No matter how well-intentioned, articles like the Herald’s ‘One week, three kids, how hard can it be?’ do no favours for anyone, writes Angela Cuming.
It was just after 7am on a Monday and my husband was simultaneously making breakfast and lunch for each of our three pre-school aged children. That’s six meals. And then he put each of those three children and six meals in our seven-seater van and drove those three children to day care and then went to work and then stopped off at the Countdown in the afternoon on the way back to pick the kids up and then came home and made dinner and then gave the kids a bath and got them into their pyjamas.
And then my husband sat down with a bowl of muesli left over from breakfast that he hadn’t had time to eat. And as he placed a single spoonful into his mouth I reached over, touched him gently on the arm, and looked him right in the eye. And do you know what I, his wife and mother of his children, said?
Absolutely fucking nothing because he is their parent and that’s his job, to look after his children.
And I love my husband, he is a wonderful father, but I think he would agree when I say I am sick to death of seeing story after story about plucky dads who “swap” roles with their significant female other for a week and play Daddy Daycare at home.
The latest comes from The NZ Herald, which felt the need to go with “One Week, Three Kids … How Hard Can It Be?” and the rather unenticing glimpse into a world where a husband ‘’tries his wife’s life on for size’’.
The wise Hilary Barry summed up a lot of reactions to the story best with her suggestion of an alternative headline: “Father parents his children”.
Articles like this, no matter how well-intentioned, do no favours for anyone.
The jumping off point always seems to be that a woman’s place is in the home, either as a full time stay-at-home mum or, at the very least, as the primary caregiver of the children.
It also makes dads, and men in general, seem like hapless fools who don’t know the basics of housekeeping or child rearing and who, when left in charge of the little ones, make like Uncle Buck and start microwaving underwear to dry it and serving cereal for dinner. Last time I checked the inability to cook a roast or change a nappy had nothing to do with the presence of a penis or otherwise, so it’s time to let this cliché go.
And FYI, women don’t see a man pushing a pram and immediately rush up to them, full of praise and wonderment at the sighting of a Dad Being A Parent in the wild. My husband takes our three kids out to the playground or the supermarket and you know what people say to him? Again, absolutely fucking nothing because there’s no novelty value in a parent being a parent.
And finally, this type of sycophantic fetishism of dads just being parents needs to stop BECAUSE IT IS PISSING MUMS OFF. We write something about kids and we are ‘’mummy bloggers’’ and our writing is shunted off to the lifestyle section sandwiched in between a top 10 list of Meghan Markle’s best looks and a quiz about which type of cheese you are, but if a man writes something about literally just being a parent then it’s hold the front page and we are all but weeping at their feet about how wonderful they are.
And we do parenting every day too. A lot of the time for free. We make just as many lunches and wipe just as many bums and deal with just as many runny noses and tantrums and all the other good stuff that goes with being a parent and that’s not seen as a novelty because why? A woman walks into an operating theatre and has her stomach cut open and a baby pulled out of her insides and there’s nothing, but Chris Hemsworth bakes a cake for his daughter and he’s basically offered his own Hollywood Walk of Fame star and the keys to the universe.
So please, enough with the stories and worship of dads being parents. It’s not helpful to either gender, and it just reinforces boring and bullshit stereotypes that belong nowhere other than a Damien Grant fireworks display.
Unless it’s a story about Chris Hemsworth moving to a really hot climate and he has to walk his kids and his dog every morning along the beach with shirt off while making sandwiches for lunch and being spoon-fed muesli by his male nanny, Chris Evans. Because that spread we would all pay money to read.
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