Posted by: emjb | August 20, 2005

Hating On the Dad Haters

One thing I’m reading and also hating is Parenting magazine, because, among the hundreds of ads for probably-unnecessary baby product, there is some actual good content about kids and growth stages and behavior issues. But only for moms. The magazine motto remains “What Really Matters to Moms” never mind that hello DADS ARE ALSO PARENTS. Worse than that, there is a “Dad’s-Eye View” column that apparently is designed to reinforce this view. This month, columnist Fred Leebron waxed poetic about his lack of effectiveness as a parent:

…As the children got older, I found I wasn’t thinking about them with the same unerring focus and level of intensity as my wife was, and I didn’t have the we-are-one connection that she had. When the kids had a cut or a bruise, it was always Mommy they needed, even if I was first on the scene.

There are two things wrong with this; Mom sounds a bit overinvolved, and Dad doesn’t seem to realize why a sick kid might prefer the involved parent to the one who seemed to be losing interest in them altogether.

…I’ve become an expert at letting the imbalance grow even more imbalanced, so that it seems to appear as the natural state of things. Kathryn does all of the demanding and labor-intensive tucking in upstairs, while I have the serene task of dish duty downstairs.

Classic passive-aggressive behavior, this. Why can’t he tuck in his kids once in a while while Mom does dishes? This is hardly something that requires a uterus. Perhaps his kids are put off by the way he listens to the football game on his earphones while reading them bedtime stories in a rushed monotone. Perhaps the way he refuses to meet their eyes while giving them a cold goodnight kiss makes them cry. Who knows?

…(Kathryn) monitors the stores of baby food, diapers, kids’ lunch supplies, and kids’ clothes, while I pay the bills on time and manage the car maintenence and deal with the stockbroker.

At first this seems ok, if a bit traditional in terms of gender roles. Then you think about it. Food, laundry, diaper pails, and lunches are every day chores. How many times a month does one pay bills, call the stockbroker, or fix the car? Not every damn day, that’s for sure.

…She’s the one with the running inventory, not me and–as every father like me knows–I’m very lucky that she can’t let it go.

Yes, you sure are lucky to be married to someone who enables your lazy passive-aggressive ass. Maybe she can’t let it go because she has no confidence that you will pick it up?

…So I know I’m not doing enough, and she knows that I’m not doing enough, even though she and I know that I do more than many husbands. I feel guilty about this, which makes her feel suspicious of me. She knows I feel guilty, and thus it seems to her I must be guilty.

Yes, indeed, it’s her suspiciousness of you that is the problem, not the genuine guilt you feel at making her do most of the work, because your lame-ass justifications to yourself about women’s superior mystic child-rearing powers can’t always keep you from wondering if you are, in fact, being an ass.

Since nothing alleviates the guilt that I can never do enough, I’ve begun taking–perversely or conversely–what little scraps I can for myself in a way that underscores just how little it is that I do.

Seriously, this is fucked up. Look dude, if you think your wife is not letting you do enough, talk to her or get counseling. If you’re too lazy to do enough, deciding to take pride in your laziness isn’t exactly the most constructive method of dealing with it.

We wrap up with another guilt-alleviating paean to the selflessness of mothers and the ways Men Just Can’t Compete with it…so why even try?

Meanwhile, I know that I’m competing against a selflessness that–as far as I can tell–knows no end. Two weeks after giving birth to our youngest, my wife was standing in the doorway to the garage holding the baby and organizing the kids for a Sunday outing to the strip mall. “Are you coming?” she asked brightly. “I’ll fold the laundry,” I said. We both knew I’d do it while watching football….A problem with men, I understand, is that when our wives put the children on equal or nearly equal footing with us, we instinctively balk at the same accomodation or generosity or sacrifice of it all, and I think it’s because we’ve never had the experience of having those kids so fully inside us…There’s a sense of oneness between a mom and her baby that we men can’t share, and probably will never comprehend, either.

Um, ok. It sounds so very pretty, but what the fuck does all this have to do with being too lazy to help your 2-weeks-postpartum wife take the kids shoe shopping? You are in wonder at her selflessness; she, exhausted, hormone-ridden, and stressed, simply knows that her kids are going to go barefoot unless she takes them to get shoes, because your lazy ass sure as hell won’t. According to you, she should be grateful you can fold one basket of laundry in three hours.

This column is supposed to be funny, I think, in a haw-haw Men are From Mars, Home Improvement, women-are-unfathomable and men-are-hapless-slobs vein. It’s just sort of profoundly sad, and maddening, especially in a magazine that only gives fathers one page worth of representation anyway. One gets the feeling that women would be better off in lesbian collectives using men as sperm donors.

And if all men were like Leebron, we certainly fucking would.

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