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I’m a stay-at-home dad. People say all kinds of dumb things to stay-at-home dads. This blog began as a way for me to record these comments and criticize the people who said them. However, it's evolved, and I now use it to express other random thoughts on parenting, children, gender, and society. Thanks for checking it out.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

“Mr. Mom”

In last week’s post, I referenced Mr. Mom, the uproarious 1983 motion picture comedy starring Michael Keaton and Teri Garr, in which a husband is imprisoned in his home with his children while his power-suit-wearing wife sips martinis and yucks it up with the boys in a fancy corporate board room. The husband, frazzled and flustered at first, ends up figuring things out at home and shows everyone that he can handle household chores just fine. In the end, of course, he gets his job back (whew!), and things return to normal. He gives up those silly domestic duties, and his wife comes to her senses about this whole “career” thing she had briefly toyed with.
Here’s the trailer, in case you’re the only person in the world unfamiliar with this movie.
The movie certainly didn’t mark the first use of the term “Mr. Mom,” but it did a lot to bring it into the mainstream American vernacular. And that’s fine. It was a different time.
But it’s 2014 now, and it’s time to put “Mr. Mom” to rest. You see, there’s already a perfectly good term for a man who cooks, cleans and cares for his kids. It’s “Dad.”
For those of you who don’t understand why “Mr. Mom” is a stupid thing to say, let me break it down for you. When you call me Mr. Mom, you’re telling me there are certain things I’m supposed to fail at or have no interest in simply because of my gender. When you realize I actually partake in these things willingly and competently, you’re surprised. I’m pushing a stroller, and you’re reacting as if you just witnessed a trained bear perform a juggling act. “Well how about that,” you’re saying. “You’re so good at caring for your kids, it’s like you’re a woman!”
Step right up and witness this rare and amazing spectacle!
That’s a pretty bone-headed attitude, and it’s one I don’t dare take with women. If I see a mom building a treehouse with her kids, I don’t say, “Hey everyone, take a look at Mrs. Dad!” When I meet a woman who’s a successful corporate manager, I don’t shake her hand and say, “How’s it going, Ms. Bossman?”
I don’t say those things because I don’t have this notion in my head that there are certain tasks women aren’t fit to take on simply because they’re women. And even if I did think such a thing, I would know better than to say it out loud.
Yet, “Mr. Mom” is said without hesitation all the time.
Let me tell you about one instance. It wasn’t the first time I heard someone say it, and it wasn’t the last. Its significance is that it’s the first time I corrected the dummy who said it.
One afternoon, I mentioned to a group of friends that my son’s fourth birthday was that day. “Oh, tell him happy birthday!” several of them cheered. Someone asked what we’d be doing to celebrate, and I briefly explained our plans for later that evening, which included a carrot-applesauce cake my son had requested.
“Carrot-applesauce?” some lady said, amused at my kid’s unorthodox cake choice.
“Yeah, three cups of shredded carrots,” I groaned. “I spent all morning making the thing, and look at my hands. I need to get myself a food processor.” I showed them my palms, which were died orange and clearly abused from the manual shredding they had performed.
“Oh, that’s right,” the lady giggled. “You’re Mr. Mom!”
“Or just Dad,” I replied flatly. “Because, you know, dads bake cakes too.”
She cocked her head to the side, briefly confused. “Oh, OK,” she said, rolling her eyes and shaking her head, as if I were being silly.
And from then on, that became my standard response. Not overwhelmingly clever, not especially rude, not altogether that polite. Just blunt and necessary. When someone calls me Mr. Mom, I simply correct them and remind them that dads are parents too.
Of course, you can’t correct everyone. For example, take CNN, one of the world’s largest news organizations. They were using the term willy-nilly as recently as 2010. See this article entitled “Mr. Moms become more common.” Beyond the headline, the reporter goes on to drop the term casually multiple times throughout the story. It astounds me that, in this age of political correctness, no editor stopped and said, “Hey, wait a minute. Maybe we shouldn’t refer to men who fully engage in parenting as some sort of mutated gender-bending part-man, part-woman hybrids.”
So, even CNN is in on it. It’s coming at me—and other dads—from everywhere.
Well, almost everywhere. You know who never calls me Mr. Mom? My kids. They call me Daddy. (Well, one of them does. He’s five and can speak English. My seven-month-old daughter just kind of babbles.) You see, to them, there’s nothing odd about Daddy doing laundry or making them breakfast or taking them along while running errands. It’s not emasculating or cute or temporary. It’s just normal.
So let’s work on that. Let’s make it normal. Hell, let’s expect it. Let’s make it so our own kids grow up thinking that dads can do anything moms can do—and vice versa—and that “Mr. Mom” was just some old movie.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this.... I will share with my husband, who is also being a Dad for the last 10 years to our 2 kids.
    Something that always surprises me when I am amongst a group of my executive peers how many males make rude comments to me about our family / profession choices. Many are shocked that my husband is raising our children, but when they express this surprise I often turn the tables and ask "and what does your wife do for a living?" (Knowing they are not working outside the home) As they respond , I raise my eyebrow and with a nod - it dawns on them their double standard.

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  2. Stereotypes in general just really suck, don't they?

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  3. Awesome blog, way to go! I certainly agree that being a stay-at-home dad does not make you a mom. It just makes you a great dad. :)

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