If you ever really want to upset a mom, particularly a young, overworked, often frazzled stay-at-home mom, and you happen to see her out without her kids, say on an evening or a weekend, ask her something like “if you’re out, who is watching your kids?” or worse “hey, is your husband babysitting? Isn’t that nice of him?” I have it on good authority that they HATE this, the thinking being that the children are just as much the husband’s/father’s responsibility as they are the mother’s, and that’s not called babysitting, it’s called parenting. Period.
I don’t disagree with these young mothers’ attitudes (as a young father, married to just such a sometimes-exasperated young mother, I know better). But the question, usually (but not always) asked by older women, still interests and amuses me. Have things changed that much since our moms were those young, frazzled mothers? Yes, I think they have. How would our moms have reacted to such a question? I don’t know.
There are all different types of men and all different types of dads. Some dads are hands on, some dads are hands off. Some seem to have no innate kid-watching abilities. Some seem very good at pretending to not have any innate kid-watching abilities. And maybe the term “kid-watching” is problematic too. Do moms “watch” their own kids? Probably not. Dang it! This is harder than I thought.
But do women have more natural child-rearing abilities? I think some do. Do men have them too, but hide them? Neglect them? Ignore them? Pretend they don’t exist? Sometimes and yes and yes. And yes.
Are women more patient than men? When it comes to kids? That might depend on the man/woman. I used to be a lot more patient than I am now. Parenthood seems to have zapped all the patience I have and then some. I would like to think that I am still capable of that same level of patience, I am just choosing not to exercise that patience capacity at its highest level right now. At least that’s what I tell myself.
But I have some serious child-tending skills. I am very good with affection, I know how to cook, tend to an “owie,” discipline (though I hate doing it; I make a better friend than enforcer). I can change diapers like nobody’s business. Dress a kid. Read to them. I can console, bathe, put them to sleep, rock, sing. I am good at it, and kids tend to like me. Even my own. I would have made one kick-A male nanny or “manny.” Still could if the price was right. Any takers?
I would even venture to say that I am capable of providing better childcare than a majority of dads, and probably just about as good as any mom. Do I always provide care at that level? No. But I am capable. And I think a lot of other dads are too.
I hear or hear of a lot of women complaining that their husbands can’t, don’t, or won’t help. If this is because the husband is a lazy, chauvinistic bum, then that is junk. But I have also observed that many of these same women, and often those that complain the loudest and longest, openly think their husbands are incapable idiots, especially, but not exclusively, where it comes to “babysitting” and child care. Husbands are people too, and we don’t like losing. If you set us up to fail, we will. If you lower your expectations, they will be met, no matter how low you go.
This isn’t just an angry mommy attack. Guys talk about “getting stuck watching their kids” all the time. That is probably the rule more than the exception, in fact. Men need to change their attitudes. If we work outside the home, the quantity of time we spend with the kids might be a little bit less, but there is no good reason why the quality can’t be just as good. And we’re not watching the kids, or babysitting, or mannying, we are just being dads.