Parenting Blog

The Whole Mr. Mom And Modern Dad Thing

The kids in grade school teased me because of my big head. They were right. It was, and still is, larger than most. How else am I to store away my super brain?

Later, the majority of my classmates in the all-boys prep school I attended for four years thought I was gay because I didn’t speak about girls in a degrading way. They were woefully mistaken, but I have fabulous taste in curtains.

So if today, as a grown man, I face some playground mom who thinks that what I am doing is babysitting my daughters, not parenting them, or I watch as some detergent company labels me as a bumbling Mr. Mom, or I happen to read a mommy blogger with a national audience put my efforts down in some offhanded way, my gut reaction is, basically, whatevs. And a little bit of screw off. But mostly, what. ever.

My girls, the people who’s opinion I take into consideration the most, don’t ever call me Mr. Mom. Just as they wouldn’t call their mother Mrs. Dad. No, they call me daddy, and they ask me what I am making for dinner, if we can bake cookies, if their favorite pajamas are done in the laundry, if they can have their allowance, if I’ll play ‘traffic’ with them and a hundred Matchbox cars, or help them build a new Batman LEGO set, if I can read to them tonight, if I can hold them while they cry about getting in trouble at school, if they can sit on my lap and watch FC Barcelona on the big screen on a Sunday afternoon, or lay next to me in bed early on a Saturday morning to watch Arsenal on the iPad, if they can paint my nails, or if they can serve me pretend food in their pretend restaurant (called Picnics, and I do recommend their turkey dinner special – delish!).

Mouse and Me Paris 2012

I do it all, and I am a dad, and that is what my girls know, and what they will carry forward in their hearts and in their minds to the day, someday, many moons from today, when they might become moms. Moms who know what a dad can be.

We also laugh and sneer at toy catalogs showing only girls in the play kitchens, and only boys playing with r/c cars. They get it, and they are a tiny bit of the future of the world that I am helping to make better. And somewhere, there is a dad doing the same thing with a pair of boys, showing them the way of the modern man. And maybe my pair and his pair will meet and our worlds will explode with goodness. See, no jokes about me and a shotgun, or telling those boys to stay away from my daughters. How’s that for modern?

Bear and me Paris 2012

I am, without a freakin’ doubt, changing the image of the modern dad, albeit more organically, by being a modern dad for my daughters. Sometimes, often really, I think that this is all I can do and all I really care about. But I totally get the burning desire to fight, to beat down the walls of the stereotype, and combat the condescending bullshit from some moms who haven’t experienced modern fatherhood firsthand, and maybe, who married poorly and feel the need to publicly take that disappointment out on all dads, and from much of corporate America who collectively continue to push the tired trope of the dummy dad. There is fight in my snark, and it can’t help but bubble up. I understand completely the hunger to show the rest of the world what you know to be true. I have been doing exactly that for years now with indie kid’s music and get pissed when I see anyone, let alone one of my fellow dads, dismiss or fail to try to discover something that I know to be a fact. But I have in a way resigned myself to organic growth there too, with waiting for the kindie kids, including my daughters, to grow up and have kids of their own, and show them that the arts for children exist beyond what is on TV and on Radio Disney, because they will have learned that that is true themselves. Such is my thought with the Mr. Mom conundrum.

This has been just my gay, big-headed two cents on the matter. I can’t really talk much more this morning though, ’cause I’m about to strip the bedsheets and dust the baseboards, and listen to the new Not-Its record seamlessly alongside classic Superchunk albums.

This post was also published on The Good Men Project.

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  1. I didn’t know you went to an all-boys high school. So did I.

    Good trouncing of the topic. If only it really did matter to solely to your kids. Like any image on television, it’s pervasive, it’s generic, and it can influence peoples’ beliefs if they see it enough.

    Do you believe that all African Americans are violent, or are great athletes? Because that’s what we see on television. Do you believe that all Asians are versed in martial arts? Because we see that too. Do you believe that all mothers are tidy and great cooks?

    Of course you don’t. But you’re also educated. A whole lot of people out there aren’t as thoughtful. They’ll just repeat an image, or a perception – not even their own.

    So, while your girls will grow up incredibly well-rounded and respectful of you, more daughters out there won’t. And it’s a shame – not for dads. We can deal with it, like you said. But it’s a shame for them. It’s a lot of pressure to put on moms, and it’s a lot of pressure to put on dads.

  2. Totally, Zach. Like I said, I understand the need to fight back, but sometimes the only way and most effective way, long-term, is to be the change you want to see in the world. Sure, it is the trickle-down approach but sometimes that is the best I can do and I don’t want to feel like that isn’t enough. I’ve said it before here that I cannot and will not manufacture rage, and often that feels like what I’d need to do when their internet flare-ups happens every couple of months.

  3. And are you actually trying to tell me that all Asian guys aren’t trained in martial arts?

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  5. Being the change, don’t get me wrong, is always the best route. As I’d said in the dad blogger group, the world needs soldiers and the world needs citizens. It’s not a perfect analogy, but the basic idea is we need fighters and we need people to live the life. Both are important. I just want the guys who say “I do this for me and my sons/daughters” to see that it’s, in a way, not just for them and their kids. And you nailed it later by saying that you’re being the change.
    I almost liken it to when bloggers say “I only write for me.” Well, it’s a social medium and if you were doing it just for your eyes, it’d be in a chapbook somewhere. Not that being a good dad needs to be an outward thing, but that when society tells you that you’re one thing, it helps to not just tip your hat and go about your day, but to say “hey, no!” Then, go about your day. But at least you said no.

    Anyway, I think we can all agree that the Asian martial arts thing actually holds true.

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