This stay-at-home-dad rejects the underlying, stereotypical nonsense that has been a cash cow called Father’s Day. Is he right?
I hate Father’s Day. I know that as a father I should like it, but I don’t.
When I was in junior high, I thought it would be pretty cool to be a father and celebrate father’s day, but I’m pretty sure that’s just because to my hormone-addled brain it would conclusively prove I’d had sex at least once.
(Around this time, I also had the idea that some lingerie company should do a series of ads for Father’s Day that used the line “Show him you’d make him a father all over again.” But again, that was probably just the hormones’ bright idea.)
It’d be perfect if it only had the line “Show him you’d make him a father all over again”
Beyond the flawed, Valentine’s Day-esque premise behind it (“You really need one day of the year to show someone you appreciate/love them. Don’t you dare show them on any other day of the year. Don’t. You. Fucking. Dare.”), Father’s Day and its surrounding hullabaloo show just how flawed our society’s view of fatherhood remains.
Even with fathers staying home with their kids more than ever, with more women than ever being the primary bread winner in a household, at a time when the constriction of traditional gender roles is easing up a little bit, along comes Father’s Day, where all the stereotypes of the emotionally distant, non-nurturing father trot back out like some aging hair metal band starting yet another tour to pay for rehab and alimony for the band members’ eight ex-wives.
The Father’s Day messages come across in stark contrast to Mother’s Day’s.
All the commercials and gifts foisted upon us back in May celebrate Mom as the Great Nurturer, the Supreme Care Giver who selflessly does what no other person in the world can do: love us unconditionally. This message alone is problematic (as Annie Lamott wrote last month) and reinforces stereotypical gender roles for women, regardless of whether a woman has kids or not (e.g., if she doesn’t have kids yet, when will she finally get around to fulfilling her biological imperative?).
But Father’s Day commercials and gifts all have the same underlying message.
“Thanks for not abandoning me, Dad. And occasionally you did stuff with me that was manly and didn’t involve caring for me in any way.” None of the loving messages Mom got last month.
Father’s Day isn’t a holiday for beautiful gifts either. The standards are:
- A tie. Real message: go back to work and do your only important duty, providing for us financially. “Here, Dad. For when you work for the Man.”
- A power tool. Real message: by using this obviously non-kid friendly tool, you can celebrate being a dad by being free of your kids for a few hours while you are the stereotypical “handy” dad who doesn’t provide us with emotional support (see #1), but provides a physical place for us to live while Mom does that touchy-feely stuff. The threat of maiming them usually keeps kids out of your hair.
- Sporting equipment, often golf related. Real message: as a man, you should like sports and playing them, especially any game that takes you away from your wife and kids for at least 3-4 hours spent walking around in the sun, all while playing quietly, two things small children excel at. Your ticket to hours of pretending your not a father on Father’s Day.
Ultimately, Father’s Day is just a symptom of the profoundly low expectations society has for fathers right now.
All you have to do in order to be a good father is not abandon your child. Everything else makes you father of the year.
As a stay at home father, I get asked probably about once a week if I’m babysitting my children, or if I’m giving my wife a day off.
Obviously, if a man is taking care of the kids it’s just to keep them alive until Mom gets back to really take care of them.
I hope that by being the at-home parent, I can change that a little bit, especially for three little people who I nurture every day. My three kids will see their mother and I model for them new gender roles: where it isn’t strange for a woman to be the primary bread winner and have a career, where a dad is at ease staying home and taking care of babies without it being merely “babysitting,” where parents both celebrate time with their children because they love having children, not because they are forced to on some arbitrary Sunday turned into a holiday.
Maybe we should just have Parents Day where the kids show their parents (or parent) that they appreciate them just as much on this day as they do every day, no expensive jewelry or reciprocating bandsaw needed.
The gift of letting us sleep in, followed by a day free of fighting is thanks enough.
And thank you for sharing this!
Photo: Getty Images