This installment of the Dads are Not Second-class Parents series came about in an interesting way. Back in July of 2008, I spoke about this topic on At Issue With Ben Merens, on Wisconsin Public Radio. Soon after, I received a call from the Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, a state run program. I was asked to be a guest speaker at one of their conferences, and this article is the result.
I recently had the honor of speaking with professionals that are dedicated to helping dads (both in-home and in various programs throughout the state) become better, more involved parents. After all was said and done, I realized this would make a good blog post…
Today I’ll be focusing on how dads are often perceived, drawing concepts from my article, ‘Dads are Not Second Class Parents.’
The question I have for you today is this:
How do we show fathers that they don’t have to be carbon copies of their fathers & grandfathers? How do we turn fathers into involved DADS who ARE ABLE to change a diaper, feed their children, care for them and nurture them. That they are able to teach their kids their numbers, letters, virtues, morality and integrity. Show them compassion.
This is not to say that moms are less capable to do these things — this is just to say that WE are as capable as moms to do them.
We are not a stereotype. Working men whose duty it is to make the money, deposit the checks and the sperm. WE ARE PARENTS. We are modern day dads.
I have been told by a close family member, something that troubled me very much. Let me tell you a little story…
There was a time where I worked from home as a freelance writer. For the first year and a half of my oldest son’s life. I was able to make my own schedule, and spend a lot of time with my son. Day in and day out, I fully shared the parenting with my wife. And I was making good money.
One day, at a birthday party for a cousin, I was speaking about raising my son. I can’t remember exactly what I was speaking about. But what I do remember is being told, “you know Joe, it’s not your job to raise this child. It’s your job to make the money and provide financially. It’s your wife’s job to raise this child.” It was also mentioned that I should be going to an office like everybody else to earn a living, not working from home.
Needless to say, I was VERY, VERY upset by this comment.
Now imagine hearing “you shouldn’t be raising your child,” from family and the community. You turn on the TV and dads, if they’re even around, are bumbling idiots or sitting in the background pouring themselves a cup of coffee – while mom makes the dinner, works a full-time job, changes the diapers, cleans the house and discovers a cure for blindness — all at the same time!
Not only does this insult dads, the ones who actually DO all these things themselves, but it also sets a very low standard for fathers who do not. It perpetuates a problem where everybody loses.
What I’m saying is, when this kind of perception or paradigm BLEEDS in from TV, magazines, society, family — the message is pretty clear. I am lucky enough that my wife has always been supportive and agrees that we should be parenting together. But what about the dad who does not have this type of wife? Who’s surrounded and pressured by old-school thinking?
What else is HE supposed to believe? How can he know any better?
I’m from NY, I’ve been raised in a progressive environment. What about someone who comes from a small town, where these progressive thoughts do not exist? Or the dad who doesn’t know he has choices, because he’s never been introduced to them? How are they supposed to know they have a choice when they’re being told:
MAKE THE MONEY, THAT’S YOUR JOB.
It’s all about perception. How dads are perceived vs. who they really are. Sometimes the perception of a dad — even just calling him a father vs. a dad (there’s a difference) — sometimes this perception causes him to feel isolated AS IF he’s on an island, as if he has no support, because he can’t find any! There are no magazines geared towards dads, no acceptable venue for us to speak about what’s on our minds, what we’re struggling with.
Could you imaging the reaction a dad might receive if he walked into work and told his coworkers that he cried on the car ride in because he missed his kids? What would you think of a man that said this? Would you judge him, or respect him?
It’s the same with women who were prejudiced against for years and years. They weren’t allowed to vote, then they could vote. It was very difficult to become an executive, now their presence as an executive is much more prevalent. Now, although the battle is not over, there is much more equality. But it has taken decades in order for women to reach a point where they can feel somewhat respected and treated equally to men.
Do you think for a moment that women were not capable of voting? Or making executive decisions? Of course they were capable. But they needed a movement to overcome the obstacles laid before them.
Now is the time for an equal rights movement for dads.
This is the main reason I started blogging. It’s why Daddy Brain exists. To help build a community for dads who don’t have one. To let them know that it’s OK to be feeling whatever it is they are feeling. That they are not alone.
You too can do this, if you haven’t already started.
Before we can help dad, first we need to understand him, and what he THINKS his role is. If we can connect with him, the input he receives from us could very well change his life. I’d like to turn this conversation over to you, to discuss what your major problems are in doing this. And what you have found that works well to engage dad and help him take his place as a true parent.
And remember, you are not alone…
Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
– Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
– Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
– Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
– A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?
– Where’s the Dad in Toy Story?