The Day I Acted Like a Sexist Jerk to a Stay-at-Home Dad


Heather Davey Fusco explores the reasons many women refuse to believe dads can be as competent as moms, and apologizes to the Stay-at-Home Dad she accidentally insulted.

Originally appeared at Priss & Vinegar

It all started during one of our regular early morning people-watching seshes in Laurel Village. The Little Lady is in an aggressively friendly phase and saying “Hi!” is her absolute favorite. She delights in greeting passerby as well as trees, dogs, mailboxes and people on television. (Not to worry: MENSA has been contacted.) To help the Little Lady hit her “Hi”-per-day quota, we’ve taken to parking ourselves outside of our local Peet’s most mornings with coffee, a bagel and an unobstructed view of the bustling sidewalk. It’s a “Hi” target goldmine.

As you might expect, I meet a lot of new people with such an exceedingly friendly sidekick. Just last week, we met two darling little boys and their father who had been drawn in by the Little Lady’s greeting. (Her sweet, high-pitched, breathy “Hi” really is irresistible.) While the boys shared their toys with the Little Lady and cooed sweetly at her, I inquired about their plans for the day. Their father offered that they were spending the day with him, and the boys added that their mom was “at work.” I responded brightly (and here’s where it gets weird): “Guess that means it’s break the rules day!”



The father responded quietly but firmly: “I actually run a pretty tight ship. I’m a stay-at-home dad.

BURN. We deserved that. His boys were polite, well-behaved, dressed in clean, matching, weather-appropriate clothing *and* their hair was perfectly combed. (Which is more than we can say for the cream cheese face mask and bedhead our kid was sporting.)

Here’s the thing: we KNOW that men are just as capable as women at being responsible, thoughtful and diligent parents. We live with one. (Hi, dear.) So why was our first, irrepressible instinct to assume otherwise?

As much as we may pop off about modern motherhood, some dark corner of our brain harbors 1950′s prejudices about fathers. If women can now equal and surpass their male counterparts at work, why can’t men enjoy the same upward mobility at home? Is it that we’ve heard too many (cave)men jokes about the pampered, bonbon eating existences of stay-at-home mothers? Or are we afraid that men might become such competent parents that they (gasp) don’t need us?

Perhaps we want it both ways, to be the MVP at the office *and* at home. We may complain about how daddies don’t load the dishwasher properly or tie hair bows just so, but men being perceived as incompetents might actually feed some subconscious female desire to be needed by one’s family. Wanting to feel needed,necessary, is a pretty normal human emotion, but to recognize it as expressed by our recent, ugly behavior was a reality check.

So, anonymous stay-at-home dad with the two darling sons: we’re sorry. You’re clearly doing a kick-ass job and don’t deserve our condescension. And to the Hus-b (and all the other fathers who parent capably on a daily basis): we’re sorry to you, too. Being born without breasts doesn’t automatically make you less likely to enforce household rules, comb your kids’ hair or remember pediatrician appointments. We’re all on the same team, really, trying to raise great kids and live meaningfully. Co-MVPs for life?



Also read: 12 Things Not to Say to a Stay-at-Home Dad by Mark Greene

Photo of dad fixing daughter’s shoe courtesy of Shutterstock


About Heather Davey Fusco

Heather Davey Fusco is a lawyer by trade, a writer at heart and a housewife by accident. She writes candidly about family life on her blog, Priss & Vinegar and is on a mission to prove that you can wear hairbows and bake a mean banana loaf without being a humorless bore. She enjoys sipping pinot blanc with her East Coast-preppy husband while their toddler trashes the house; channeling her inner Martha Stewart (the badass jailbird one); and making fun of hipsters who roll their eyes at her.


  1. As a SAHD myself, I’m glad to read this. It’s nice to hear people calling themselves out for buying into gender stereotypes.

  2. Great article, and obviously you are an awesome person that your fumble bothered you enough to inspire this post.

    My son is in the “Hi!” phase as well and it seriously makes your heart explode. Until someone ignores your kid and then you want to make them explode. (Seriously, what is wrong with people who can’t smile or say hi back to a child!) BTW, I hear cream cheese facials are all the rage right now. 🙂

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      Some men won’t say Hi! to a child because they have a deep aversion to being punched, screamed at by mothers or having the cops called on them. Because a man who says hi to a child must be, you know, a molester. There have been plenty of stories on this very website about experiences like this.

  3. It’s funny how all these men get pissed and say rude ckomments toward mothers when they don’t live every woman’s life. There are a lot of men that are stil being raised to not be fathers and have no connection with their children.. I’ve seen it in several types of womens stories ,know and I live it on a daily basis. So if you are one of the few men that your parents raised you in a more modern mind.. thank them.. but for me I am basically a single parent w a husband who does his part by working hard and paying for her things. It’s just the way it happens to be. So before u start talking about “golden uterus:” or accusing woman of thinking we are superior parents.. listen to what they are saying because maybe in their lives they are the superior parent…and realize your story isn’t everyone’s story. good day.

  4. “but men being perceived as incompetents might actually feed some subconscious female desire to be needed by one’s family.” No, that’s just wrong. Mens “incompetence” is nothing but a social construction. The urge to be needed is a human desire, not a female one.

    Otherwise the text was good.

    • I don’t think the writer is saying the urge to be needed is exclusive to women just that in this particular situation this is an urge that some women feel.

  5. A Man Provides!!!!

  6. As a SAHD I’d like to say Thank You for this article.

  7. @Richard: “The father in question was actually inadequate.” It is normal for people, in whatever occupation they may toil, to expect to be taken seriouly and be respected just as their peers are.Secondarily, this father’s reaction to the slight seemed well within the boundaries of social acceptance.Certainly,it was far more diplomatic than I would have been in his stead. The unfortunate truth is many women are territorial and bristle at being seen as an equal in parenting.Some women even lose attraction for their husbands when husbands become SAHD’s. I can speak for me and say that I wish someone had told me this shit BEFORE I got married?!

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    This leads back to a Sept. article by Mark Greene about the dark side of women’s wishes for progressive men.
    That is, does going progressive–SAHD, ex–cause a woman to think less of a man, including losing sexual attraction for him?
    Hannah Rosin, interviewed by Tucker Carlson on CSpan, got, inevitably, to the question of the restaurant. Yes, with some hemming and hawing, if the guy isn’t forthright and foreceful about which restaurant, the woman will despise him, no matter how she claims to want equality and progressivism. I believe the invevitable “restaurant” question stands for a good deal else.

  9. Andy Buchan says:

    I can come across as being a sexist bigot but I am mainly mirroring the opinions of women that men are and it seems that this article enforces that. I think that it is called becoming what you are called. Like a label can stick to the most unlikely of people. Yep I was indifferent to peoples differences until people made me form an opinion about things cos they wanted to know what I thought about the things that I never thought about in any way other than for a brief moment to conclude that there are people like that what I thought about it amounted to nothing.

    Some people who claim to be different and included caused offence in me. Not because I thought of them as being different, they forced me to think of what they are. I declared that I had no wish to think of them in any way other than to accept what was before me.

    I did not have to agree nor disagree with anything unless I chose to do so. They said I had to and in doing that they went against the way that I was and could still be, indifferent to difference and accepting of all that is. I would include; all that could be, but they could not accept me without changing me so being me could not be for me.
    I think that my ideas were too simple for their liking and they wanted to complicate and confuse my thinking, and they did. I also think that this was because of their practices.

    Some people “Get on a Hi” when you score a goal or point and go on a frenzy. When you do that, you make more enemies.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    The father in question was actually inadequate. That is, the comment affected him. He was not confident in his role. Were he complete, he would have nodded agreeably at the old standing joke and gone on his way thinking of something else. Matching outfits…. Substituting for confidence. Control of detail because of anxiety about things going every which way. Every which way is healthier for kids. But…. Man, I like pshrinking people I never met. Thing is, I might be right.
    The “we” as editorial or imperial is old. It implies that practically everybody does this or that bad thing the writer has done/seen. Until we have something empirical to share, keep it to the first-person single.
    Matter of fact, the writer’s view, or the writer’s one-off mistake, is immaterial. SAHD do what they’re going to do and what other people think is, or ought to be, monumentally irrelevant.
    For sexism, see Peggy Noonan, “Welcome back, Duke”, written in the shadow of 9-11. She doesn’t say “we”. She says “I”, which is proper.

    • @ Richard Actually, the father was adequate and human. The last thing parents need is more people judging them based on ridiculously simplistic ideas about how they should parent, or how they should be as human beings. It’s naive and foolish to think that comments will not have an impact on someone. It’s also reductionist to think that the actions of others will not have tremendous influence on our on lives. It’s easy to say that how other people treat us is not important, but it’s also dishonest. Those who would tell men that they cannot feel hurt by unfair gender roles are acting to preserve outdated stereotypes about masculinity. A thing cannot be irrelevant if it is actually relevant to someone. Though there is an objective reality, most of our perceptions of it are flawed by the limitations of our own senses. There are multiple possible worldviews, and multiple correct ways to parent. There is no one “right way”. This article has limited details about the interaction. The idea that well-behaved kids and matching outfits are evidence of inadequacy is a fallacy of inference. I think the author did a great job of catching herself in a bias, exploring the bias, sharing what she learned, and moving on. Also, when she used the word “we”, it appears that she was referring to her family. This is an article about the author’s experience. She can certainly use the word “we” to express herself when describing the views of her family and herself. She does not have to follow your rules.

    • Adam Blanch says:

      Jesus Richard, are you seriously saying that a man standing up for his dignity and value is a sign of his inadequacy? Does it somehow contradict your view of masculinity as being strong, silent and stoic? I say good on him for challenging the stereotype and the prejudice? I share care of my son with his mother, and I’m pretty good at it, so I would also be insulted. Good on you heather for being open about and challenging your own prejudices.

  11. @KD: You presume much about me that is so ridiculously wrong I must fill in the blanks for you.

    I have for over 40 years supported fully women’s rights,period. I made the decision when I was twelve years old during debates in my classes over abortion. Mind you that as an impressionable student/ altar boy who had dreams of becoming a priest who was attending a Catholic School, this was no small thing. I dare say that my support as more umwavering than that of many women. My opioi8ntisn’t so much that an apology is needed .

    But if we are to move forward, an accounting must be made of where we have been and what mistakes have been made, so appropriate adjustments can be made. My point isn’t to villify women as many have and many continue to viilify men over things they had no control over.

    All men are not privileged or treated equally.
    It seems to me that if a group, vying for leadership in a diverse repubulic, wants to be taken seriuosly, then the people who are affected by said groups actions have the right and responsibility to criticize and otherwise hold accountable said group( s).
    Number one, I am not a male apologist,at least, not anymore. And i will not be held a silent prisoner because of your or anyone else’s unreasoned anger over reasoned, fair criticism.

  12. @KD: First of all David, your man up advice is too retrograde to spend too much time on. The point is that if what the goal is to provide quality experiences for anYone who is the primary care giver than we should Know what is going on out there in that world. It only stands to reason that some men are going to face some bias and prejuiidice since they are going into a space that has been and is dominated by women. NO ONE IS ASKING FOR A PITY PARTY, ONLY UNDERSTANDING. Your experience is your experience. Men have a right ot expect just as much validation for their experinces as any woman.
    By the way, I have raised three college educated adult as a single father and helped mold my daughter into a fiercly intelligent, accomplished, independent youngwoman who was a scholar/athlete in three sports, who is not a feminist.

    Crticizing feminism doesn’t make one anti woman, less of man or anyother grossly misinformed descriptions you can think of.

  13. Wow, this article is about how a woman was remorseful for her sexist — or maybe the term “heteronormative” would work better here — assumptions regarding parenting. The comments have a substantial amount of discussion on all of the things that women do and have done wrong. It’s worth noting that the discussion is largely framed in a way that all women act the same and hold the same views. Many of the commenters are coming off as incredibly misogynistic and unwarrantedly hostile, in my opinion. Some just seem to be dumbasses, others seem to harbor a resentment toward women that might need to be addressed professionally.

    Thank you, Ms. Fusco, for sharing your story in a way that helps encourage others to examine our own biases. You’ve kept a cool head in the face of comments that have pissed me off. So, good on you.

    • I have to agree with Bill (previous poster) on this. Rarely do I look at the comments section on Blogs yet when ever I do I’m sadly reminded why I avoid it!
      I cant recall the last time I was hounded out of my local coffee shop by Mocking hysterical women, oh hang on I remember IT WAS NEVER!
      The only issue I have to deal with is occasionally having the feeling that what I have chosen to do isn’t as worthwhile as someone in full time employment, this also seems to be the exact same issue most stay at home mothers struggle with at times.
      Many of the comments here are a little over dramatic to say the least.
      if your a fellow stay at home dad try growing a slightly thicker skin, you live with children for crying out loud, your going to need it!

      thank you for a well written thoughtful Blog.

  14. It is hardly news that women are sexist and somewhat bound to and defined by their biology. Heck, the on ly people who don’t know it seem to be women.

  15. Well, with all due respect, your true confessions left me cold and disaffected. As you so cogently pointed out, tit for tat serves little purpose, other to perpetuate tit for tat. Telling me that women have gone through XYZ in the workplace offers little solace to me and doesn’t even begin to address what is needed to actuate change in society. My telling a white person, who has experienced discrimination at the hands of someone black, that black people have suffered XYZ does nothing to address their circumstances.I trusted female culture to be what it has loudly claimed to be, which is what it has claimed men were not:comparatively, empathic, sensitive and evolved. That is the real issue:That women are not what they claimed to be. And for my money, you didn’t address that at all. That is what needs to said, loud and clear.In fact, a broad based critique of the failures of feminism and the consequences of those failures, needs to happen. From where I sit, women are loath to do this.Your approach glosses over this important fact and as a result doesn’t push the progressive needle forward. I have grown to expect little true self awareness from female culture,unless it is self-serving. If women really want to help they can start by simply getting off of their high horse, take a long look in the mirror and simply say, “Sorry, we were wrong about so much.We should’ve listened more to what men had to say about changing gender roles.We are not as evolved as we say and think we are.We should’ve done more homework and looked more closely at how we would feel when we did change roles.” For instance, many fathers have experienced tremendous emasculation( it happened to me) for being stay at home dads.Their wives no longer wanted to have sex with them because they now saw their husbands as unmanly:Wow. If I had known that was even a possibility, I would have made different choices about my personal happiness.So, If one wants to create change, “man up” admit being wrong and take full responsibility for being wrong.That I can, at least respect.

    • “Sorry, we were wrong about so much.We should’ve listened more to what men had to say about changing gender roles.We are not as evolved as we say and think we are.We should’ve done more homework and looked more closely at how we would feel when we did change roles.”

      Can we expect that you are still waiting on an apology from men for the historical mistreatment of women too?

      If you read the article, she admitted her mistake and attempts to make amends. When was the last time you have?

    • Pompous.
      I am just one woman. I did not claim to be whatever. I did not change gender roles. Many men also helped change gender roles, because they also wanted to. Every social movement has it’s failures. That is the reason society is always evolving. What me saying what you want me to say – after taking a look at the mirror – will really change, right now? And why all that just because of her little mistake? What an unnecessary, exaggerated approach. She admitted being wrong, said she was sorry and took full responsibility for that, read the article again.

  16. The biases you mention, based on my personal experience, are only the tip of the iceberg. The fact si women , mothers are often territorial when it comes to children. This is want happens when one side of the gender equation believes that making unilateral changes in gender roles is a good thing i e,you must change but I’m perfect. Twenty seven years ago, when women began in earnest, to demand that men take on more responsibility raising children, I thought would welcomed with open arms into that world; nothing could’ve been further from the truth. For me, that was the worst part, being told by this culture to join the fray only to be treated with abject bias and condescension, often by mothers who, as far as parenting is concerned, weren’t in my class.I also learned that women don’t have magic when it comes to raising kids,often they are scared to death.And since about 25% of women end up with PPD, there is reason to believe that men have for generations, all over the world, stepped in and stepped up to the challenges of primary care parenting, without getting any credit for having done so.

    • As I mentioned above, it really is striking how men’s experiences on the homefront so closely mirror the experiences of women in the workplace. The thankless hours of childcare you say men have been providing for years? Women have been quietly working harder at the office than their male colleagues for generations just to receive less pay and recognition. The redefinition of gender roles has been met with opposition on all fronts, not just at the playground *or* in the office.

      This is not to say that the sexes should argue back and forth, tit-for-tat, about their respective hardships. But perhaps greater awareness of our shared experiences will lead to greater respect and acceptance?

  17. wellokaythen says:

    Great first-person piece here. I bet this is something that a lot of dads face whether they are stay-at-home or not. (Giving men credit for fatherly competence applies to dads whether they are stay-at-home dads or not.)

  18. Heather I first want to say I appreciate that you follow up and continue to comment and respond to those of us readers who engage here as well.

    I am not a SAHD but. Spend almost as much time, if not more, as my wife does with our brood of three. One thing I have had happen LOTS of times is to be told that “I am a good father” when out with my three kids grocery shopping, at the park, etc and it strikes me as peculiar. It has always been someone from the baby boomer generation and also a female who mentions that my being male and out with my kids is spectacular. I am doing nothing different than my wife would do if she were out but I somehow get a pass as if it isn’t expecteld of me. SHEESH!

    The other thing that will happen is that i will be coached by women on what I should be doing with my kids, or not doing. When our youngest was just born was approached by a woman who told me I need to hold my child differently and that I needed to move him here and do this and that. I was quite offended as this was my third child and I can’t imagine her approaching my wife and telling her she has it all wrong.

    I digress. Thank you for the post it was great.x

    • wellokaythen says:

      Sounds to me like a gosh-darn case of “mother privilege” operating at the expense of a man.

    • Actually, women do that to other women all the time. A lot of moms just can’t help themselves and feel the need to pass on their wisdom and advice whether it’s been requested or not. I’ve also seen dads do it too, so maybe it’s just a parenting thing that transcends gender altogether. We all think we know what’s best for our own children and therefore assume that it’ll be best for everyone…

  19. Is there a good man project rule that only rude, unaware women can write for them? I help run a church based parent and toddler group, in a very nice , very middle class area,politically correct is not the first priority, even so being father friendly is one of our permanent debates. I really do think you should have a basic test for your writers. Q1, Do you have any ability in social situations.? Q2 Has the past 50 years passed you by or do you think we still live in 1952?

    • We tend to think that admitting when you’ve behaved badly (in a profoundly public forum, no less) is the very hallmark of self-awareness!

      • Indeed, it’s good to see someone learn from their mistakes and articles about it can help.

      • jemima101 says:

        No, it is a way of avoiding considering your biases and receiving plaudits for recognising unacceptable behavior at an age that most people would have worked out years ago.

        My gender test, lets reverse things, man makes crass rude statement to a mother, say something like “Hey for at stay at home mom you are one hot babe, thats rare”. He then writes article about how he has realized that was wrong, and sits back and waits for the praise to roll in. Acceptable and useful?

        Mea Culpas are only useful if they move the debate on, not if they are…well masturbatory.

        • While assuming that men are less-strict parents is certainly insensitive and untrue, to say that it’s tantamount to sexual harassment is hyperbole.

          As for advancing the debate, we invite you to read the other comments above you: that’s *exactly* what’s happening. Priss & Vinegar is grateful to The Good Men Project and their online community for letting us be a part of such a vibrant, thoughtful forum.

          • courage the cowardly dog says:

            So calling a woman “a hot babe” is sexual harassment? I thought it was a compliment. Then calling her an ugly hag what would that be? Its all very confusing to me. Sorry. I won’t tell women that they are attractive. I assume then that calling a guy “a hot hunk” would also be sexual harrassment. Maybe you could explain the rules to me because I don’t understand.

  20. I guess I was ahead of the generational curve and was an early SAHD. No body wrote about us except to somehow claim our wives were surgeons or high powered lawyers. Mine is teacher, and I became a SAHD out of necessity, she earned more than I did as a contract paralegal (this was the beginning of the law school grad glut that pushed non-law school paralegals out of jobs). I got nothing but flack from everyone in my community except from my parents. I had the police called on me at playgrounds (because a dad with a daughter at 10 am is just not normal), a nosy neighbor filed with CFS against me for being neglectful (the caseworker disagreed thankfully and found out the neighbor was convinced a SAHD had to be neglectful by default because he is not a mom). I was never part of playgroups, when I asked after realizing I wasn’t going to be invited, suddenly the playgroup wasn’t meeting anymore (they were). I had high hopes my kids would find some value or some difference from their experience at some point. The few articles about it at the time swore there were. They don’t. All I know is I did my damned best every day, I wore them, took them everywhere, did things with them all the time and gave them space to try fail and try and succeed over and over again. I actually liked my time with them. I was their go-to guy when they were older and I loved that too. They are brilliant young adults now. It’s a small victory. To this day there are no accolades. It would be nice to be thanked or at least NOT hassled by others for being a SAHP, but I guess SAHM’s are rarely thanked too. So I’m in good company. The most painful thing was being divorced after because she deeply resented my “not having a job.” I just changed jobs recently, necessity again, from SAHD to Work-away-from-home-dad. Sexism just isn’t dead. I had to fight tooth and nail and still do against the stereotype that if I was a SAHD, there’s something wrong with me and I must not be a good worker. Most men express their resentment that I did it and they did not. The other “job” I landed because I had a friend who took pity on me. HAH! What an irony. I figure I did what I was good at all along. I’m glad this is changing for other men. Despite the headache I endured from others, hell, I’d do it all over again. There was no better job. not ever.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Perhaps something men and women can bond over is the shared experience of bigotry whenever they reach beyond traditional gender roles? You probably have more in common with working moms than SAHMs variety because they know *exactly* what it’s like to be refused entrance to valuable networking events (sub in “power lunch” for playgroup)”, be be presumed incompetent by virtue of their sex alone, and to be judged by others of their own gender for choosing the path less traveled. It’s not easy being a pioneer, but future SAHDs will no doubt be grateful for men like you who blazed the trail.

    • Just Jack yeah that’s about my experience too with one about to be grown and flown, and starring down the barrel of grandparenthood, it’s a a different world, our younger two 10-11 get different reactions than my 18 and 17 yr olds did, i was obviously a deadbeat, not good for the kids etc… we have changed minds though, to the point that i have been told by parents of teens that they are glad the kids have me around (we tend to be one of the kids hang out at houses because i can cook well), and i KNOW we’ve made some differences because i’ve been told as much by the kids.

  21. courage the cowardly dog says:

    Careful ladies. If you think you can do the parenting thing better then don’t you think you have a duty, an obligation to your children to do it? And since somebody has to go out and earn the bread, and you ladies are so much better at parenting then you should do that and let men return to the environment that they feel most comfortable and alive in and that is the competitive work world. Ipso facto, are we all yearning for the “good ol’ days” ?

    • If the comments on this thread teach you anything, it’s that there are a heck of a lot of men living satisfying, fulfilling, fully-realized lives as SAHDs (many of whom would take umbrage to your outmoded statements).

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        “There are a heck of a lot of men” living as SAHD, but the comments on this thread do not necessarily reflect the fulfillment or lack thereof that alll SAHD’s feel. The fact is SAHD still represnt a minority of the primary caregivers to children in this country. I can tell you I was a SAHD until my ex wife decided she no longer wanted to be the PB (Primary breadwinner) Notwithstanding the fact that early in our marriage when our children were still very young and we were building our careers we moved from a place where my career was taking root to a place where I knew no one and basically attempted to start my career over and we made this move to accommodate a career opportunity for my ex When my career faltered we jointly acknowledged the efficacy of my being a SAHD and I embraced the role. But my ex grew weary of being the PB and divorced me (after she had an affair). Even though I was the agreed upon Primary caregiver to my children, my lawyer said the best I could expect from the court was 50/50 joint legal and physical custody of my children and I could not return to the place where my career had initially taken root without giving up my kids. I would not do that and so as I enter my early 50’s still trying to grow a “successful”career I caution those men who would opt for being SAHD’s, think about the damage you are doing to your careers, you may regret your good intentions.

        Moreover, women who criticize father’s who make the career sacrifices they do are hypocrites of the worst kind. Isn’t this what you have been bitching about for 30 years. That motherhood stifles you and does not afford you the full opportunity to develop yourselves as human beings. Why would not the same argument apply to men? And what of the recent research that reveals that some women (maybe most) have a “mommy gene”. A gene that predisposes them to be nuturing mothers, a gene that men don’t have. If this is true then maybe the inherent role of women is to be mothers. Perish the thought.

  22. I appreciate that you later realized how insensitive these comments can be. As a SAHD of four years I can’t stand when people see me at the grocery store with all three kids in tow and feel it necessary to say “giving mom the day off?” Thanks for realizing that support regardless of gender is the best way to go. Just supporting and giving encouragement is what we all need. Thanks for your post.

  23. This is great, Heather. Thank you for it.

    You ask above whether words of encouragement would sound patronizing, and in my experience it really depends on the situation. Yes, a lot of times the praise we at-home dads get can come off really condescending, when they treat us like our ability to give our children basic care comes only after overcoming some sort of huge natural incompetence. But other times, it can mean a lot, particularly when it comes in the form of a comment that isn’t there to praise something the dad is doing, but that recognizes him as a full competent parent.

    I think the nicest praise I ever received (in regards to being an at-home dad) came from a new “mommy-friend” who confessed to me that I’d forced her to confront some of her own unconscious biases about dads.

  24. Thank you for pointing out that women share in the perpetration of sexism as well. Imagine if you walked into a meeting room and one of the men asked you ” So are you here to take notes for your boss or make coffee?” It would piss you off. And it pisses me off when women make comments to suggest that I will somehow struggle mightily when left to my own devices to care for my kids when my wife is out of town. Someone said to me ” Are you ready to do daddy and mommy duty this week.” Uh. No, Just daddy duty, which is the same thing as I do everyday and that surely satisfies the requirements for taking care of my kids.

    • If only I had to “imagine” that, Jon! As A young lawyer, I recall a meeting with a colleague being interrupted by an aging male partner who felt compelled to comment on how refreshing it was to see a “secretary” taking dictation like the old days. Not. Quite.

  25. Less than some kind of superiority complex, I think my remarks originated in my own upbringing. I grew up in a household with an exceedingly-capable, supermom of a SAHM and a full-time working father who enjoyed being the “fun” parent. It can be hard to divorce myself from that paradigm even as I create a decidedly different family for myself as a work-from-home mom who fully co-parents with a very involved work-from-home dad.

    • That’s understandable. We often go by what we see, the first SAHD’s will have to combat various harmful stereotypes to prove their worth.

    • Just Passing says:

      I think a lot of people grew up where the only “fathering” they recieved was through play (which I strongly believe doesn’t make ANYONE a PARENT) If you want a kid so you can play ball with them then sign up to be a Big Brother or at the YMCA. Parenting is about sacrificing yourself and your needs for the benefit of another.

      When it was my father’s turn to make dinner (MAYBE once a week if my mom was lucky) it was icecream for dinner. It was about what was easiest for him and not what was best for his children. I think we’re definitely inbetween a shift of generations who grew up with fathers like this (who were more Playmates than parents) so that they expect it from this generation’s fathers.

      Not only are fathers more invested in the rearing of their children but some have even made the ulimate sacrifice (culturally if not personally) of paid work. I think this shift is still too new for people to see it as common and not question or comment about it.

      • A lot of my friends’ husbands are still like that. I think the key is to stop stereotyping and recognize each individual. (As I mentioned above, I was raised by a stay at home dad in the 80’s, and my husband is currently the breadwinner but at least as competent a parent as me)

  26. I notice there is golden uterus syndrome a lot. Some mothers who think they are the best for their child and that fathers can’t compare. Could that be where your sexist remarks came from? The believe that mother is best and fathers can never be as good?

  27. I’ve been a SAHD off and on for years and nothing is more rewarding than having Dad-Days when we all dress up like pirates (more like colourblind OCD raver kids) and go about our day business of errands, shopping or what-have-you in character. Accents, props, war-cries included.

    The smiles from SAHMs and from men who WISH they were SAHD are golden.

    And I also take the time to encourage dads I see… babywearing, SAHDing and, frankly, just plain BEING there with the kids. A smile, a nod and a few words of encouragement goes a long way with a brand-new papa who is baby-wearing for the first time out on his own while mama gets some rest. Let him know he’s doing it right. Worried frowns turn into grateful grins as we support each other.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Wren. In theory, I really like the idea of SAH parents of all genders supporting new dads with words of encouragement, but I wonder: would a compliment from a SAHM sound patronizing rather than encouraging? Like Mr. New Dad needs the Mommy nod of approval to know he’s made it in stay-at-home parent-dom? Or is support from any and all directions welcome to a bleary-eyed new parent irrespective of the source?

      • Both my wife and I are working and both our children are in day-care now. But in the first year of each kid I spent about 4 months alone at home with each of them (from they were about 6 months). My wife spend 7 months at home alone with them and for a total of one month we both were at home. In that period I got some comments when I was out in public with the kids and without my wife.
        Any comment from any source is not welcome. Acknowledgment are generally ok, interest in the child is generally ok, I don’t need and don’t want approval from strangers for my/our parenting decisions and directions are generally not ok unless they really are warranted. Pointing out that a baby is better off being breastfed and then asking me where the mother is when I am bottle-feeding the infant in a nursing room in a mall is one of the more glaring examples of unwarranted “advice” I experienced. The guy who turned around and cycled after me for about a quarter of mile to ask if it was my son’s teddy-bear he had found in the street (it was) and proceeded to “talk” a bit with my 12 month old was one of the most positive interactions I had. Gushing and exaggerated statements of how great it is that I take care of my own children is perceived as insincere and patronizing.

        When I am out with my kids I know the difference between a sincere word of encouragement and a patronizing comment.

        • Maybe the bottle comments were from women who went to the nursing room so they didn’t feel uncomfortable showing their breasts in front of men? With my first, I was still very modest and I specifically went to the mall because I knew they had a nursing room where I could feed alone or with only other mothers.

      • “I wonder: would a compliment from a SAHM sound patronizing rather than encouraging?”
        Just compliment how beautiful the baby is. That always makes every parent feel proud!

  28. “Guess that means it’s break the rules day!”
    Ouch. Facepalm.

    Or are we afraid that men might become such competent parents that they (gasp) don’t need us?
    Considering that the reverse of that is considered sexism, how ironic.

    But most importantly you recognized that it’s not the gender identity that makes the child carer.

    Good Job!!!!

  29. Why is this written in the first-person-plural? “We” didn’t deserve it. One person was sexist, and the dad corrected one person. Are you including your daughter in the ‘we’ for some reason?

    • Thanks for your comment, Anna. We always write in the first person plural — the royal we, if you will — and it’s simply a matter of style. We certainly don’t ascribe our bad behavior to our dear Little Lady. Every parent thinks their kid is perfect, remember?!

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        I too do the “we” all the time… It’s the result of my 5 years as a full-time mom and my 8 years of motherhood! I think it’s funny that Heather does it for style in the blog, because I do it all the time by accident.

        • Is this a joke style, cuz I am royally confused. To me it sounds like voices in the head are included:P

          • Makes me think of Gollum.

          • wellokaythen says:

            I thought maybe she was using cockney slang, like she was from Manchester, England. People there sometimes use “we” as a first-person singular, like if I had a son named Gary I would refer to him as “our Gary,” even if I were a single parent. Or someone might say “give us a kiss.”

  30. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re not alone. I’m at least 1 generation before you, and even though I was the bread winner and not a SAHD, Inever missed a chance to steal some time away to be with my kids. Wit 3 girls 31/2 years between the oldest and youngest, there were days tat the wife(SAHM) needed a break (Calgon, take me away!!!) and I wsa glad to do it. While going to the loal park or the McD’s with the BIG playground, I was often looked at with curious stares. On more than one occasion, people( usually women) asked if I was a divorced father on my visitation day.


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