Like some other posts, I wrote this a while back. But it hasn’t stopped being relevant, as articles like this post on the praise dads get for EVERYTHING demonstrate. I feel I should add that my own situation has changed dramatically. Now I’m told how lucky I am that my husband picks up the slack caused by my health.
About five different articles, events, discussions, and other things have coincided to prompt this.
If anyone ever tells you either that (a) we don’t need feminism anymore or (b) that motherhood is not a feminist concern, consider the following experiment:
Approach a mother whose child’s father is in any way willingly (or at least agreeably) involved in their child’s life. She may be a stay at home mother, or a working mother in a two-income household, or a single mother who shares physical custody or even just gets regular, reliable child support.
Ask her if anyone has ever told her how lucky she is. Because I bet she has. She’s been told she’s lucky that Dad takes the kids out on Saturday afternoon so she can nap (or even clean the house in peace). She’s lucky he changes diapers. She’s lucky he pays child support. She’s lucky he’s around at all. And if she has a medical situation that makes the physical tasks of parenting difficult, oh boy is she lucky if he picks up the slack or even if he just stays with her.
Approach the fathers in those same situations. Ask if anyone has ever told them how lucky they are that mom “helps out” so much. Changes diapers. Takes the kids out on Saturday so he can nap or watch the game or do chores in peace. Earns half (or even more) their household income.
I will eat my hat even a handful ever have.
It seems like such a little thing, doesn’t it? But it’s really not. It’s a fucking huge thing. It ripples out to workplaces and politics and the military and everything else. It’s why marriage and family are at worst neutral and at best a benefit to men in the workplace and politics, and a barrier for women.
And it irritates the crap out of me. The notion that I should be grateful to my child’s other parent (who does not believe this, btw) for changing a diaper, or that asking him to do so on a day when I haven’t been able to so much as pee without child following me into the bathroom is being unreasonably demanding (actual conversation with my mother) is seriously the straw on the camel’s back that is the Second Shift.
Am I lucky? Yes. Because my spouse is kind and compassionate and a good father, not because he parents at all. And you know what? He’s lucky, too. He’s lucky that my career not only provides half our income, but allows me to take daughter to doctors and other such things. He’s lucky that I push through a bad migraine to help daughter with math. He’s lucky to have me. I’m lucky to have him.
Funny how only one of us ever hears it.