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Stop Calling Them ‘Mommy Wars:’ Dads Are B*tches, Too

Dads are bitches

My husband is an extremely hands-on father. He holds down the fort when I travel for work, and sometimes he’ll take a vacation day just to hang at home with our boys. I am so thankful that he is an involved dad; I can’t imagine living any other way. But, here’s the thing: I’ve learned that in our small, conservative town, he pays a price for not being a “stereotypical” (read: 1950s) dad. See, moms bicker about plenty of things (hello, breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding battles!), but guess what? Dads do, too. And I’m guessing the battles aren’t just limited to where we live. Here are the ways that I’ve seen my husband (and other dads) get called out, in public… 

1. They criticize each other’s weight. I have seen so many dads loudly point out that a friend has gained a little baby weight, going as far as poking the other dad in the belly and making “Pillsbury Doughboy” comments that would NEVER fly in the world of moms. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. Do they think fellow fathers aren’t aware that they’re putting on sympathy pounds? Is this supposed to be a PSA?

2. They criticize dads who spend too much time at the office. They call them workaholics. Maybe they’re trying to escape their families? they say. Or, perhaps they’re secretly unfaithful or longing for a divorce? So many scintillating possibilities! Of course, if a guy doesn’t work hard to support the household, he’s labeled as lazy.

Kid playing at park

3. And yet, they make fun of dads who are “too” involved. I occasionally go hiking with a big group that consists mostly of dads, and it’s interesting to be privy to some of the banter that’s usually reserved for locker rooms and man caves. I actually heard one dad say: “You spent this weekend at a theme park with the kids? That’s cute. Did you put on your wife’s panties and bake some cookies, too?”

4. They tease dads who use baby gear. “Oh, you have a sling for your infant? That’s cool. I just heave my 20-pounder over my shoulder like a real man.” Again, we’re in a very rugged and active community, so maybe my husband experiences more of this type of backlash than people in a metropolitan area. That being said, I’ve seen way too many essential baby items referred to by men as frilly, excessive, and/or feminine.

Baby in stroller

5. They criticize “softies.” Moms get accolades for their emotionally-available, baby-wearing, bedtime story-reading “attachment parenting.” Dads expect other dads to keep kids in line. Anytime we go out in public, women eagerly praise us for carrying our baby around and speaking softly to our older children about their feelings. Not once has this recognition come from a fellow dad; in fact, other fathers have criticized my husband for being a “pushover” and going “too easy” on our kids when he’s given them warnings or taken away privileges instead of resorting to a more aggressive type of punishment.

6. They gossip more ruthlessly than any moms I’ve known. Have you ever been to one of those BBQs where, say, the office or church seeks to awkwardly unite the families of all the people who run the organization? More whispered opinions occur at these get-togethers than ANY girls’ night out I’ve ever been to. This guy didn’t put in his fair share and that guy is playing favorites. I’m starting to think all these “mommy war” commercials were written by men who just swapped out character archetypes. The trick is that guys openly rip each other just enough that it seems like they’re kidding around. They’re not.

7. They’re demeaning to dads who take care of their kids when mom is away. I cannot listen to one more father ask my husband how he feels about “babysitting” or what it’s like to be “Mister Mom” — just because he spent time with our children on his own. What year is this? 

I say it’s time to stop judging dads by how their behavior looks from the outside. Just like with moms, you never know what’s going on beneath the surface. Their actions don’t need to match up to anybody else’s traditional idea of parent roles — they just need to work for their significant others and their children. Maybe if we spend less time focused on the mommy wars and cut out all the father fighting, we can get back to raising our families!

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Photos: Chelsea Day