I think that woman just called me a pedophile.
Let me explain. I was recently part of a panel on The Bethenny Show about stay-at-home dads. The theme of the show, which pitted stay-at-home dads vs. moms, missed the mark. The first audience question—which was more like an outlandish statement than a question—came from a mother who said she would never leave her daughter alone with a dad at a playdate. She was afraid that a man helping her child in the bathroom would not be able to control himself. You know, because we can’t be trusted around a prepubescent vagina. She had seen some bad stuff go down…on Law & Order: SVU.
As crazy as this woman sounded, it made me think: She can’t be the only one who feels this way. Other issues raised by the audience were less controversial, but no less ridiculous, for instance, that a father’s bond cannot be as strong as a mother’s or that dads can not be nurturers. Based on my Bethenny experience, here are five misconceptions about stay-at-home dads:
1. You can’t trust us with your children.
One of my fellow panelists, Doyin Richards, answered the pedophile implication with the retort, “That sounds like a you problem, not a dad problem.” A great line and fantastic for television, and the audience ate it up!
We were not talking about dropping your child off with a stranger, or even with a father you had talked to only a couple times after school. I wouldn’t leave either of my children alone with someone I was not completely comfortable with, man or woman. Furthermore, I wouldn’t leave my children alone with someone they were not completely comfortable with.
The audience member was right about kids sometimes needing the utmost level of trust. She was dead wrong in her belief that dads aren’t deserving of that trust.
2. We can’t have as special a bond with our children as mothers can.
I don’t deny the hard work and heroic efforts women endure during pregnancy and childbirth. I sincerely thank them. They brought us dads the greatest gift in the world. (So stop with the ties; they’re ugly and we don’t like them.) But now those children are ours, just as much as they are yours.
I felt a bond with my children the first time I laid eyes on them, and they knew who I was. My daughter was a daddy’s girl from day one, often to the exclusion of my wife—something that caused tears on more than one occasion. But these things ebb and flow, and mommy is the favorite these days.
3. We are not nurturers.
I am physically unable to pick up my two-year-old son without kissing and hugging (and usually tickling) him.
There are certainly times when he prefers his mommy, but bedtime is dad time. When he knows he’s tired, he crawls into my arms. And when he’s tired but does not know it, I calm his screams and get him to fall asleep far quicker than my wife. I think my scent soothes him. I know his scent soothes me.
Nurturing, it should be said, goes beyond all the hugs and kisses I give my kids. I nurture their spirit, confidence, education, and sense of fun (and sometimes mischief). Anyone who doesn’t think stay-at-home dads nurture has not seen a stay-at-home dad in action.
4. We are trying to be better than moms.
Are dads better stay-at-home parents than moms? What a dumb, meaningless question. But that is what the producers of Bethenny wanted us to argue. Dads are not better than moms. And moms are not better than us. Parenting is not a competition! I don’t work against my wife to raise our children; I work with her. The fact that we parent differently is a benefit to our kids. They get the best of both worlds.
5. We are the only dads you should be paying attention to.
Stay-at-home dads are so hot right now! But we are still in the minority—not only compared to stay-at-home moms but also compared to all the active and involved fathers that go to work (or work from home) every day and are co-parents every night. Why is the media ignoring them?
Stay-at-home dads are at the forefront of the changing image of fathers, but working dads deserve our attention, too. Like working moms, they are trying to have it all and should be lauded for their efforts. It is not being done enough, so I’ll do it here. You guys are defeating the stereotype of the lazy, bumbling dad who doesn’t know his way around a diaper. Keep up the good work, at the office and at home.
Lesser blogs at Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad.