On May 4, 2017, I read an article that I feel devalued and misrepresented the true nature of dads in its title: “Dads are wired to ‘mother’ too.”
A dad is not wired to mother. A dad is wired to father!
For the past four decades dads have been unfairly portrayed as parents who are incapable of nurturing and caring for a child. It began with a movie that debuted in 1983, which entertained audiences by poking fun at a laid-off husband who switches roles with his wife. She returns to the workforce, and he becomes a stay-at-home dad — a job he has no clue how to do. The movie was “Mr. Mom.”
Eight years later I cast myself into the real-life role of the primary caregiver and also inherited the label “Mr. Mom.” However, there were some major differences from the character played by Michael Keaton.
I was not laid off. I made a conscious decision to trade in my business for an opportunity to spend time at home with the kids. I also loved my role as the primary caregiver, which lasted for 20 years until 2011. I’m proud to say that my adult kids are still breathing and alive.
In the 1990s, as more women sought to pursue their professional careers and campaign for sexual equality, I expected people, especially the moms, to embrace the idea of a dad as the primary caregiver. Instead most people mocked and criticized me. They also questioned my masculinity and felt I couldn’t make the same kind of commitment or provide the same level of nurturance as a mom. I often received the following comments, which dads still hear today.
“You’re staying home with the kids? That is not a dad’s job. You belong at work providing for your family.”
“A man’s job is to provide, not change diapers, clean, and cook. When do you plan to go back to work?”
“It’s so nice to see a dad show his feminine side?’
“How nice you’re babysitting the kids and giving your wife time off.”
Despite the comments, I developed a thick skin and marched on as the primary caregiver in the best interest of my kids.
I never showed my feminine side, because I don’t have one.
I never lost any part of my masculinity while I nurtured, diapered, vacuumed, cooked, and managed the household.
I watched and played sports, made repairs, and worked on DYI projects around the house, drank beer, smoked cigars, played poker, fished, and participated in all things manly.
I had no intentions of replacing a mom’s role. I was my children’s father; and acted and parented like a father.
I also feel the presumption that “dads are wired to ‘mother’ too” is insulting to moms.
Moms, do you not see how offensive this is to the man you chose to be your husband and father of your children?
Did you not marry your husband because of his masculinity?
Are you okay with other people emasculating your husband?
Do you not see how this unfair gender stereotyping of dads is unhealthy for the children as well as the marriage?
If we embrace the notion that when a dad plays tea party or dollhouse or shows a daughter or son how to cook and clean as mothering, then it warrants the following questions.
If a mom shows her daughter or son how to be a confident leader, coaches her daughter or son’s sports team or teaches her daughter or son how to manage a Fortune 500 company or drive an 18 wheeler is the mom fathering? Does the mom lose any of her femininity?
Would a successful executive mom accept the following comment? “The reason you’re successful in corporate America is because you showed your masculine side.”
I’m confident that a mom’s answer to all these questions is “No.”
A dad can be successful as a father in the parenting world just as a mom can be successful as a mother in corporate America. The proof is in the millions of dads who served as the primary caregiver in the last 35 years. And the millions of moms who entered the workforce, many of whom hold high-level management positions and own Fortune 500 companies.
The truth here is that there is a good reason why dads are wired to father and moms are wired to mother. Each brings different intrinsic values in their role as parents.
Another truth is that dads are capable of expressing what our culture views as feminine traits as moms are with respect to what our culture views as masculine traits. Both can fulfill their roles as parents without losing their identity as females and males.
If a dad in the neighborhood is the primary caregiver for his family, don’t view it as a setback or belittle him with the “Mr. Mom” label or reference he is capable of mothering too. Instead embrace him as an equal parent. But more importantly, let him father and allow him to be the masculine man he strives to be for his family and proudly wear the title of dad!
Hogan Hilling is a nationally recognized and Oprah-approved author of 12 parenting books. He has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and is the creator of the “Dadly” book series and first coffee table books to feature 230 dads and moms from 14 countries. Hilling is also the founder of United We Parent and Dad Marketing, LLC.