Last month I celebrated my sixth Father’s Day. At 8:38 AM, I was awakened by a bear hug from my son Graham and then he gave me a ten-minute warning that breakfast was almost ready. As I laid awake in bed trying not to fall back asleep, a smile crossed my face because, for me, this day represented an abundance of love and undivided attention from my family.
Barely awake, I slowly descended the staircase to find a table full of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and orange juice, along with two Father’s Day cards and a mylar balloon that read, Super Dad. Although my 15-month old daughter Charlotte did not understand the concept of Father’s Day, a huge grin covered her face to welcome her favorite man in the world. The rest of the day could have been filled with absolutely nothing but those few minutes to start my day filled my heart with joy and made for the perfect Father’s Day.
After a delicious breakfast, I stumbled over to the couch and turned on Morning Drive, a pre-match golf show and I spent the next couple minutes perusing social media. I saw posts from wives on different social media platforms that conveyed the same message; my husband is the best father ever. Laura knows I am not a fan of such posts and I prefer she saves her love notes for me and not an audience of passive acquaintances.
Reading the numerous posts dispersed throughout social media got me thinking, what signifies “the best dad ever?” With millions of mugs, t-shirts, cards, and other items marked by these words, this accolade seems unmeasurable. The bar for what constitutes a good dad has become too low. Fatherhood has to become more than what Woody Allen defines as success, “80% of success is just showing up.”
For too many years being a good father became just about showing up. Maybe that means changing a few diapers, playing catch now and then, or even taking your child to the new Disney movie. Instead of defining a good dad by comparing them with other fathers, we need to start comparing dads to all parents. While we applaud fathers for being present, mothers are the ones that are continually making breakfast, packing lunches, cooking dinners, giving baths, and reading books before bedtime. Mothers make doctor’s appointments, register kids for school, make sure vaccination records are up-to-date and the other countless tasks that are necessary before a child starts their first day of kindergarten. Half of what mothers do goes completely unnoticed for many fathers.
Our society and job culture force mothers to take days off work when kids are sick because company’s think a dad’s job is too important for him to miss. While Sheryl Sandberg wants women to “lean in,” this is an impossible task without a supportive husband and workplace. For the first time in 10 years and only a handful of times in our country’s history, more women are working than men. All this is happening while women are working a second full-time job as a mother.
So before we freely hand out the moniker of the “World’s Greatest Dad,” let’s make sure we as dads are carrying our weight and realize the efforts our significant others are putting in. Not only should we do our best to advance our children’s lives constructively, but we need to remove the burden from mothers of having to be the primary caregiver in all aspects of their child’s lives.
I understand every household is different, and many great men treat parenting as a team effort, but too many times, we give dads the benefit of the doubt. When a man doesn’t show up to a PTA conference, a ballet recital or is too stern with his child, we write it off as he is busy with work or he is overly stressed, but when a woman demonstrates the same behavior, we characterize her as an uninvolved mother. While we must hold fathers to the same standards as mothers, we must grant moms the same concessions we provide to dads. Women’s equality comes in many shapes and forms, but for men and women to become truly equal, it has to begin at home.
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