Note: Cisgender means someone who identifies with the gender they were born with, aka not transgender.
Anyone who knows me, follows me on any kind of social media, and probably anyone who reads this blog will have figured out by now that I absolutely hate gender stereotypes. In my lifetime I have watched as these slowly have been broken down, especially girls getting into more male spaces. Although this is amazing progress, we still have a long way to go allowing our boys to wear princess dresses and letting men into spaces for women. This is less about pink and blue though, that’s a whole other post, and more to do with the gender sterotyping we do on parents.
Where is that child’s mother?
Even in 2016 mothers are still seen as the default parent. When things are not going well in a child’s life the mother is to blame, even if a mother isn’t around. When dad takes the kids out he’s complimented for his bravery and effort, mom stared at, often judged. Most of the time it’s because mothers take on the main parenting role but increasingly women are sharing the job responsibility with their husbands (70% of mothers where I live work!)
Now we have more dads at home as the primary caregiver than we ever have before. Which “mommy and me” class will be the best fit for dad and baby? Without a corporate identity, how will dad meet friends and socialize? Will he be attending the mom’s night out too? Every little thing, right down to facebook buy and sell pages (“Mom’s of Multiples”, sigh) is aimed at female caregivers. This not only isolates the same sex couples that already are trying to fit in, it also implies that dads can’t do these things, or aren’t welcome. I’m pretty confident most of the time they are, for the record.
So if women are working, everything should be equal, but it isn’t. Thanks to years of gender stereotypes, women are expected to be mothers and wives first and career people second. A woman is expected of as much as her husband at work, puts in similar, hours, but is still expected to lead the family in child rearing. Although many families are equal, the question is always “what is mom making for dinner”, “did you mom buy you that dress”, and when you send a gift to a 2 year old’s party they assume it was picked out and wrapped by mom. When family comes to visit, they’re not looking to the man to wonder why the house isn’t clean(er), it’s still falling on women.
Or at least, based on what I’ve heard speaking to women, it feels that way.
So we know that men and women are taking more equal roles today. We know where we stand in our own homes on equality (mine is pretty equal.) We know that men stay home, that women work, that some families have one or two moms or dads, or sometimes even other caregivers. We know that mommy and me class really means caregiver and me. Why are we still implying all this stuff with our day to day lives? Why do we take how a mom parents seriously but dad is a joke?
Jokes may seem like harmless fun, but they’re insulting. They’re insulting to dads by saying they can’t do things, or somehow these simple things that they don’t prioritize somehow make them less of parents. Dad doing anything has become one big joke in our society so much that we’ve all kind of just accepted it. It’s bad for dads, but it’s also bad for mom. Imagine everywhere was telling you not to bother trying because you’re just going to be a laughing stock anyway, would you? Ever wonder why your husband says “I can’t”? Maybe it’s time to think twice before you perpetuate the sterotype.
It’s also bad for moms because it puts even more pressure of perfection on them. Not all moms care about matching clothing but this kind of thing implies that it’s important. It also makes women out to be perfect, stern, and unfun which is not always true, although can be with all the extra pressure moms are placed under by both society and themselves. It’s hard to get out of the habit of perfection with everyone telling you to be perfect.
What I’m asking today is for you to think about what kind of messages you’re sending out and what way you perceive male and female parents. Understand that although there will be fundamental differences (there have been numerous studies supporting this) and it’s OK to joke, that we have to send out more messages that dads ARE capable and moms do not HAVE to do everything in a 2 parent family. I would also like you to consider what gendered language you’re using when you’re talking to a group – no more mommy and me classes, no more telling kids to find their mom, no more assuming the mother is the default parent. Not just for trans people, not just for gay men, not just for dads, but for you as well.
P.S. I chose that featured image (the one at the top) because at any given moment my husband and I are both that mom and dad. Sometimes everyone is a “good” parent, and sometime we are all a little “selfish”.