Monday, May 14, 2012

The Problem with Mother's Day (A Post-Mortem)

I had a lovely Mother's Day.  I think my wife did too. 

Mostly, the kids and I stayed out of her hair while she and her sisters and her mom went to brunch and got massages.

The girls, staying out of Mom's hair

Last week, I had been talking to an editor from a website I'll probably start contributing to about writing my inaugural post there on "The Problem with Mother's Day."  Mother's Day has the same problems many holidays do: the fact that commercial aspects have drowned out the original intent of the holiday to the point that it becomes onerous to participate in it for a lot of people, for example.

But my argument for the piece I pitched to this editor was that the bigger problem with Mother's Day is all the attendant rhetoric that reinforces gender stereotypes and does not advance the cause of equal parenting.

Alas, I was too busy to write the article by the deadline, and frankly, I just wasn't feeling it.  I had not been inundated by outdated images of family life with Mom as the competent martyr and Dad as the guy who makes up for his shortcomings by buying her some shiny bauble, as I would have needed to be in order to position myself for the Mother's Day rant.

I knew that if I wrote the article, I would have to do some research so I could find some evidence that supported my thesis and then structure it so it looked like I had become outraged by the ubiquitous sexism and then decided to write the piece.  And that's kind of bullshit.  I had no doubt that I could find some stupid TV commercials to pick apart if I tried, but my heart just wasn't in it.  It may have also been the appeals from some mom bloggers I know who said, in the midst of a bunch of trumped-up controversy surrounding the weirdly salacious Time Magazine "Are You Mom Enough" cover, "Can't Mother's Day just be about celebrating moms this year?"  In any case, I didn't write the article, and nothing about Mother's Day got my hackles up.

My hackles remained at rest until I made the mistake of looking at Facebook right before going to bed last night.  There was a post on my feed from the Babble.com page that said the following: "Finish this sentence. The one thing that mothers do better than fathers is ___________. (Then see what this dad said!)" It had a link to what "this dad" had said.

My eyes rolled.  Typical controversy-baiting.  I didn't even read the responses, but I had to click on the link.  It was a post on Babble*, in its tiny corner for male writers called "Dadding," written by a dad, and called Top Ten Things Mothers Do Better Than Fathers.  

The article, by Cody Coombs, could really not be much worse.  It's a slideshow in which each slide represents a parenting task at which his wife excels and he sucks:  Hugging! Changing diapers! Feeding the kids healthy food!  Keeping the kids clean!  Logistics!  Comforting the kids! Showing Emotion! 


I shit you not.  Apparently this guy is (or sees himself as) the clueless, distant dad of TV sitcoms, brought to life.

This article would have been fine had the thesis been simply, "My wife is better at these things than I am."  It would have made him look kind of like a dope, but whatever.  

What irks me is that Coombs has the gall to tar all dads with the same brush.  Each of the slides presents a comment or anecdote that illustrates his particular area of ineptitude, and then makes a generalization about how it's just something that moms are better at.

I don't want to spend too much time critiquing this Babble post (as if I haven't already), because I suspect Coombs threw it together in a rush, hoping to get a ton of pageviews with an intriguing title; and he probably thought using himself as a bumbling foil for his with-it wife was a sweet gesture.  I hope so anyway.  I hope that he doesn't really believe men are congenitally incapable of changing a diaper properly or soothing an injured child.  I hope he's exaggerating his own shortcomings for comedic effect.  The whole thing was simply ill-conceived and clumsily executed.

But when I went back to Facebook, I made another mistake.  I read the responses that Babble's Facebook "fans" had left to the initial inquiry ("The one thing mothers do better than fathers is___").  

If you've ever followed Facebook pages for popular websites, you know that there's something about them that draws the batshit crazy out of the woodwork.  So I shouldn't let the responses to the sexism-baiting Babble post get to me.  But, as my daughter would say, "I did, a little bit."

The Facebook thread might be buried by the time you get there (if you have enough interest to check it out), so I took the liberty of providing a few screenshots.  Enjoy: 




That's the kind of nonsense that would have made me write a "Problem with Mother's Day" post in a timely manner, had it just made it to my eyeballs in time.



*In case you're not a regular parent blog reader, Babble.com is a ginormous parenting website that's got to have hundreds of regular contributors.  Some of the writing is good, some is bad, some is intentionally controversial--it runs the gamut.  I have a lot of friends who write there, including two of the "Dadding" dads.   

49 comments:

  1. I glanced over the comments u posted here and it bothers me that the answers are all mechanical stuff, stuff that dads could learn as well if they stayed home.. It also seems the comments were some in jest... Some failed to mention : listening, dropping whatever to come to the 'rescue'... even something as trite as 'lending money without Dad knowing'... U know I have 3 adult kids and if all they thought of me as someone who did the mechanics of being a mother, then, they really don't know the essence...
    My one daughter wrote me a card and thanked me 'for a lifetime of love'.... Can't get much better than that, huh?
    Your girls are so big now! you are evidently doing something right! Wish there were more Mr. Moms out there... They definitely need a reality show out there.. Maybe that deal is still on? You just need an agent that can work a deal where the crew doesn't destroy or upset the living situation.

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    1. That's the problem though - it's not that we're being Mr. Mom's. We're being Dads!

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  2. oops my bad, someone did mention 'understand and listen'!.

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  3. I don't understand why you think Mother's Day promotes sexism and the repudiation of the importance of Fathers when... wait for it... THERE'S AN UPCOMING HOLIDAY CALLED "FATHER'S DAY" IN JUNE!

    Is the issue really the fact that it's not "parents' day"? Or that you feel Mother's Day is more important? Lately, I've been seeing nothing but tirades against Super Moms on your posts/Facebook and though you have a legitimate cause for concern, I can't help but feel it's becoming more petulant with each emotionally charged commercial.

    I don't know how it goes in everyone's family, but appreciation for my parents are shown almost every day, and with no preference. I said in a previous comment that my individual circumstance makes me revere my mother more, but I love my parents equally. The great thing is they don't watch TV (except for checking the weather in the local news). They're too content and busy worrying about social perception of their roles. I wish most could do the same and disregard the telecommunication junk.

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    1. I'm aware of this "Father's Day" you speak of. It is also chock-full of troubling sexist messages about parenting that I'll probably end up writing about in June.

      I don't think I've ever posted a tirade against "Super Moms." I only try to point out how sexist expectations represented in the media for both moms and dads are annoying, divisive, and detrimental.

      I don't watch TV either, Leila, and that's why I didn't write the initial post about Mother's Day sexism. I was content in my ignorance. But as a dad blogger, when another dad blogger writes this kind of tripe, and it pops right up in my face, I can hardly ignore it.

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    2. Well, I haven't checked out the site itself, but did it ever occur to anyone that he COULD be joking? Either way, I don't think this tripe doesn't deserve the livid response it's getting. And where do you get these sexist messages? Perhaps I'm too coddled by my ignorance to even notice these things. Then again, I don't consider ignoring TV media and brainwashing ignorance - or at least, not the the type of ignorance which comes with negative connotation. It's more of a detachment than anything. Because why?

      People who actually think dads are incompetent buy this crap because it's an unwillingness to change more than the stuff they buy into. That's another topic we should discuss. Consumers BUY into things. They don't have it forced down their throat. Though I'm sure there are many evils which come with the media, I think the fault comes with the mass consumers who hog it down like their microwaved-prepared dinner (just as with SDL, Lady Gaga, and any other contrived product).

      Sorry don't mean to sound so contentious or acrimonious. I just really want to know what sexist messages come with it when i am so unaware of these messages (other than the obvious soap commercial you hate so much of course).

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    3. Well, since you didn't read the article, I guess you can't weigh in on whether or not he's joking.

      I've read it. If he's joking then he is not good at making the humor.

      You may be able to avoid media messages, but most people who read blogs and FB are not. It's their whether we like it or not. Sometimes it's subtle. Sometimes it isn't. Yes, consumers can change the messages with their money. Or? They could change it with real words and discussions, like say, on a blog.

      Delete
  4. Sorry typo: "They're too content and too busy to be worrying about.."

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  5. Let's face it Mother's/Father's Day is a HALLMARK holiday...Why should people need to be reminded to show appreciation for their parents?? Its a fake holiday that Hallmark profits from.

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    1. Mother's Day does have an interesting history, but it has definitely become a "Hallmark" holiday. Apparently the woman who came up with the idea and managed to get Woodrow Wilson to pass a law making it an official holiday was almost immediately disappointed at how commercial it became.

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    2. Beta, you're an absolutely wonderful father who has justifiable pride in your parenting skills. You also had the good foresight to choose a partner with which to create a perfect team filled with appreciation and acknowledgement of your efforts. I, however, lacked the foresight and am raising 3 little girls of my own and a step-daughter while working full-time and being the only one in a house of 6 who is able to use any appliances for cooking or cleaning... My efforts get no acknowledgement 364 days out of the year. This is all I have, Man. Hallmark as it may be, it's all I've got.

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    3. I really didn't mean for this post to be a referendum on Mother's Day. I'm all for celebrating moms and all they do. The only problem is that when people start trying to articulate what's so great about moms, they often get stupid.

      I hope you had a great Mother's Day, and I hope your kids and others start acknowledging you more regularly!

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  6. Spot on, dude. The truth is that there are -- gasp -- bad moms out there, as well as bad dads. Ultimately, we're all parents, and some of us are going to be better at teaching our kids how to play soccer, while others are going to be better at listening to school drama over tea. Male/female, mom/dad, does that really matter? What matters is that we're *parenting teams* working together to raise smart, happy, well-adjusted kids.

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    1. Exactly. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. dave... you are so right about the team.. you only lose when the kids split and divide you..
      and everything is becoming more polarized and commercialized. i think they have idiots in advertising or in the purchasing of said advertisments for public consumption.. i have always hated how both mom and dad are now protrayed as idiots when it comes to raising kids or doing anything around the house.. while the child is the genius.. drives me crazy..

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  7. The "everything" comments really raised my blood pressure, but the ones about breastfeeding and carrying the child were pretty awesome.

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  8. It's really, really important I don't go back and read any more of those Facebook comments. Just seeing the ones you posted here is making the vein in my forehead pound.

    P.S. What a great photo of the girls. But exactly when did they become 10-year-olds? Wow.

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  9. What's funny is that my husband (Cody) has written posts about supporting women through postpartum depression, breastfeeding, supporting a mother who is failing at breastfeeding, the importance of child support and the importance of pain in a child's life...yet no one, not a single one of these outspoken "stand up for what's right" dads has mentioned anything or commented on any of those posts, only the one they took guff to (and ironically the only one Babble chose to promote on Facebook.) Yes, controversy breeds page views and paychecks on the Internet are based off of page views.

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    1. There are a lot of good blog posts that don't get any comments. Controversial ones elicit discussion. It may be ironic that Babble promoted this on fb, but it's not surprising in the least. The way they asked that question just exacerbated the offending tone of your husband's post, and sure enough, they're loving all the attention it's getting right now.

      I'm glad you aren't explicitly defending this post, and I hope Cody will have some sort of response to it. At the very best, it's tone deaf. I don't think he's a bad person or parent; he just didn't think it through before he hit publish on this.

      Delete
  10. I love Mother's Day. I would not like Mothers are Better than Fathers Day, which might lead to Our Relationship Sucks Day, and probably culminate in Congrats on Your Impending Divorce Day.

    I think sometimes people post things on Facebook or blogs and uh, forget that other people can see them.

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    1. But in June can we still celebrate Dads Like Golf & Beer & TV Day? Because I like the beer that I sneak from the men.

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    2. It's a shame that there's an impulse to compare mothers and fathers on their respective days.

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    3. Let's start comparing Mothers and Fathers to domesticated pets. Or maybe very pretty rocks. That would be more of a challenge from a writing perspective, at least.

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  11. Hi Beta,

    I am new to your blog, finding only because of this article, but my husband definitely would understand your point of view. He gets upset at how all of these cleaning and cooking commercials are geared toward women but he happens to be the main cook and partner in cleaning in our house. He can change diapers like any pro and takes days off of work just like I do (alternating) when our little man is sick. We only have a 5 mo son, but if this is how he is going to be with our child and future kids, I am soooo happy I have him as a partner in my life! Mother's day was all about me and my mom, but Father's day will definitely be about him with some thrown in for my dad too! We like the more old school approach of celebrating the parent on their day for WHATEVER they do for the family and it isn't just about the Hallmark holiday, we show genuine appreciation for each other! That goes back to when I was a kid and we would celebrate my grandma's and grandpa's!

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    1. It sounds like you've got a great partner in parenting! Thanks for coming here, and I hope you'll stick around. I'm not always ranting.

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  12. I will not read those FB comments. I have no anger left in me to give those freaks. Maybe tomorrow.

    My husband is a great dad, a great man. If I thought he could not meet the needs of our kids, basic and more advanced like giving his heart to our sons and showing them love, I would not have let him get me knocked up. Because I'm not an idiot, and neither is he.

    Man, I'm so gonna buy my own island and get away from the people who can't think through things before they unleash it on the internets. Wait, I plan on having wi-fi, so I guess I can't avoid the dumb. Crap.

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  13. This will be short because I've got to go be half of a pair of parents. If I wrote a piece that said moms suck at, well, anything, I'd have more hate mail than I could handle. Us Y chromosomers have laughed along side the "Married with Children" dads and Homer Simpsons for a long time and are, frankly, a bit guilty ourselves for allowing it to define our image. But all I can say to those sad moms who think that's what dads are is: I'm sorry you settled for a guy that's totally lame; by assuming that's just the way guys are, you missed out on having a truly rewarding parenting partnership. Now you know.

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    1. Amen! As a woman who was once married to a do nothing male and is now with a do EVERYTHING male I am an expert on that topic.

      Unfortunately when a woman falls in love with a lazy, inept man she tends to soothe herself with internal dialogue that goes something like this...

      "ugh. men....lazy good for nothing etc etc etc"

      These women need to believe all men are the same otherwise they admit they made a colossal mistake in choosing a partner. Usually by the time she gets to this point it's too late. Love them too much to leave, and can't change who somebody is. These women dream of hardworking, caring gentlemen. But these aren't "real" men to them. They are fantasy men who don't actually exist.

      Please please don't hate on these women...These women are un-selfesh, kind, caring, loyal and loving. They wouldn't be with these men in the first place if they were superficial selfesh bitches. Not to say a good woman can't get a good man, but we who tend to be givers do have a history of ending up with takers.

      But good men do exist and they are AMAZING. It's too bad they don't get repped more often on tv etc. They do it all, and more and all they want in return is appreciation...Kind of like your average "super woman". WHAT??? There are men who can do what a woman can do??? No way :p

      Just remember guys, for thousands of years women were opressed, forced into marriage and the wife and mother role. They were told they are property. They were beaten, raped, burned, and reared children without medication. They were bought and sold as slaves, wives, and sex slaves. They were told they can't do what men do. They were compensated by half for doing the same thing men do. Of all the groups of people who have been mistreated women have taken it more consistently and longer than any other group. So please, do not blame them too much for overcompensating a little. When they say we are better than you they are really just saying "we measure up and that won't be taken from us any more".

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  14. We do mother's day for my mom but I don't celebrate it. And we don't do father's day at my house. My son once asked why, we told him it was because every day should be mother's day or father's day, just like every day is Valentine's day. Etc, etc. We don't make a big, fat hairy deal about Christmas, either.

    And,to answer the question? The only thing I do "better" than my husband is breastfeed. Other than that? We do things differently. That's it.

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  15. Do you think maybe he was making an attempt at a self-deprecating humor lots of bloggers adopt? His odd way of praising his wife? I don't know. I don't have kids and my parents aren't an example to base anything on... Just trying to see things in other people's perspective...

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    1. There were definitely attempts at that throughout the post, but then he went and deprecated all fathers in the process. As I've said a million times since this little kerfuffle started, it would have been fine were the post "10 Things My Wife Is Better at Than Me." Just leave the rest of us out of it.

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    2. I see your point. Totally. Thanks!

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    3. Beta: i don't know too many males that would admit that their wives do some things better than them! lol

      Delete
  16. I have yet to read an item on Babble or click through one of their tedious, click-baiting slideshows that seemed worth paying someone for, or that wasn't sourced and re-aggregated from elsewhere on the web. Not worth your outrage, my friend.

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  17. Sigh.

    This is why I'm through with parenting blogging.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, come on. You can always rise above it.

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  18. I was going to hide under a sheet and make a “Leave Cody ALOOONE” video, I decided to write 500 words instead

    http://blogs.babble.com/kid-scoop/2012/05/15/i-bbq-my-wife-does-laundry-and-other-gender-stereotypes/

    This intense uproar is over the top, people. Hug it out.

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  19. In his defense, I don't think he tried to be controversial. I think he's a genuine idiot.

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  20. Together, a mother and a father get it done.

    Together.

    That's what's best for the kids.

    Parents together.

    How hard is that to get?

    Even in a humor piece???

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  21. You know what dads do better than moms everytime.... pee outside!!!
    Take that stupid article writer.
    Oh and by the way ... excellent blog header... thats hilarious!!

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  22. I'm floored (naively so I guess) that it's 2012 and people still see dads as such duds. My husband was a stay-at-home dad for many years. There isn't anything I can do that he can't (without the obvious physical limitations) and vice versa. I've been lucky to live the co-parenting lifestyle instead of just balk at it.

    Mother's Day felt weird to me this year. I didn't want a fricken parade in my honor. A bauble would have been nice, but maybe the nicest part of receiving it would have been the fact that it wasn't making up for anything.

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  23. Hmm ... well all those FB comments are women who are probably married to men that don't do a thing to help with the kids. My Husband is a SAHD (retired-army SAHD) who gets up every morning, makes lunches ... blow dries and styles two little girls heads, helps them pick out their outfits, gets them on the bus, does laundry, vacuums, cooks dinner, etc. etc. and on the days that I stay home, he won't let me "help" because I just get in the way.

    I believe we will see the benefits of SAH Dad's ... give it a few years ... you'll see. No more teen pregnancies ;p

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  24. There is nothing more popular on Facebook than a tired cliche! Except, maybe, incorrect use of apostrophes.

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  25. Whenever we go stay with my Grandparents (who are in their 80s) my Grandma is always telling my husband he's such a good dad because he _______. (Fill in the blank with changed a diaper, gave baby a bottle, read a book to her, whatever.) He's always unsure what to say, since he's just doing what dads do. We both work and equally share the parenting (although he does have me put diaper rash medicine on our daughter if she needs it, he doesn't like how she giggles when he touches her girl bits) and he doesn't really like all the attention like he's the best dad ever for just doing what he should do.

    Sara

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  26. Beta Dad,

    Let's put away the "sexism" card and "stereotyping" card. We've talked to a scientific doctor who has shed light on this controversial subject. (We gave you a shout out of sorts btw)

    http://hahasforhoohas.com/top-5-things-mothers-really-do-better-than-fathers/

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    1. You got a science doctor involved in a blogtroversy? I call shenanigans. That's bringing a gun to a slapfight.

      Delete
  27. Oh yeah, we have a science doctor from an unaccredited university who has biological evidence. It's science, my friend.

    Check, your move, Beta Dad.

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  28. Beta -- I love your passion and outrage! The only thing I do better with my daughters than my husband is ... hmmm ... grrr .... ack .... ugh .... mehmehmehmehmeh ... have breasts for them to snuggle on. But he's working on that too.

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Don't hold back.

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