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The Societal Expectations of Mom vs. Dad

December 6, 2016

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Hi I’m Morgan! I’m a photography educator and Raleigh, NC newborn photographer and family photographer.

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I want to preface this post by saying I love my husband dearly. He’s a wonderful father, and this is not a knock on him in the very least. It’s a knock on society for expecting so little of a man who is capable of so much.

I’ve learned a lot since becoming a mom 16 months ago. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about just what it takes to be a parent. I’ve also learned a lot about the societal expectations of me versus those of my husband in the parenting department. 

My first introduction to this happened a few months after Beckett was born. I took a whirlwind 36 hour trip to Boston from Chicago to photograph a wedding. My husband, bless his heart, took a three-month-old Beckett to a college football game with a large group of (childless) friends at Northwestern. 

Personally, I wouldn’t have signed up for this. There’s so much that goes into it – packing bottles of breastmilk in a cooler, a bottle warmer, finding a place (in a football stadium) to plug a bottle warmer in, packing diapers, pacifiers, a change of clothes, a coat, etc. etc etc. – not to mention the added challenge of keeping a three-month-old content in a roaring football stadium.

But he wanted to go, so he did it. And believe it or not, he even lived to tell about it. This was shortly before Thanksgiving, and when we came back to Evansville to celebrate the holiday, you better believe we heard all about it. My extended family raved over how impressive of an accomplishment this was. “So you took Beckett to a football game?! Oh WOW!” “That is just something else!” “Oh my goodness, ‘so-and-so’ would have never have done that!” “Good for you!”. I mean really, you guys. You would have thought he birthed Beckett on the 50-yard line.

I don’t want to downplay the fact that what he did was a good thing. I’m glad he didn’t stay holed up in the apartment while I was gone for fear that he would damage Beckett. Let’s take a moment, though, to think about people’s reactions if I would’ve taken him to a football game by myself.

Seriously, I’ll let you think about it for a moment.

If you came to the conclusion that no one would have really been all that impressed with me, you, my friend, would be correct. It would’ve just been another day, just a situation that society expects a mom to be able to handle. 

And honestly, I don’t expect anything more than that. I don’t think I should be praised at length for doing something a little out of the ordinary with my child. It is my job as a parent to take care of my son and introduce him to new things and new experiences. I don’t deserve a medal for doing it.

I mean, let’s think about this in terms of a coworker who shares your same position or job responsibilities. If your coworker receives incredible praise for doing the same things that you do on a daily basis, then we can probably conclude that your coworker usually underperforms, right?

When we put the message out there that men should be praised for doing the exact same things that a woman does, we’re basically telling them that they’re not as capable as parents. We’re telling them that it doesn’t come as naturally for them. And while that may be a crutch that some men have preferred to lean on, it’s simply not the case. 

My husband is living proof of that. He takes Beckett out and does things with him when I’m not at home. He changes his diaper. He feeds him. He plays with him. He changes his clothes. He puts him to bed. He does all of the things that I do when I’m there. And when he does these things, we don’t call it “babysitting”. We call it being a dad. 

So while I admire my husband’s parenting abilities, I think that jumping up and down and celebrating him completing the same tasks that I would not be celebrated for is somewhat of an insult to him. And I truly think the same can be said for dads everywhere.

So let’s raise the “dad bar” to the same level of the “mom bar”. Let’s not forget to appreciate dads in all that they do, but let’s not insult their abilities by being overly celebratory. And for the love of all that is holy, let’s stop calling it “babysitting” when dad watches the kids by himself. Let’s give dads the respect they deserve.

 

**All photos in this post are by Brianna Claassen Photography**

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