Does a stay-at-home or single dad have a tougher job than a mom? Many people treat them that way. My husband was the one to care for our daughter after school while I worked. His duties included taking her to Wednesday evening gymnastics classes while I taught at the local community college.
I was sad that I was missing out on seeing her splits and flips every week, so I was excited I got to take her when the college was on Spring Break.
The mothers in the parent observation room asked me who I was there for, thinking my child must be new to the class. I pointed out my daughter, and they began heaping compliments on my husband.
“That’s so great that he takes her to gymnastics every week!”
“He doesn’t just drop her off either. He stays right here and watches!”
“It’s so nice to see a man involved with his child!”
And so on.
My husband had mentioned the gymnastics moms making similar comments to him. It made him uncomfortable. He wasn’t doing anything extraordinary; after all, the women were doing the exact same thing.
My friend’s husband has been a stay-at-home dad since they brought their first child home. They now have three little ones under the age of six.
That dad is constantly praised in public for caring for his children. When is the last time a stranger complimented a woman for taking her children grocery shopping? Yet he hears, “Oh, you are so brave to come out alone with three children!” all the time.
He also gets his parenting skills questioned often. Women stop him to give unsolicited advice on everything from diapering to nutrition.
Here are five ways to support stay-at-home dads without stepping on his toes:
1. Treat them like any other parent. They don’t need or want praise for taking care of their children. They’re just handling their responsibilities as parents.
2. Check in. Being a stay-at-home parent is overwhelming at times - no matter what gender is doing it. A simple, “How are you doing?” goes a long way.
3. Don’t make assumptions. I know a dad who kept getting asked to make repairs at his child’s preschool. He didn’t know anything about carpentry. However, he loved to bake and was the first to volunteer to head up the school’s bake sale.
4. Include them. Having a conversation with the other parents in the pediatrician’s waiting room? Don’t leave out the dad sitting in the corner.
5. Don’t forget about the other parent. Working moms often feel on the outskirts. When the mom is able to come to functions, make sure to make her feel welcome.
When you see a man shuttling his daughter to gymnastics class or organizing the preschool bake sale, you can mention his being involved, but don’t throw a parade unless you’d do the same for a woman.
Rachael is a mother, freelance writer, educator and family advocate. She lives with her husband, daughter and three cats. Find her at www.rachaelmoshman.com.
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