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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, April 19, 2014

“Your Wife Could Probably Do It”

As I look back at my previous posts, I notice they’re all about women. I didn’t mean to do that; it just happened that way. It’s not that men never say dumb things to me. Quite the contrary. In fact, I’ll tell you about a doozy that happened just a couple weeks ago.
Recently, a regional appliance/furniture/electronics store was having a going-out-of-business sale. One afternoon, I had some time to kill, so I decided to toss the kids into the car and go check out the deals. I was hoping to score a small, cheap TV for the basement.
The trip was a bust. Hardly anything was left, save for a few scratched-up end tables and some giant microwaves that looked as though they had been on the sales floor since 1986. So, the kids and I abandoned our mission.
As we headed for the doors, some dumbass employee was inspired to crack a joke. He saw me carrying my 8-month-old daughter’s car seat in one hand while using my other hand to guide my 5-year-old away from something shiny and toward the exit. Apparently, my slight struggle was an amusing site for this guy.
“Hey, ya don’t wanna carry a ‘frigerator out too?!” he loudly kidded, motioning toward the appliance section. (Yes, in Wisconsin some people call them “‘frigerators.”) He then laughed much harder than necessary and continued with the following zinger:
“Your wife could probably do it! She’s better at multitasking!”
I gave him an annoyed smile, muttered some response and went on my way.
It was a lame joke, told by a guy I’ll probably never see again. But there’s a popular attitude behind his words—an attitude I run into all the time. It’s this idea that, as a dad, I’m out of my element corralling two kids while trying to complete an everyday task like shopping. That kind of juggling act is better suited to my wife, who no doubt has some sort of device connected remotely from her lady parts to her brain that enables her to handle such stress.
It happens at the pediatrician’s office, when the nurse directs every question to my wife while ignoring me. And it happens globally, like when a video entitled “World’s Toughest Job” went viral last week. Maybe you’ve seen it. Some guy in a suit interviews a bunch of eager job-seekers for a non-specified position. As he gradually reveals the outrageous stipulations of the job—you must be on duty 24 hours a day, the work can be highly physical, there’s no pay—the candidates grow more confused and indignant. It’s then revealed that the position they’re interviewing for is “mom.” It’s a clever and cute little video full of tears at the end, but would it have killed them to say “parent” instead of “mom”?
Now, if you’re a woman and you’re reading this, you no doubt have little sympathy for me, as you’ve probably been the victim of sexism more times in the last month than I have my whole life. Mechanics, repair technicians, complete strangers, bosses and certain politicians talk this way to you all the time. In fact, had my wife been with me in that appliance store, and we would have been shopping for a ‘frigerator, I’m sure that same employee would have looked directly at me when throwing out cubic feet measurements and energy efficiency numbers, figuring my silly wife wouldn’t understand such technical talk.
Maybe I don’t have much to complain about. Of course, I’ve never let that stop me before.
Anyway, back to the ‘fridgerator guy. My first thought was that I should attribute his cluelessness to his age. I’d guess he was about 50. Not ancient by any means, but not the typical age of a new parent in 2014 and therefore still stuck in an old-school attitude about gender roles. Then again, he might have been 30 for all I know. He looked like a heavy drinker and chain smoker, and it’s always hard to guess the age of those people. Actually, what he really looked like was a guy who previously wasn’t allowed to leave the stockroom for fear that he’d frighten customers but was permitted to come out this week because the store was closing anyway.
So I’m not sure how old he was. But does age really matter anyway? Is that a valid excuse? If anything, shouldn’t extra years give a person extra wisdom?
On second thought, he has no good excuse for his boneheaded remark. Get with it, ‘fridgerator guy. The times they are a-changin’. As parenting becomes more and more of a shared responsibility, your ideas about bumbling, clueless dads and multitasking supermoms—much like your once-mighty retail store—are rapidly becoming obsolete.

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