Being a father comes with a giant list of responsibilities, but one of them that’s often forgotten is to not divide mothers and fathers, and that’s just what iVillage did. Let’s talk about this, Inception-style – with a critique within a critique within a critique.
So, layer one is Adam Cohen (of DadaRocks) appearance on iVillage. Layer two is Josh from Angry SAHD, who commented on Cohen’s appearance. Then, there’s me. Adam’s pissed, Josh is more pissed. And I’m left wondering how we can get out of this hole. The gist is that Cohen basically had to face the wolfpack alone – where dads were pitted against mothers so we could know once and for all who’s “better”: dads or moms. You know, because we all REALLY want to know.
Pro Tip: We don’t want to know. Stop doing that, people.
The interview, which as Josh says, was “was set up in a way to reinforce the stereotypes.” Josh then goes on to mention some things fathers need to keep in mind when furthering the conversation (and lifestyle!) of an involved father: Don’t be a boob, Be Involved in everything, and Be on top of your stuff.
I feel bad that Cohen had to sit through this – and unfortunately, if he fought back, he would have been outnumbered and, overall, wouldn’t have helped his point. This iVillage video is ridiculous and offensive. I mean, c’mon. As Josh notes – Amy and Victoria say, in no uncertain terms, that fathers are terrible at everything. They don’t account for the fact that maybe their spouses are bad and they just didn’t pick ’em right.
I like that the two mothers on the show are so quick to say that fathers are idiots and mothers should be snobby alcoholics. Dads? You’re terrible at logistics. Moms, if you “need” wine at the end of the day, at least make it good.
In light of the iVillage segment, I’ve got an addition of something we fathers need to keep in mind (and in mouth!): Don’t badmouth a whole gender: women OR men. Even if all fathers are being lumped together and badmouthed, don’t fire back. It makes you look bad.
Can you imagine if a man had a woman on his talk show and said “any business a woman owns is run into the ground. Women are terrible at business”? There’d be such a hard backlash that every man’s neck would hurt for a week. But women, and mothers particularly, are able to “get away” with misandry (and evidently WordPress too, since the word comes up as misspelled) because as men and fathers, we let it happen. Let’s be honest – we probably spent a lot of years from before World War I up until oh, I’d say 1985ish, saying “women in the workforce? Psshhhhaaa! Those pies in the kitchen won’t bake themselves!” We can’t do this anymore. And we can’t do it especially if we want women and mothers to look at fathers as serious and capable caregivers. Right now, fathers are taking a hit for how past men and fathers treated women. This type of vigilante-equality isn’t fair – but it’s what we’re working against. And the best defense is a good offense – or something. If anyone ever engages you (especially if cameras are rolling) about who’s better at parenting, the answer is: “no one needs to be better. Mothers and fathers bring different skills to the table that are equally important.” Then, you STFU. If someone baits you into saying what women or men are “worse” at, don’t you dare speak universally. Maybe you’re not personally good at changing diapers, but I am. Maybe I’m not great at soothing my kid when he’s hurt, but you are.
My only problem with any of Cohen’s responses was in the Wrap-Up, when the host asked what the hardest part of parenthood is – Amy and Victoria answer “dealing with judgement” and “comparing one child to another.” Cohen’s response? “Potty training.” Sigh. Step it up, bro. But really, Cohen was mentioning a tangible part of parenting little kids. His answer isn’t bad, but it’s narrow in the scope of the other ones.
And as an addendum to that idea – remember that whatever job mom or dad is doing, it’s equally important. If you’re the caregiver and mom’s the breadwinner, that’s fine. If you’re the breadwinner and mom’s the caregiver? That’s fine too – you’ve both got equally-important jobs, and you can’t try to divide them up quantitatively. If you try, you’ll lose.
In the end, your three main directives as a father are: 1) ensure your child’s success with good parenting, 2) honor mothers as you’d want to be honored, 3) and make the rest of us look good. Don’t forget these. There will be a test.
Sure, there’s going to be bad apples that spoil the bunch. And since domestic fathers just went under the microscope as of a couple years ago, we’re still wrestling with putting out the right image. Plus, there’s all sorts of laughs to be had by comparing ourselves to the bad examples – the Al Bundys, the Ray Romanos, etc. But overall – it’s far better to draw our laughs from the good examples than the bad. If you’re caught not following the three directives, we fathers will cut you off. You’ll be dead to us, and you won’t get a goodie bag at the end of the party.
Also – it’s hard to be in the hot-seat. So, congrats to Adam Cohen for being the first man on iVillage. He did the best with what he was given, and hopefully opened the door to be the first of many fathers on iVillage.