I am going to let out a secret about fatherhood: we have it easy.
This isn’t about how much or how little we do for the family. This is about bearing the heaviest burden of all: judgment.
Your partner may have high expectations for you, but society in general grades us on a huge curve. We get bonus points just for showing up.
This may seem like an odd thing to discuss on Father’s Day, but I do it out of love for fatherhood. Nothing in here is a criticism of fathers, but rather how society views our role. We can’t really celebrate what it means to be a good dad when the bar is set so low.
Mothers, on the other hand, live with the feeling of constantly being judged. This isn’t paranoia. The reason they feel this way is because everyone really is judging them. All the time. About everything. What the kids ate, what they wore, how clean they are, what they are learning in school, what time they are going to bed, how they behave, etc. These are all legitimate things to worry about, but no matter how perfect you are, there is always a critic and that criticism is surely to be laid squarely on mom’s shoulders.
The difference in how mothers and fathers are viewed is most apparent to me when I am in a public place and flying solo with the kids. First of all, some people see that act in and of itself as qualifying for a father of the year of the award. My kids can have a meltdown at the grocery store and I will hear “bless his heart,” “what a saint.” Total strangers have rushed to my aid to offer assistance. Once when I was taking my girls on a road trip by myself, a waitress even offered to take my girls to the restroom. I didn’t take her up on it.
On the other hand, when a kid has a tantrum with mom, everyone is looking at her and thinking “why can’t she control her kids?” I once personally experienced this on a business trip when the plane was delayed in taking off. It was the middle of summer and the plane’s A/C was being worked on, so it wasn’t a great situation to begin with. Everyone was restless and the children eventually lost it. The lady next to me gave me an incredulous look and said “Doesn’t she realize there are other people on this plane?” Mom quickly got everyone calmed down, but every time the baby made the slightest whimper, my neighbor would give me a look.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate regular affirmations from strangers telling me about how I am such a great dad. That shouldn’t stop. Taking my kids on an outing and stoically enduring their meltdowns is not what makes me a good dad; loving them is. The same should go for mom.
Scott is a native Texan who met a New Orleans girl (Jessica) while they were both living in Houston. Shortly after getting married, he brought Jessica back to New Orleans to raise their family. Scott is a work-at-home dad who runs a business intelligence team. He is a CPA and aspiring software engineer.