Last week NBC Chicago did a great story about a whip smart woman on the rise and her amazing husband who stays home with the kids. My husband and I watched the piece, nodding along, happy with the portrayal UNTIL...the stay at home dad was labeled "Mr. Mom."
While one new dad I know, tweeted that he wouldn't mind if someone called him "Mr. Mom," we don't really like that designation. It signals something odd, weird or out of the norm. We equally get perturbed when someone asks if he is "babysitting" the kid. Um, he is the father, parent of the kid. When he is caring for his daughter, he is her father, not a babysitter and certainly not a male version of me.
I've read a lot of feminist treatises on feminist families, ending the second shift for women and so forth. Most of those articles and books end with the same conclusion: Until men step up and contribute equally to the house (family, caregiving, cleaning, etc), women can not and will not achieve equity in the workplace or society. By minimizing when men do step up and do their fair share by calling them babysitters or by the title of a 1980s film, well, it takes the revolution out of the simple act.
And believe me it's still a revolution to get men to parent in an equitable manner. There are a lot of forces at play. Men get snickered at if they take too much time to parent.Sure, they get a pat on the back for taking time to get to the soccer match, but there's a line and they know not to cross it. Yet, I also can see, not just from my husband, a sense that men want to run way past that line. In order for them to do that, women need to support them, not mock them with "Mr. Mom." We need to let them figure out their parenting style, just as moms figure out our style. We may stay home with the baby for the first few months, but I don't think means Dad can't figure out how to do whatever the baby needs.
Believe me when I say, it is a struggle to let go. Perhaps my life is too busy for me to get weighed down with all the details of how my husband is parenting in my absence. But the truth of the matter is that I'm not at home enough that he needs to parent on his own. Yes, there are times when I question something that he does, but he does the same to me. Heck, when he's out of town or under the weather and I have to make the kid's lunch, I kind panic. He does such a good job and knows her tastes better than I do. He has a system. I had to do it this morning, so I asked the kid to help me make her lunch. And it ended up perfectly fine.
We're parents TOGETHER. We try to check in with each other when the kid asks us for something to minimize her playing us off each other. We check in when adding things on the calendar. We both go to parent-teacher conferences. We try to go to the doctor's office together. We take turns with sick days as much as we can. Sometimes we run into days when I just can't reschedule a meeting or he can't. We need to be a team. Heaven knows that's the only way we're going to survive this journey.