Middle-class White Guy Exposes Six Signs of Dadscrimination

From Katherine Heigl movies to the Great Potty Disparity, writer Jerry Mahoney calls out Mommification

Nice try, New Yorker cover. Hey, can you tell me where to find that park where there are so many cool dads that moms feel left out, because I have a feeling you need to live in a cartoon in order to get there. I’ve been doing the stay-home dad thing for going on three years now, and I still feel like Marisa Tomei at Hillman College, if you know what I mean.

According to the 2010 census, there are 154,000 stay-home dads in the U.S.

154,000? That’s not even a lot of people in Delaware. Isn’t that exactly the number of Wayans brothers? We couldn’t take over Lichtenstein with those numbers. You really think we’re taking over parks?

Look, I’m not one to cry “oppression.” I’m a middle-class white male, after all. My kind have had it pretty good for the last few millennia or so. Yes, I’m also gay, but let’s put that aside for a minute. Other than that, I’m fairly demographically charmed.

Still, I’m in a minority group because of what I do for a living, and as a result I face a particular kind of prejudice on a daily basis.

That’s right. I’m talking about “Dadscrimination.” There may be more of us than there used to be, but in a lot of ways, the world still doesn’t get us. We’re second-class parents, a joke or an afterthought. Yo, it’s hard out here for a Daddy.

From the serious to the semantic, here are just a few of the ways dads get the shaft:

The Mommification of Everything Parent-Related

You never see “Men at Work” signs anymore.  It’s always “Crew Working In Trees”. We don’t call them “Policemen” or “Mailmen”, they’re “Officers” and “Postal workers.” But when it comes to parenting, everything’s “Mommy”.  “Mommy movies”, “Mommy & Me” classes, “Mommy wars”, “Mommy Zumba”. It’s as if the M-word is synonymous with “parent”. No matter what barriers we break down in terms of gender inequality, inclusiveness goes out the window once you have kids.

I’ll admit I’ve never been to a Mommy movie, mostly because neither my kids nor I are interested in a film whose title is preceded by the words “Katherine Heigl in…”.

I did take a Mommy & Me class when my kids were young, although I think the kids and I all snuck in through the “Me” loophole. Some parenting groups won’t even allow men. I get it. Ladies want to talk about breastfeeding (and do it) in privacy. But until there are enough stay-home dads to sustain a decent-sized get-together, we don’t have a lot of places to turn for information. I’m going to vouch for straight dads, too.  They’re not trying to look at your boobs. We’re all just doing it for our kids, so please let us crash your party.

The Boob Tube

If you’ve ever turned on TV between when school starts and the work day ends, you know it’s slim pickins for anyone with a moderate amount of testosterone in their system. Good thing we have Tivo, On Demand and Netflix Instant or we’d be stuck with nothing but endless infotainment featuring doctors, judges and chattering coffee-sippers sitting on stools. You

Who says wiping poopy tushies is just a woman’s job? If dads aren’t changing their kids, they should be.

know what I’m talking about: The “The” shows. “The View”, “The Talk”, “The Chew.” Yes, there’s really a show called “The Chew,” and if I didn’t love my kids so much, that alone would be reason enough to go back to work and throw them in day care.

Of course, no one is blinder to the existence of stay-home dads than advertisers. Check the commercial breaks during those aforementioned shows, and you’ll see what I mean. Look, I buy the Lemon Pledge in my family.  Would it kill you to show a dude dusting his fine wooden surfaces now and then?

The Great Potty Disparity

Nowhere is the disparity between dads and moms more obvious or extreme than in public restrooms. I’ve already written about one bad experience I had at a children’s play center, but it’s an ongoing concern. Too many businesses only put changing tables in the women’s bathrooms, which is not just dadscrimination but sexist, too. Who says wiping poopy tushies is just a woman’s job? If dads aren’t changing their kids, they should be.

There’ve been times I’ve had to wait outside a women’s bathroom until the coast was clear so I could go in and change a diaper. Other times, I’ve had to lay my kid down on a scummy men’s room floor in the shadow of a urinal or take them back to my car just to get the job done.

Perv stares at the park

I don’t hover over my kids at the park, but I’m always watching them closely from afar, for two very important reasons: 1, so they don’t get seriously hurt and 2, so they’re not snatched up by a perv.

We all know public recreation areas are pedophile smorgasbords, but here’s the irony: While I’m standing there by myself, eyes narrowly focused on a child who’s frolicking far off, then turning occasionally in a different direction to eyeball my other kid, what do I look like? That’s right…

A LOUSY, STINKING PERV.

Ask any dad, and he’ll tell you: In a Mommy’s world, you are assumed creepy until proven otherwise.

Stay-home dads often fit the perv profile—middle-aged guys who look tired and unshaven, wearing yesterday’s Spaghetti-O-stained t-shirt and seeming as if they didn’t have time to take a shower that morning. We spend a lot of time at playgrounds and toy stores. And if you catch us in a moment when our kids aren’t eagerly tugging at our pant legs and begging us for some Dora the Explorer fruit snacks, we might look like we’re just there to case the joint.

In researching this piece, I came across this post from Daddy Dialectic, who faced the ultimate indignity.  Someone actually asked him to leave a park because she assumed he was a predator. He did a survey and found out it was more common than he thought. Having read that, I consider myself lucky that that’s never happened to me.

When I get a perv stare, I’m always quick to establish contact with my kids, just to prove my credibility. Of course, that only works when your kids back you up. One time, while my daughter was throwing a tantrum at Target, she yelled out, “Where’s my Mommy?”  That’s the only time that’s ever happened, but if the wrong person had been listening, I could’ve ended up in a one-on-one with store security. Thanks, kid.

Mommy cliquishness

I thought my days of feeling hopelessly uncool ended with high school, but that was before I tried striking up conversations with stay-home moms. Anywhere moms gather, dads are outcasts.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a Family Bathroom, because I know it’s well-equipped and Dad-friendly. I know a lot of small businesses don’t have the funds or the square footage to add a third bathroom, let alone one with curtain-shielded rocking chairs for discreet feeding. But at any public establishment that welcomes families, Koala Kares in the men’s room are a must, or personally, I’m going to find somewhere else to pump my kids full of chicken fingers.

At least this is one area where gay dads have an edge. Once I out myself, moms tend to get friendlier. Maybe their real fear is that I’ll be some suave male homewrecker like Patrick Wilson in Little Children.

I suspect it’s something deeper and darker. Most women just don’t respect men who stay home with their kids. They see other women raising kids and think, sure, she’s a traditionalist or a post-modern feminist proving she doesn’t need a career to be a strong woman. Go, sister!

When they see a man raising kids, they think he’s lazy. They can’t help imagining his poor wife busting her ass trying to make partner while he stays home wearing flip-flops and eating Fritos on the couch.

The presumption of cluelessness 

When Drew and I were exploring our parenting options, we saw a counselor to help us sort things out. She was smart, supportive and extremely helpful. She quickly became one of my favorite people I’ve ever met.

Then, after the kids were born, I lamented how hard it was sometimes to soothe them when they were crying.  Our counselor just shrugged and said, “Well, you’re a dude.”

I was stunned, but I’ve since realized that’s how a lot of people think. “That poor guy, alone with his kids. He must be in over his head.”

Thanks, I’m doing fine, and you can spare me your advice, strangers. I prefer to screw my kids up my way, not yours.

OK, fair enough. Moms get unsolicited advice, too, and they hate it just as much. Maybe this is one area where dads are catching up to moms faster than we’d like.

I know dadscrimination isn’t the worst form of bias. Nobody’s making us sit in the back of any buses or denying us the right to vote. I won’t be leading any marches on Washington or trying to become daddyhood’s Malcolm X. Mostly, I just wanted a chance to vent.

Aren’t dads allowed to complain once in a while, too?

OK, gotta go. My kids are waking up.

This article originally appeared on Mommy Man

—Photo by rahuldlucca/Flickr

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About Jerry Mahoney

Jerry Mahoney is a stay-home gay dad, writer, sporadic tweeter and a frequent Bowser in Mario Kart. This piece probably appeared originally on his blog, Mommy Man. Jerry is also the author of Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad, which will be available in May from Taylor Trade Publishing.

Comments

  1. Tom Matlack says:

    Love it Jerry. Thanks for bringing this one to our readers!

  2. “My kind have had it pretty good for the last few millennia or so.”
    Except for 2 world wars, a few mega wars, a few empires rising n falling worth of your kind dying on battlefields

    “Ask any dad, and he’ll tell you: In a Mommy’s world, you are assumed creepy until proven otherwise.”
    Mommy’s are sexist?

    The perv stare is enough for me to never want a career in childcare, the pedo hysteria makes me nervous around kids so I generally avoid em.

    • ““My kind have had it pretty good for the last few millennia or so.”
      Except for 2 world wars, a few mega wars, a few empires rising n falling worth of your kind dying on battlefields”

      Here, here brother! Our history books even show that the aggressors and “winners” from nearly all of those conflicts and wars were white, upper-to-middle-class men. Oh wait…..

      On to more logical things: I totally agree with the article in so many ways. My mom and dad were discussing over Thanksgiving about how horrible my store tantrums were (I freely admit they should have just spanked my bottom and taken me home). My mom laughed and said, “They were so embarrassing,” my dad replied “Forget embarrassed! I was afraid someone was going to arrest me on the spot.”
      As a mom (who hates daytime television programs with a passion), I know there aren’t many opportunities to observe woman privilege, but the parenting arena is definitely one. Sickening.

  3. I actually visited Brooklyn last week and saw more dads than moms in a Prospect Park playground. Although it might have just seemed that way because we stand out more. Also, look at me making a whole comment without referencing the “men dusting wooden surfaces” sentence!

  4. Women are cliquish. As a non-mother, I get excluded by other women both directly and subtly. Moms form cliques and exclude other moms. They snub moms who serve the wrong kind of snacks or shop at the wrong grocery store. SAHM’s snub working moms. Working moms look down on SAHM’s. Just google “mommy wars”…. I can only imagine what it is like for a dad to run into this.

  5. Mr Supertypo says:

    interesting

  6. You know it’s going to be interesting whenever someone writes a post about discrimination against men but pads it will a few lines of “Men are oh so privileged!” and “But men really don’t have it that bad.”). Nice little buffer put in there so that we can keep believing that being male is a cake walk.

    I don’t hover over my kids at the park, but I’m always watching them closely from afar, for two very important reasons: 1, so they don’t get seriously hurt and 2, so they’re not snatched up by a perv.

    We all know public recreation areas are pedophile smorgasbords, but here’s the irony: While I’m standing there by myself, eyes narrowly focused on a child who’s frolicking far off, then turning occasionally in a different direction to eyeball my other kid, what do I look like? That’s right…

    A LOUSY, STINKING PERV.
    So men are being called upon to take responsibility for their children to protect them from danger and while taking on that responsibility they are accused of being danger itself? Wow.

    Ask any dad, and he’ll tell you: In a Mommy’s world, you are assumed creepy until proven otherwise.
    This has been an odd one to me. Odd because this this not only comes from dads who observe it and live it but also from people who would probably be ready to call out anyone says that a woman that tried to a “man’s world” should be presumed in worst faith until they prove otherwise.

    At least this is one area where gay dads have an edge. Once I out myself, moms tend to get friendlier. Maybe their real fear is that I’ll be some suave male homewrecker like Patrick Wilson in Little Children.
    Or they get friendly in hopes of turning you into a straight woman’s favorite fashion accessory, the gay bff. (Mind you I’m not gay but I’m surprised that once they find out you’re gay the irrational thought that gay = child molester doesn’t kick in.)

    OK, fair enough. Moms get unsolicited advice, too, and they hate it just as much. Maybe this is one area where dads are catching up to moms faster than we’d like.
    I’ll be the first to agree that moms do get unsolicited advice, but its for different reasons. I don’t think there are too many people giving unsolicited advice to moms based on the premise that the fact that they are women means that they cannot possibly be fit parents unless someone advises them. (In my observations unsolicited advice to women is of the stripe, “You are a woman and while you may be a good mom because of it let me tell you how you should really do it.” versus “You a man and that means you are a terrible parent and will need all the help you can get just so that you won’t kill the child, much less be a fit parent.”)

  7. I do like this – it is quite Lovely and amusing, except for the experience of being paedoed. I’ve had that one whilst looking after nieces and nephews – and I have to say it was not nice and I had to bite very hard.

    I’m also very interested by the stats on the Daddy Dialectic page. WTF? The survey is valid as are the questions – and the findings fascinating.

    24% Twenty-four percent said that they had been refused entry to a gathering of parents and children.

    58% Fifty-eight percent of participants felt that this criticism or exclusion occurred on the grounds that they are male.

    28% Twenty-eight percent of participants reported that they had experienced these incidents on five or more occasions.

    1 in 4 men treated as second class just for having the wrong gonads?
    Over Half told they are bad dads
    More than 1 in 4 treated this way over 5 times?

    1 in 4 is higher than the stats claimed for being raped! The comments made by individual men are gob smacking. I’m so grateful for this page and the work being flagged up – it’s already winging it’s way to a number of people.

    A Man with a child is more likely to be treated as or accused of being a paedophile than a woman is to be raped? I will be amazed to see how some manage to not see the issue! P^)

    There is no claim of equivalence – but sorry, it simply is not possible to claim that men are not being treated abusively and stereotypically and that fathers – male care givers – are not abused.

  8. Yes, the author has a point about parenting often being synonymous with mothers but is it really that big of a deal? I just spent the last 6 weeks at home after getting laid off from my job and I never once felt anything approaching “dadscrimination.”

    Maybe I don’t feel oppressed because I live in a neighborhood with a lot of stay-at-home dads and we have some support from other guys in a similar situation. I’d also point out that there is actually a show on TV called “Guys with Kids” and rather than portraying them as barely functioning dolts, the one stay at home dad character is shown to be a much more competent parent that his working wife.

    Sorry brother, no sale.

  9. I don’t know,when my kids were small(some time ago), even though I wasn’t the ‘stay at home’ parent, I still did everything with them and for them when we were togeather. I mean, I started changing diapers in the hospital when they were born. Anyway, working in costruction, sometimes I’d have ‘Down Time’ between projects, or I’d be working nights. Then it was off to the park to feed the ducks or we’d hit the playground(I’d scope out the area to find the best ones). I’m sure I got some ‘funny’ looks, not that I bothered to notice.I also got complemented by amazed moms. The point is, I could care less! I was with my kids having a great time and that’s all that mattered to me!

  10. Want to talk about “dadscrimination” check the index in the ever popular “What to expect” series. The only listing under Father is “unsupportive.” Talk about a punch to the gut.

  11. Fantastic Article!!! As a highly involved, but not stay-at-home dad, I’ve had many of these same experiences.

  12. Brian Fordham says:

    My biggest gripe is the lack of changing tables in the men’s room.

    This past summer, while visiting an overpriced restaurant on the Portland Oregon waterfront, I found the occasion to need to change my (then 16 month old) son’s diaper. Adjacent to the restrooms, was an empty lounge (mainly used for pre-dinner cocktails and happy hours, capacity of perhaps 200 people…there were 4 in the room at the time) where I found a table located in an out of the way, corner of the room and proceeded to lay my son’s blanket down to protect him from the table so I could change him (i even cleaned the table with the antibacterial wipes in the diaper bag, as if it was somehow infected by some mysterious germ).

    Apparently I should have used the floor? Inside the bathroom? Or, better yet just let him sit in a dirty diaper? What would you have done?

    • What would you have done?

      Stood behind you all the way!

      And I have a terrible habit of asking really impertinent questions with an operatically trained voice! Works Wonders. P^)

    • In the six years I’ve been primary caretaker (this is a misnomer–its more like primary 4-day workweek caretaker), I’ve seen an increase in “family bathrooms,” which is nice. I had one old codger at the swimming pool, which hasn’t been renovated since this guy was a kid, glance at my three-year-old daughter and say, “Isn’t there somewhere else for her to go?” Comments like those make me dream of violence.

  13. Although the article appeared to focus on the stay at home dad, I would like to point out that there are a lot of working dads who are very active in their kids’ lives. The role of the dad, working or not, is far from being recognized on the same level as the mom.

    Slippery slope is what I’m seeing. In the last election, the wife of one of the candidates was admonished for her views of elevating the stay at home moms . In a society that appears to down grade the stay at home mom setting, where are men going with their movement?

  14. Daci Troop says:

    I love your article! I agree completely! You also just gave me a brief education in the hardships of fatherhood! I am a single mom of 5, from 7 months old to 18 year old special needs twins. Society is proving such ignorance still remains! Sad! It took an X AND Y chromosome to make a child, therefore Both are qualified! Keep your awesome Daddy chin up…you Are making a difference!

    • Ps. I will take my child to Any bathroom available! A Parent deserves passage to Anywhere a child does, period! So join the Mommy groups and educate them, ignorance then will no longer remain! Break down the barriers! The world Needs to see that Dads are equal parents and its the women who need to be educated and the men encouraged now!

      • Daci – you are missing out the issue of the need for “Institutional Change” and even Institutional Changing Facilities.

        In the UK and Europe the simple issue of being able to change a poopy butt is getting tackled. By law, businesses over a certain size servicing the public (Especial Food Related) are obliged to provide toilets/bathrooms for everyone and without any form of discrimination – be that gender – disability – age.

        For many years a few provided baby change facilities in the ladies restroom. That got challenged as lack of toileting/changing facility discriminated against THE CHILD – age discrimination.

        That got attention – so everyone was throwing baby change facilities ladies toilets/restrooms – but that discriminated against Fathers and THE CHILD – age and gender discrimination.

        Some then decided that the way round this was to put the change facilities in Disabled Toilets which resulted in mums being women with poopy butted kids in the ladies facilities but men and their poopy butted kids were suddenly disabled.

        It peed off the disability lobby too because they got fed up with going into a toilet and finding fold down baby change tables left in the way and at eye level for many wheelchair users. Health and Safety/Injury Hazard.

        That has resulted in some interesting changes. If baby change tables are to be placed in Disabled Accessible Toilets they had better be F##~ing well there to allow Disabled Parents with poopy butted kids to use them – and that means they have to come with a height adjustable range …. and not fixed for other people’s convenience.

        So now you generally find the more enlightened business has three options for changing poppy butts – one where ladies are respected – one where men are respected and even one where Cripples get to join in the game with electrically height adjustable baby change tables…. and some businesses have even recognised that some adults may need that facility due to disability !

        The best thing of all is how training by example works.

        You see each time the law was ignored and people discriminated against, the owners and bosses of businesses were served with court papers and they ended up with very poopy butts which they needed to change. Some found it easy and others had to have them changed for them. Never underestimate the power of a poopy butt! P^)

  15. Sarah, 100%.

  16. Yeah how does a single Dad change his daughter in public when there is no family restroom? I saw a Dad take his 6 year old to the bathroom and rather than creeping him out by watching where he went i wondered. Which restroom CAN he go to. I would feel uncomfortable bringing a female child into the mensroom but not the opposite. Perhaps because they have stalls and change tables.

    • GG, check out the comment I made above to Brian Fordham. My daughter’s just starting to go by herself so I have to either bring her in with me when no one’s in there, or stand outside the women’s room door for ten minutes, glancing inside and calling her name whenever anyone passes by. I call her name to lessen the perv element. A woman waiting by a men’s room door, would it be presumed she’s waiting for her son and, if so, why is it so different for a guy? We’ve got a long way to go to shake our stigma of bathroom crashing.

  17. Oh my gosh. So men are judged for being stay at home fathers, but also for not providing women equal work opportunities, and also for being creepers just for looking after kids. I really do try to be compromising man and encourage equality, but seriously, IS THERE ANY WAY TO BE A MAN THAT IS NOT ETHICALLY OFFENSIVE?!?!?

    Seriously, someone just tell me a way I can exist that won’t cause righteous outrage and I will jump on that. I just want to not be a villain and this should not be too much to ask. By the way, as a drinking fountain enthusiast I totally understand the dark looks around parks.

    • By the way, as a drinking fountain enthusiast I totally understand the dark looks around parks.

      I don’t! I blame it on bad maths classes and people being so arrogant they can never get anything wrong.

      When it comes to all forms of abuse against adults and kids by men and women (more controversial and not easily accepted though statistically very significant) the venue is Behind Closed Doors At The Victim/Abusers Home/Place of residence. If you want to catch abusers and prosecute or just plain persecute, watching a drinking fountain in the park is a bad technique with real low success rates.

      On the other hand – if you want to divert attention from 1) being bad at maths 2) being truly narcissist and having to try and convince the world that not only are you perfect but your life (Particularly home life) is perfect 3) that you home life is hell and you are covering up all sorts of abuse – child abuse – spousal abuse – and you are quite a likely to be perp as victim ….. then misdirecting all your issues in a pointed and antisocial way at the guy at the drinking fountain is a really poor way out of the hole.

      I do know one guy who got targeted and there was a particular ring leader who was Queen Mommy Bee and ruled all of the playground ( even if it did say only kids under 8 should be controlling the swings ). She Targeted one guy and whilst never saying he was evil and did satanic things, always dropped hints and stirred conversation into danger zones and very dark alleyways. Now she did it one day to a new mom on the block – who just looked confused as asked the Mommy Queen Bee “Didn’t you used to work at So And So… I remember you there .. and weren’t you the one involved in that Sex Discrimination Case where yaddah Yaddah Yaddah….”. The new mom just kept asking everyone if that was her – and was it Fired or resigned .. and what was the payout …?

      Odd but the Queen Bee seemed to need a new hive after that and the drinking fountain stopped being the issue. NO one could ever be sure if the Queen bee had ever worked at that place – and no one was ever sure if it was a case of mistaken identity.

      Seriously, someone just tell me a way I can exist that won’t cause righteous outrage and I will jump on that.

      I Often see that too – and I’m sure that someone has discovered it, patented it and have it all hidden in a dark draw somewhere. Maybe one day. Until then it’s a case of having to point to such things as law, courtesy and basic humanity. Don’t you just wish that some folks grasped those and jumped on them rather than jumping up and down on everyone else through a misguided sense of Privilege and Entitlement. P^)

    • “Seriously, someone just tell me a way I can exist that won’t cause righteous outrage and I will jump on that.”

      1. Be Yourself;
      2. Don’t apologize for that;
      3. Don’t let the bastards get you down; and
      4. F****k ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

      You don’t “own” their outrage, righteous or not. Remember, you are a guy. Part of your “male-privilege” is that you don’t have to care if somebody else gets in a tizzy over what you did, as long as you are doing the right thing.

      -Jut

      • You Missed Option 5. Wear A Burka so no one can see you is a guy…. oh but that just opens up a whole other can of worms and terrors! Sorry ! I’ll Think Again! P^/

        Mind you I wonder who would be shunned most in the park – the evidently deviant guy with the kid who looks so suspicious and has to be watched and monitored – or the gal in the Burka?

  18. I love this! I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for 8 years and have encountered everything written here. But I do’t mind being left out of the mommy groups at the park. I’d rather sit on a bench and rest a bit while my kids play. No rest for the at-home parent.

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