My husband is wonderful. He really is! He’s a great spouse and an even better parenting partner. After all, we mutually agreed when we decided to have children together. Why would he aim to be anything less than that?
Moreover, why does society expect anything from dads other than that?! And why would I settle for anything but that? As a mom, it often feels like others have opinions on every decision I make in my motherhood journey. As a wife, it’s evident that people praise my husband for merely being a father and really put him on a pedestal for simply doing his job (albeit very well) as a dad to our daughter.
There’s a serious double standard in parenting when it comes to moms vs. dads. The proof is in the simple, everyday comments that people say to moms — but would never say to dads. For starters, here’s a sampling of remarks said to no dad ever:
“You’re so lucky to have such a hands-on wife!”
This is definitely something people say to moms and not to dads. I get told I’m so lucky to have such a hands-on husband a lot. I know I’m lucky, and I’m grateful for that. You know what, though? My husband is also so lucky to have such a hands-on spouse! I mean, my hands truly never get a moment to do anything for myself. My day-to-day, night-to-night, 24/7, 365 is devoted to being a mom. Yet, people don’t point out how lucky he is to have me.
As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get breaks. Lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, stretch breaks . . . I don’t get them. My hands are always full. Of a tiny, squirmy body, toddler snacks, extra diapers, a stroller in one hand, and little fingers in another. Snuggling. Playing. Reading. Washing. Tidying. Holding. They’re always full. I’m as hands-on as one could be. As moms typically are! My husband works hard for us day in and day out, too. When he comes home, he’s present in his role as a dad . . . just as I continue to be in mine as a mom. We’re both responsible for parenting actively, and we do just that.
“So, when are you going back to work?”
Nobody feels the need to ask my husband this (but many were quick to tell me how “wonderful” it was that he got to be home for a “whole” two weeks after our first child arrived. I won’t go there.) They already know he’s heading back before long. Yet the second a child is born (or heck, even conceived), everyone gets nosy when moms plan to get back to work. Maybe, just maybe, some of us have no set plan to go back to the workforce anytime soon.
Whether a woman chooses to stay home and raise her children full-time, work from home, work outside the home, or any mix of the above, moms are superheroes. While I respect those who choose different journeys than the one I’ve chosen for myself and my family, staying home and raising my children is my life’s work — at least for now. And I am entirely content with that! Please respect that. (P.S. It’s 2022. I can guarantee you stay-at-home dads exist, too!)
“How do you balance being a working dad?”
I’m guessing very few dads (if any) have ever been asked this. But as the (most commonly) default parent, moms are constantly questioned. Regardless of our work status, people doubt our ability to juggle everything we, as moms, juggle. Do they even know who they’re talking to?!
“How do you deal with dad guilt?”
The fact that nobody ever asks dads this question implies that they don’t think dads have anything to feel guilty about. In other words, they must be perfect parents as they are, regardless of the amount of effort put in (news flash: none of us are perfect parents). Going out to golf with the guys the first three Saturday mornings of the month but staying home and watching cartoons with the kids the fourth? Dad of the year! Meanwhile, moms get guilted for allowing five minutes of screen time every once in a blue moon (to simply survive every Saturday morning at home with the kids). It doesn’t add up.
“How are you feeding your newborn?”
As a first-time mom, I spent my first year of parenthood providing nutrition for my child via breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding (and lots of unnecessary stress caused by outside opinions and pressure). And I can tell you there’s no one-size-fits-all for feeding babies. So why are such curiosities sprung only on moms? Do people think dads are incapable of feeding their children?
My husband has always been a supportive partner in feeding our daughter. Like everything we do as parents, it’s a team effort. Whether by joining in lactation appointments to provide support for their partners’ breastfeeding efforts, washing pump parts to lighten mom’s impossible load, or bottle feeding that brand-new little one at 1:00 a.m. so mama can sleep until her shift a short two hours later, dads are fully capable of partaking in feeding their children.
“Is your wife babysitting?”
My husband has never been asked this. Yet, I’ve been asked if he’s babysitting on the (rare) occasion I’ve had to go somewhere without our toddler tagging along. Cue the confusion. Excuse me? No, he didn’t pick up a gig on Care.com. He isn’t helping out another family or even extended family of our own. He’s parenting because he’s a parent. Just as much as I am. When I have outside obligations and need to be somewhere, he steps up — just like I do when he leaves for work, dental appointments, or haircuts.
“Smile. You’d be more handsome.”
I can’t say I’ve never said this to my husband, but I can guarantee that nobody else has or would ever dare to. Moms are expected to hold it all together all the time. We’re not invincible, though. There shouldn’t be any shame in that.
“Is that appropriate for a dad to wear?”
Can you even imagine someone saying this to a guy? Because I can’t. Nobody bats an eye at how dads present themselves on the daily. But moms? We’re expected to be prim and proper, appropriate, and “momly” (yes, I may have just made that word up) at all times. Frankly, it isn’t anyone’s business how we choose to dress. Let’s not forget the whole other slew of comments regarding physical appearance, bouncing back, and a body that will never be exactly the same again.
While it may not be the case in every household, my husband and I spent our first few weeks as parents tag-teaming night feedings, diaper and outfit changes, and everything else that comes with tending to a brand-new human. I was tired, he was tired, we were both tired, and it showed. Yet, you guessed it. I was the only one on the receiving end of comments regarding that visible exhaustion. And bouncing back. And weight changes. (For the record, we both gained weight when we became parents. We both became the proud owners of a few new gray hairs and more well-defined wrinkles. We both changed physically, and understandably so.) But none of that matters. The truth is, neither mom nor dad should ever have to put up with such comments. Just, no. Keep them to yourself.
Other things people say to moms that we’ve never heard said to dads that we’d add to the list:
- Daddy break
- Working dad
- Dad rage
- Dad shame
The Bottom Line of the Things People Say to Moms
If outsiders’ opinions have proven anything, it’s that there’s a great yet unfortunate divide between what’s expected of moms and what’s expected of dads. Perhaps this is due to decades-old societal constructs that haven’t evolved with modern-day family dynamics. Parents are constantly subject to comments that minimize the care that dads everywhere can provide for their children. In turn, the endless love and dedication moms pour into their families daily is minimized. For some reason, moms are expected to be on all the time. The pressure is high and constant. The bar is set much lower for men who are just as competent and should be expected to uphold their end of the parenting bargain. No questions asked – nor unsolicited comments given. The narrative of the things people say to moms needs to change.