When I'm out with my three kids, I often get some bizarre questions and comments. One of the most common question is, "Are all of those kids yours?"
On the surface, it seems like an innocent question, but it is rife with condescensention and pity. I've heard the question enough to understand what they're really saying is, "I can't believe that a dad is out with children by himself." After I assure them that my wife is healthy and alive, they smile and give me a backhanded compliment.
"You're a good dad."
Really? Are the expectations for dads so low that showing up in public with your kids, makes you Dad of the Year?
I know that many dads have experienced similar scenarios. While we try to be polite and respond respectfully, having strangers question our parenting abilities can be annoying.
The next time you observe a dad out with his children, please exercise some restraint and avoid saying the following five things:
1. "Do you know what you're doing?"
Despite what some TV commercials will have you believe, dads are competent parents who are perfectly capable of handling their parental duties without their wives' supervision.
Once when my daughter was an infant, I had to change her on a park bench because there were no restrooms around and my car was too far away. I carefully covered the bench with the changing pad and placed a few cloths underneath to make it a little more comfortable for my daughter. Within a couple of minutes, I heard a voice behind me. "Excuse me sir," she said. "Have you changed a diaper before?" Earlier, I noticed her sitting with a group of moms. I guess she was nominated to check on the poor, pathetic dad. "Um, yes," I said. "I can handle it." She refused to leave and proceeded to give me a few diaper changing tips. That wasn't the first time that someone questioned my ability to care for my daughter nor was it the last.
It's okay to offer assistance, but do it out of genuine concern, not because you think the dad is incompetent.
2. "Does your wife approve of that?"
Dads and moms do things differently. Neither way is better than the other. But people seem to believe that dads are placing their kids in danger if they don't get their wives approval before making the most basic parenting decisions.
I recall one occasion when I took my daughter to the park and I was pushing her on the swing. I pushed her higher and higher until she started to squeal with glee. A woman, who was pushing here daughter on the next swing, asked "Is your wife okay with that? Because I would freak out if I knew my husband was being so rough with my daughter. I don't think I'd let him take her out again." I was stunned. I politely told her that I don't need my wife's permission to play with my daughter. She rolled her eyes and left me alone.
3. "How do you like being Mr. Mom?"
I hate the term "Mr. Mom" and I wish it would vanish from our lexicon. When a man cares for children, he isn't attempting to be their mom. He is fulfilling his role as a parent. Even if he stays at home while his wife works, he is still the father. Dads are just as important as moms in the lives of our children. We are equal parents and should be treated as such.
4. "I see you're on babysitting duty."
I can't even count the times that people have called me a babysitter. If I'm alone with the kids for more than 30 minutes, I suddenly become the babysitter. Not once, has anyone ever called my wife a babysitter while they were in her care. Dads don't babysit. Like moms, we are parents who care for, nurture, and raise our children.
5. "Don't you miss your life without kids?"
While there are a few guys who long for their bachelor days, most dads cherish their roles as fathers and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. In fact, many guys would be offended by this question because being a dad is so important to them. Life with kids is richer and more fulfilling than their previous lives.
By Frederick Goodall
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