Dear ScaryMommy, Marginalizing Dads is a Scary Mistake

Since becoming a father, I, like many people, have spoken up about dads playing more of an involved role in the upbringing of their children — as well as how this increased involvement is still not only being downplayed, but even ridiculed by so many. And being the kind of person who loves to whip out my soapbox from time to time, I never have a problem when it comes to defending fellow dads.

This year has been unofficially deemed the year of the dad. We’ve seen some pretty big strides taken to help break down the stereotypes of the idiot dad, but it still feels like we have a long way to go. For every hip and cool commercial, like #HowtoDad from Cheerios and the call to celebrate dads with Real Dad Moments by Dove Body Care, we still encounter examples of dads being marginalized on a daily basis. Some men even face particularly harsh criticism; such was the case with baseball player Daniel Murphy, who took off the three days of paternity leave granted to each player by the MLB to attend the birth of his son. Because that paternity leave conflicted with opening day, Murphy was subjected to major criticism by many in the media. Even long-time family traditions like apple picking are not safe from those who would like to drum up a laugh at dad’s expense. Don’t believe me, just look at the picture below:
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The picture above was taken just this past September at a farm in Massachusetts where they offer apple picking, but only if children, and dads, are under strict supervision. The man who took this picture, Aaron Gouveia from the Daddy Files, wrote a stellar and pointed response detailing why stunts like this (that companies will claim were all done in the name of jokes and a good old-fashioned ribbing) are ultimately dangerous to our sons and daughters, who grow up with the idea of dad being less valuable than mom.

Look, I get that there are many out there who will say that people need to lighten up or not take things so seriously, and I’m all for a good joke. But if we continue to push these kinds of messages — specifically, the message that dad is less than mom — and just write them off as jokes, then we as a society are doing a major disservice to our young sons. Because one day those little boys will grow up to be men, even fathers, who think that it’s OK to put less time into raising their children because society said so. Thus, the cycle of diminished male involvement will continue to grow, and for what? A cheap laugh?

I wish I could say that this stereotyping of men and fathers was isolated to ignorant companies and media looking to drum up attention (because as we all know, even bad press can be good press), but it’s not. It’s unfortunately happening in the home as well. There are still plenty of women who think taking pot-shots at their husbands’ competency, or lack thereof, is acceptable.

I recently read a post by author/blogger Toni Hammer that, in my opinion, continues to reinforce many of the ugly stereotypes dads are still facing, hiding behind the claim of it all being done in good fun or satire. To be honest, I’m uncomfortable even linking to it, but I think it’s important for people to see that much of the struggle many men/fathers are facing begins right at home, and is being perpetuated by the very people who are supposed to be their biggest supporters: their partners.

In the post, the author tries to relate a birth story from the point of view of a husband. Not her husband, I might add — just some random dude.

While still speaking as herself, Hammer equates women telling their birth stories to veterans comparing war stories and battle scars, saying, “We’ve all been in the trenches and wanna know what happened when a fellow solider was there, too.”

As an actual veteran, I was offended by that. She even went on to pretend the man in her story told his friends the birth process was “like going to war. It was awesome.” This is objectionable on so many levels. I have not given birth myself, so would never presume to know the difficulty and pain that can be involved – and I don’t think people should make assumptions the other way around, either. I would feel the same way about an announcer at a sporting event saying players are “warriors” or are “on the field of battle”; these comments are ill advised and, frankly, ignorant. There are some things in this world that you do not use as a comparison to anything else, and being a veteran with “battle scars” is right up there. You know what else is on that list? Giving birth!

The entire post was just one men-are-morons yuk yuk joke after another. Listing every single one would literally take up my entire post, but here are a few, just so you get my point:

1 – Husband says he was too busy to pay attention to his wife going through active labor at home because he was watching an abs workout infomercial.

2- Husband stubs his toe on the way out to the hospital and contemplates asking the doctor to check out his foot after caring for his wife because “all doctors are the same, right?”

3 – Husband falls back asleep after wife tells him baby is close to arriving.

4 – Husband talks about the size of his wife’s lady parts, calling them “huge,” and then refers to his wife as his “warrior princess” and his son as his “future linebacker.”

Each poorly-told joke felt like a kick to the face, pushing dads/men rung after rung back down the ladder of progress we have been working hard to climb. As a whole the article came off as closed-minded, marginalizing, and most of all overtly sexist towards men.

Of all the examples listed above, my concerns are best summed up in example 4. Because you know, all men talk about their wives’ downtown situation to their friends, call their wives by demeaning pet names, and envision their sons as a future linebackers. Hey, you’re not a real man unless you like football.

I would suggest that the next time Hammer wants to write a piece relating how the opposite sex would react or retell something as personal as a birth story, she should perhaps, I don’t know, talk to a few men to figure out how they remember their children being born. Had she done that, I’m confident she would have found more descriptive terms like “breathtaking,” “greatest moment of my life,” “pure joy,” or “no words could explain how awesome it was” — and less war, blood, vampire references, and all things Bro.
cute3
I realize in the world of blogging and writing that being provocative, and even inflammatory at times, gets more views and clicks than actually being earnest and heartfelt. Many have even come to Hammer’s defense, saying men need to lighten up because it was simply satire. But this article was anything but satire; it was simply mean, and in my opinion, this is where Hammer and the site that hosted her article failed as a whole — because the topic of birth, and furthermore the role fathers play in the process, deserves better than to be treated as a punchline in an awful joke.

184 thoughts on “Dear ScaryMommy, Marginalizing Dads is a Scary Mistake

  1. As many times as I’ve written a similar story on my own blog, the difference here is the amount of mothers you’ve had read and respond. I have many dads read mine and nod and agree, but that doesn’t help with spreading the word. You are making a REAL difference here by having that engagement and I applaud you for this. Well done.

  2. I’ve heard the comparison that war is to men, like birth is to women only because of the stress on the body. I’ve never been to war so I can’t make that comparison. Personally, I can’t stand when bloggers use negativity to promote their blog so she lost me at “scary” a long time ago. Our world is negative enough. I also can’t stand when their posts are reflective of that because it drives readers to them for attention. It’s attention seeking behavior. So, I’m not surprised at all by the feelings her posts evoke for you. As a mother and wife, I am more respected by my peers for being real but also respecting my husband and any role he chooses to take in our home. He is as good a dad to our kids as I am a mom and probably even a better spouse most times too. Thank you for this fresh perspective, I love it.

  3. As the daughter of an amazing, hands on, involved, stereotype-breaking father I deeply regret not finding the right man to be that type of father for my kids (I’m a single mom by choice.) I constantly struggle to find male role models for my son so he can grow into the type of man my father was. Long before it was hip my dad changed diapers, cooked dinner and was deeply involved in child rearing. Blogs that belittle and diminish how great dad’s can be are not amusing just annoying. And I agree, I am not a veteran. I gave birth twice but did not have to contemplate taking another life, I gave life. Two very different sides of the coin.

  4. I am always so pleased to meet or read about genuinely good men/fathers. My ex was a terrible husband and leaves a lot to be desired as a dad. Yes, I am bitter. He has no right to be less for his kids. I’m also riddled with guilt because I should have picked a better man. However, there’s wonderful, loving, attentive men in this world and I don’t believe for a second they’re all like my ex idiot. I expect the world to have two more someday, as I am raising two boys.

    • I was a son, a brother, a husband, a father and now a grand father of two grand daughters and two grand sons. On a positive note, I think Christy nailed it. Leaving dads aside for a moment, I will simply add where she rightly feels proud by raising and bringing two more good men if not angels to this world, others given a similar circumstance should feel the opposite who are not!

  5. I see your point. Being a stepmom, there are lots of little messages out there in the world to paint us as bad guys. Cinderella’s evil stepmom, for example. While the rational part of the brain knows that those are just statements and ideas that have been around for a long time and no one takes them seriously…they do leave their mark. I feel like that is the point you are trying to make here. Sure, we all poke fun at each other and make jokes but we may need to think more carefully of how those little things can send a big message. I am married to an awesome man who is an engaged and committed father. He is just as hands on as I am with child rearing. It is frustrating to see him belittled just for a quick joke. I think this article is nicely written and made me stop and think about even little quips I might make in passing. I, for one, want my son to grow up and be just as mindful and involved as his father. Thank you for your insight!

  6. Agreed, but, sadly, many of those either fit my husband or my friend’s husbands. I’ve heard many of those in person from weary wives who are contemplating never giving birth again thanks to their ‘genius’ husbands. Not every guy is as involved as you’re saying they are. I wish they were though, Goodness do I wish they were. For the upcoming birth of our 3rd and final I’ll be laying down the law with my hubby because I need the support I know he can give and I know he doesn’t have to be a stereotype.

    • True enough. But like I have said to a few other ladies who have rightly expressed this same point, I would never sweepingly say “all” men are awesome; but the majority are. Thanks for reading, I appreciate the conversation.

  7. I was recently travelling beside a father with his young daughter. While I haven’t seen all men do a good father example, this man was doing it. I think he was still in the stage of fearing judgement and criticism from a senior and I felt it important to talk to him. It helped that I interacted with another father walking his daughter in the aisle and did a quick save when she stumbled. My companion’s daughter had a half French braid and I asked if he had done it. He was self-conscious enough and looked embarrassed. I told him how my brother learned to French braid his daughter’s hair and he got really good at it! That helped get rid of his awkwardness. We need good men and good fathers. Old gender roles need to change. I look forward to the day when men do not feel awkward or harassed for being a good father, particularly when he is the only or primary parent.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this. That ScaryMommy article is rubbish. Not only is it not funny, but its not even particularly well written for what it’s trying to be. I’m a mother of one, with a kind, helpful and supportive husband and I am so sick of men being treated like idiots in the media. Adverts showing men as hopeless fools that wouldn’t survive if it weren’t for their clever wives and partners to show them the way. Totally uncreative advertising that wouldn’t make it to our screens if the advert portrayed women in this way. The men I know love their kids to bits, work their butts off to support their family and they deserve better than this.

    I read an article a few years ago that discussed changing gender roles. Expectation and clear direction for boys and men is changing (used to be: get a good job and support your family), but while this change is happening, we are also reinforcing negative stereotypes of boys. The article discussed that this will be damaging for the next generation of boys who don’t know what society expects of them, and only shows them that they aren’t capable.

    With men and women’s roles evolving, it’s important that we empower both genders to take on the world, not just women. I love reading articles like yours, with men speaking up and saying ‘hey, it’s not really good enough’, but what I would really like to see is both men AND women speaking up. It’s easy to have a quick laugh, but for the sake of our boys, we shouldn’t take the easy way.

  9. This article is a very good read… As the father of 4 kids under 11 and an “involved” dad. This stereotype is dangerous and counterproductive. Unfortunately it is often perpetuated most readily by the moms and wives we know and love. I have heard so many times from the spouses of friends- “So and so doesn’t help, I wish they would be more helpful like you”. In 99% of these instances- the husband wanted to help, was excited to help, was eager to help, but eventually they gave up after being told on endless occasions that they weren’t doing things “right”. The translation for doing things “right” , however, means doing them exactly the way their wives would do them. I have found my success as an involved dad comes not only from the fact that my wife and I share the load, but more importantly that we embrace the fact that each of us can do things a little bit differently and that’s ok! The alternative is dad’s that quit trying and martyr moms that only get more angrier as time goes on.

      • Please forgive the poor grammar in the last sentence.. Fat fingers, iPhones and quick typing are usually a bad mix

  10. I totally agree with everything you said. I am very proud to say that my father and my husband are my knights in shining armor. I try to treat them both with the respect they both deserve. I also try to encourage & lift them up on a daily basis. Being a husband, father, provider, protector, & teacher to their families can be a lot of pressure and stress. I hope that I am doing my part to keep those 2 things at bay in their lives. I also hope our sons & daughter, and now grandchildren, see the examples set before them of the roles husbands/fathers and wives/mothers play and how they should do everything they can to lift each up, not tear each other down.

  11. Thank you so much for writing this article, my husband is an amazing father to our two children even though his father was a less than stellar example of hands on parenting and I am so proud of him for working to break the cycle that he could so easily follow. It makes me so sad and also angry that men are portrayed as bumbling idiots when it comes to parenting because a fathers role is so vitally important in a child’s life and by demeaning that role we are doing an incredible disservice, not only to fathers themselves but also to our sons and daughters.

  12. I often wonder what my wife thought was going through my head when our children were being born. I can imagine that many women have similar views as the scarymommy article, obviously not all though.

    For me it was a situation where I was completely and utterly helpless. While my wife was in pain I could do little more than be there. While they went into distress and were sent off to the operating theater i was left standing in an empty room wondering if i would see my wife again. I was taken down to get changed into scrubs and told to wait, alone, standing there hearing my wife screaming somewhere down the hall. I have never felt fear like I did when my children were born. The elation when they are born is amazing but for someone like me who does everything he can to protect his family it was also horrifying.

    I can guarantee that no one knows how a soon to be father feel in that situation and it has nothing to do with falling asleep, blood, or little linebacker. It’s packing your dacks, being helpless and feeling something you can never describe in words to anyone.

    I love being a dad and try to everything i can with my kids. I’m not always attentive and i am a pretty relaxed dad but that doesn’t make me a target for being treated like i’m an idiot or a child.

  13. I’m so sick of dad bashing in the media and can’t stand Scary Mommy at all! Jokes like that are demeaning and rude. I know it’s been mentioned, but if men were allowed to raise their kids in their own way, there would probably be a hell of a lot more involvement. It’s a shame they’re treated the way they are, by the women who vowed to spend their lives with them.

  14. Reblogged this on I Have a Forever and commented:
    I really appreciated this. My husband was simply AMAZING those first few days after I had Elizabeth, taking over most of her care – supplemental feeding, changing, etc., as I was in hospital and in pain after my c-section and after we came home. And he has been wonderful with her ever since. She ADORES her Daddy and he is so loving with her. They play and chase and read together (he’s pretty much taken over bedtime booktime, which is fine by me ^_^). She runs to greet him when he comes home from work or if she wakes up in the morning before he leaves, wearing the biggest smile. I trust my husband with our daughter’s life because I know he loves her more than his own.❤

  15. Thank you for this! I really appreciated it. My husband was simply AMAZING those first few days after I had Elizabeth, taking over most of her care – supplemental feeding, changing, etc., as I was in hospital and in pain after my c-section and after we came home. And he has been wonderful with her ever since. She ADORES her Daddy and he is so loving with her. They play and chase, share snacks, and read together (he’s pretty much taken over bedtime reading time, which is fine by me ^_^). She runs to greet him when he comes home from work or if she wakes up in the morning before he leaves, wearing the biggest smile. Fathers are important and capable and a blessing to their children’s lives. Each parent has their own way of doing things and I remind myself of this all the time. Just because things aren’t done my way, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t done right for her. I trust my husband with our daughter’s life because I know he loves her more than his own.❤

  16. My children lost their Dad to cancer 5 years ago. I remind them all the time that they are in fact lucky… to have had a Dad like him at all. Because of stereotypes like you discuss, because some men think that it is a woman’s job to parent and they just babysit, there are lots of kids that grow up without a positive, loving Dad. Mine had theirs in their lives as long as it was possible for him to be there. They have wonderful memories of him to carry with them throughout life. They are indeed very luck to have had a man like him as their father, and I still try to honour that with them.

  17. I really want to agree with you, Papa. Maybe you personally are a fantastic father. But in general, in my experience, nobody needs to marginalize fathers. They do it to themselves. I have plenty of friends who are working full time and taking care of the kids. My ex was at a strip club the weekend of our daughters baptism. A lot of men are moronic about birth and during birth. I know a dad who went home to sleep right after his wife went through a particularly traumatic birth. Maybe some men are uncomfortable because they feel helpless or it’s something they can’t do. Sorry if pointing any of this out makes me “sexist” towards men.

    • Thank you for reading. No, I don’t hint you’re sexist for pointing out situations like this, but all I would ask is that you recognize that those kind of men are not the majority anymore. That’s the kind of mindset we are trying to change. I had a very traumatic and abusive upbringing by my mother; if I thought the way of “well that was my experience, so it means all women are that way” I would have never met my wife or had a child with her. I am a great dad, and a pretty good husband, lol….I just want us as a society to move forward and be better

  18. It also reminds of an ex-neighbor who had a child with a lady he met at a nightclub. He so badly wanted the child, did everything he could to make things work for them early on. He loved her and cared for her, but the mother of the child was too young and carefree and kept getting drunk all the time. She moved home with the child and her mother was the one looking after the child. This father wasn’t allowed anywhere near. Broke my heart.

  19. Thanks for this article. I haven’t read the other article, but in reading yours, I get the feeling I don’t really need to. I’m sorry the other writer felt so unsupported by her husband and hopes she realizes that isn’t the case for all.
    My husband and I are a team. We parent as a team- going back and forth between who’s doing the heavy lifting so that neither gets too overwhelmed. For the first 3 months of my older son’s life, my husband “slept” with him on his chest every night. We were struggling with breastfeeding, and the baby wouldn’t sleep unless he was touching someone. This was the only way I could get any sleep at all. My husband would bring him to me for a feeding, then take him back afterwards so that I could try to catch an hour’s rest. Luckily, we all get more sleep now, but that is one of the things that showed me what a wonderful man I’d married.
    My husband once pointed out to me how hard it is to find a positive and caring father in children’s media. Most characters are orphans- one or both parents- or the parental figures aren’t shown at all. It’s now something we actively search for to try to make sure that the messages our boys get are balanced.

  20. My wife has repeatedly told me how much she appreciates me and what I do for her and for our kids. The type of male figure she has seen around her family has been that very stereotype, but she says that I broke it.

    However, one should never assume that all men fit into that stereotype. For those of us who put our families above all others, this is terribly belittling and I’m glad you spoke out. I will posit that we men are kids in grown up clothes, but that’s what keeps us young and vibrant, it’s part of what makes us great fathers. These things should never be glossed over.

    I was present for all of my kids’ births. Two C-sections and a natural birth. And you’re right, there is no comparison (I’m an AF vet) to war, nor is there reason to compare it to such a thing, it’s outright ludicrous. However, I just wanted to let you know that I’m on your side… Great stuff!

    Robert

  21. “In the trenches” Is a common idiom. It just means that you were doing the heavy lifting or “real work” as opposed to sitting on the side line. All she did was draw an analogy off a common saying, which originated from the trench fighting in WWI. It’s just as disingenuous as being “offended” with the phrase “beating a dead horse” because you feel that reiterating a point ad nauseum can’t possibly compare to animal abuse.

    But if you truly want to go that pretentious route what should and shouldn’t be compared, there have been studies that show that childbirth can be as stressful as war, and it can and has caused women to have PTSD. If child birth were a breeze, women never died and babies never ended up still born or in NICU, I’d agree that it was a silly comparison. Child birth (if it goes wrong) can make a woman fear for her life the same way combat can make a soldier fear for his. Yes, there are advances in medicine, but child birth is not a risk free endeavor and there are high risk pregnancies that have resulted in the deaths of mothers and babies alike.

    Having had a gun to my face and fearing for my life and giving birth, I can promise they are different types of fear. One is fear for your own life, one is fear for your baby’s. Which would be more frightening to you? A gun to your head, or a gun to your child’s? Exactly.

    The rest of your article I agree with. I just can’t stand feigned righteous outrage for the sake of it.

  22. I agree, and I thank you for speaking up about banishing the “Dumb dad” idea that is prevalent in today’s culture. If we put this ideas forth, how do we expect our sons (and daughters) to learn any different. BTW, I am a veteran of FIVE natural drug free births, and I was an active participant. Four of them at home, and one blessing us with twins.

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  25. I’m a stay-at-home dad and I took ZERO OFFENSE to the scarymommy post that got you worked up. What I actually take offense to is people who go around taking the moral high ground on blog posts that clearly have more of a sense of humor than the critic does. It’s like taking offense to an Adam Sandler movie. You just look bad to me trying to call something out for being ‘immature’ or trading in stereotypes when that was kinda the point.

    Did she write it well? No, it’s poorly written. But do you REALLY THINK SHE WAS COMPARING HERSELF TO A VET? Come on. No way you think that SHE really thinks that giving birth is like going to war. It’s called a frickin’ analogy. And people use that specific one all the time.

    You can’t get more ‘involved’ than I am/was as a dad; I did it all, 8 years of every diaper change, et al. you can imagine until both kids were in school. And I don’t have a problem with the bro mentality she used to write her article. It was a fking joke dude, and a joke mostly aimed at women by a woman.

    Better tip for you? Stay off scarymom.com from now. (I’d say “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, but then you might start a whole lecture about how men have every right to be in the kitchen just like women). Lighten up, Frances.

  26. Thank you for writing on this topic, one that frequently goes unaddressed under the guise of “taking a joke,” or “lightening up, Frances.” Solid work on the Stripes reference, by the way. Personally, getting a laugh from watching thick-headed and uninvolved fathers make blunder after blunder seems innocent enough and quite frankly just gets old more than anything. However, when you combine pop culture with real life dads who actually fit and many time embrace the stereotype (there is no shortage), and then combine that with real life women who promulgate a very low expectation of men and fathers you are left with something that starts to resemble a true social framework and not just a few jokes in poor taste. Taken en masse, I suggest this is more of a problem that some would care to admit, particularly for our sons.

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  30. As a stage IV terminally ill Breast Cancer patient,I can say without a doubt in the world you do NOT compare your experiences to those of people who have suffered. When I die from cancer it won’t be because I didn’t “fight” hard enough. Please… Shut the fuck up about it being a battle or a fight or being brave. I am NOT a solider, I would never compare myself to that. I certainly don’t want it done to me.
    Okay now that I said that.. I LOVE my husband and his capibilities as a father. He is the baby whisperer. He can sooth the crankiest of babes. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him. He won’t meet a tot that doesn’t love him when they part.
    “Women are objects and men are dummies.” It’s a perception that has to change.

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  34. Love this. Keeping my comment short because everyone else who commented covered it. You wrote the truth. Stereotyping fathers is not right. My husband is an amazing father. He changed diapers for the first six weeks mostly alone when our boys were born. I was suffering from post part depression . He more then stepped up he took care of me as well. He still does. Our boys are older now. He still amazes me everyday! Thank you for writing this.

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