Feminism has made incredible progress over the past few decades, but it's no secret that some areas are far more equal than others — childcare, for example, is still seen as largely women's territory. But as one dad's Reddit post pointed out earlier this week, dads don't babysit, and it's insulting to everyone to call caregiving issued by fathers "babysitting." Women should not be expected to take care of the bulk of childcare while men are applauded for spending virtually any time with their family; parenting is a team effort, and the double standards don't help anyone.
That's the message behind the photograph British writer and founder of the Dad Network, Al Ferguson, posted to Reddit earlier this week. In the image, he wears a T-shirt reading, "Dads don't babysit. It's called 'parenting.'" The shirt, which is part of the National At-Home Dad Network's #DadsDontBabysit campaign, struck a chord with Reddit users, and the post quickly went viral. Although the thousands of comments contain their fair share of trolls, many Redditors took the opportunity to share their own experiences with having their roles in the family diminished, just by virtue of being the male parent.
The idea that fathers are responsible for their children's upbringing may seem fairly intuitive, but judging from the stories shared by fathers on Reddit, sexism is alive and well when it comes to parenting. One stay-at-home father wrote that even his family struggled with the concept of fathers shouldering the majority of childcare. "I was the main parent. Then some [people] (even my grandma) would ask about... 'babysitting,'" he wrote. "It really made me almost cry sometimes because it was like they couldn't see me as a caretaker."
Another user explained how traditional expectations for fatherhood — essentially, remaining hands-off and leaving it up to the mother — can quickly become exhausting for fathers who may feel like their contributions to the family aren't as useful as the mother's. Using cooking as a metaphor for childcare, he wrote:
Imagine you were in the kitchen... [Someone] comes into your house and sees you hard at work in the kitchen preparing a meal and they say, 'That's so wonderful that you're giving your wife a break and cooking dinner for once! She is so lucky that you give her these brief respites!' Mind you, you cook 5-6 times a week. Your wife may not even do anything in the kitchen, but the assumption is that you're a bumbling idiot that is just 'giving your wife a break' and not someone who is enjoying the time in the kitchen or emotionally invested into crafting a healthy meal.
Aside from the condescension inherent in assuming that men can't take care of their children, the fact that men are so discouraged from actively parenting speaks volumes about the state of gender equality even today. Although many young people value gender equality, traditional gender norms still inform our daily lives. Needless to say, this hurts all genders; while women are judged for not being involved enough in their children's lives, men are judged for being " too" involved.
That's what makes the #DadsDontBabySit campaign so important. Until fathers are recognized as equally capable of contributing to family life, women will shoulder the brunt of childcare, and men will continue to feel pressure to maintain a certain distance from their children. With the ever-increasing number of stay-at-home dads in modern society, such inequality isn't just harmful — it's outdated.
Images: Stephen Van Loy/Unsplash