family matters
“Changing Dirty Diapers is Mommy’s Job”, and 6 Other Bullshit Parenting Tropes
How many of these have you said, or has someone else said to you?

by Nick Simard
May 20, 2021
I’m in no way a perfect dad. Let’s just get that out of the way. I’ve got faults and failures just like everybody else. But one thing I can honestly say is that I’m an active participant in parenting, an equal in this partnership.

Being a dad is funny because as a society I feel like we simultaneously say that we expect more from fathers and that they have to step up. But the flip side of that coin is we continue to treat fathers like they’re second-class parents. Less-than. Bumbling idiots without a clue.

These two things are inextricably linked. The more we mock fathers and portray them as clueless dolts, the less they’re going to want to participate and make more of themselves. But as fathers check out and put more and more on mothers’ plates, the more we demonize and criticize them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Let’s jump into some bullshit parenting tropes, shall we?
trope #1
Changing diapers is a woman’s job
First of all, why would it be? Why would this one thing simply be out of the question for a man to do? Aside from breastfeeding (and yes, I understand that a transgender man can technically do it), there aren’t many things that only mothers can do.

The ironic thing about this one is that the exact kind of overly macho man who would say “I’ll protect my woman because I’m a tough guy” is the same guy who will then delegate the cleaning of feces and urine to that woman whose honor he cares so much about defending.

Consider this: if a man were to NEVER (and I’ve read many accounts of this) change a dirty diaper, here’s my estimation of what that would look like, assuming it’s one child and they are potty-trained by age 2:

# of diapers per day: I’m saying an average of 3 per day
daily weight of poo: let’s say 1/4 lb of it, on average
daily volume of pee: how about 4 fl oz, on average

The Final Tally
That’s over 2,000 diapers, almost 200lbs of poop and over 24 gallons of pee.
So Mr. Macho Man is afraid of bodily functions and therefore assigns this job to the “helpless partner who needs to be protected by him”.
Yeah, way to step up there, Chad. Awesome job making your wife deal with all the shit and piss, Brett. Real manly of you. Such a tough guy, you are.
Someone
Right about what they're saying
trope #2
Fathers are incapable of dressing a child
“Oh, it looks like Daddy dressed you today.”
Why is the assumption that mothers will inherently know how to dress children, while fathers will inevitably put their kids in dirty, mismatched, too-small, and weather-inappropriate clothes?

As if on a sunny day a dad is going to put a kid in a torn and stained wool sweater, with pajama shorts, rain boots, and a cowboy hat.

Ok, yes, sure it’s true that lots of guys don’t dress very well or care to spend time trying to. I get it. But even THAT is a stereotype. I know plenty of stylish and fashionable heterosexual guys.

Plus, why would it necessarily be the case that a dad’s disinterest in dressing well would apply to dressing their children. Since in many cases it will likely have been the mom that bought the clothes, it will probably be nice and styli…dammit, now I’m doing it!
trope #3
Dads giving mommy a break
This one is…well…maybe more true than I care to admit. I’ve got a whole other story planned for this topic. Nonetheless, there are 2 sides to this:

1. Congratulating men when they “relieve” their partners

Let’s stop thinking of dads as relief pitchers who enter late in the game when the starting pitcher needs a break. It’s a team effort (or at least it should be). Sometimes mothers are with the kids and sometimes fathers are.

We shouldn’t treat it as though women won the “amazing daddy lottery” simply because the man does his freakin’ job as a parent.

It’s unhelpful to assume the man does absolutely nothing and then say that the mom is SO lucky her husband/partner helps out with child-rearing (wait…even diapers?!)

2. Even thinking that mommy is the de facto parent and therefore when the man helps, he’s allowing her to have a break.

Why is the assumption that mommy is the primary caregiver? Or that dads only have the kids so mommy can get a break. When we see mothers with their children do we say “giving dad a break, huh?”. No, we do not.

And yes, I do realize that it’s more common for women to have a larger role in parenting. It doesn’t mean that a man would only have his children with him in order to give mommy a break.
trope #4
Fathers aren’t on “baby duty” or “babysitting” their own children
“Oh, she’s got you on baby duty huh?
It’s called being a parent. Have you ever heard such a thing being said to a mother, at a playground or birthday party, for example?

Unfortunately, the assumption is that (of course) she’s on duty. She’s a mom and that’s what they do. Dads pop in every so often and let mommy go grocery shopping alone or something.

No. Stop doing this. Just as we wouldn’t say that a mom with her child(ren) is “on duty”, we should avoid saying it about dads.

Babysitting: the care of a child or children while the parents are out.
I realize that this can often be lighthearted and not intended to offend or perpetuate stereotypes, but staying home with one’s own children — even if it’s the dad — is called being a parent.

When dads go to wing night with the boys or check out the football game at ye olde pub (or whatever groups of men do these days), we don’t say that mom is babysitting. She’s just “doing her job”.

The same should apply to dads. It’s also their job, so let’s not equate them with 15-year-old girls (or boys, I suppose) who come over after kids are asleep in order to make $20.
trope #5
Mommy puts kids to bed and reads bedtime stories
In our house, I am primarily the one who reads (and who has read) bedtime stories to our boys. I recently calculated how many words I’ve read aloud to my sons and it’s upwards of 2 million (conservative estimate).

TWO MILLION WORDS!

There are a few reasons for this, and I won’t necessarily get into them, but ultimately I enjoy doing it. We’ve read to both of them since they were babies and aside from being something I feel is important, I cherish that time right before bed with them.

Then there’s bathtime. When they were younger, I would get in the bath with them. Now that they’re older, I still bathe them (well…the younger son) more frequently than my wife.

And it’s FINE! She doesn’t particularly like doing it, and she does PLENTY of other (arguably more crucial) stuff every day for our family, so I take that one. Again, it can be enjoyable if you treat it as alone time with your kids that will disappear before you even know it.

So, no, it’s not just mommy who bathes kids, dresses them in their PJs, and reads them bedtime stories. At least it shouldn’t be. Let’s normalize this for dads, and not treat it as an anomaly when it happens.
trope #6
Mothers and wine/Fathers and beer
Oh my god, enough already with the tired cliché that moms drink wine constantly. Do some moms do it? Presumably, yes. Do many, many others NOT drink wine (or drink at all)? Also yes.

There are countless memes out there:
Come on, Nick! Have a sense of humour. It’s just for the lulz.
I get it. They’re jokes, and we all need a little levity in our lives. But come on, this is low-hanging fruit (literally…grapes…wine).

The flip side is that dads drink beer, alone and with their friends, and to excess! And it’s all they think about. Oh, and there are memes:
How about we switch it up and make dads + wine memes, and moms + beer memes. Noooooo…that’s just silly. Everyone knows that only women drink wine, and only men drink beer. Like how all cats are female and all dogs are male…right?
•••
In Conclusion
As parents, we’ve all got enough shit on our plates (especially as we navigate this COVID thing). There are more than enough real challenges to go around. The least we can do is try to dispense with these tired, clichéd stereotypes and tropes.

If not for us, let’s do it for the children! Maybe we can break the cycle so the next generation doesn’t have to deal with this nonsense :)
Made on
Tilda