see Betty Friedan’s comments-racism and sexism.

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  1. [...] week, I wrote a post for the Good Men Project on why, from a feminist mother’s perspective, I think that fathers matter. The Marriage editor of the GMP then asked me to write something about feminism and marriage (which [...]

  2. [...] This is a comment by ogwriter and Joan on the post “Why Dads Matter: A Feminist Mom’s Perspective”. [...]

  3. [...] Anne Theriault and her husband thought they had their roles all planned out, but parenthood changed those plans.  [...]

  4. [...] also know that my husband is a great dad, and my son and I are lucky to have him. Read more HERE SHARE THIS:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: Fatherhood Tagged With: Anne [...]

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