Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Mom Comes to Our Defense

So yesterday I was given another reminder that one of these days I should really start a blogroll for MAWDAHs ... moms who go to work and are married to at-home dads. Asha over at ParentHacks.com flagged this post by Mom 101 about her husband. It is a wonderful denunciation of the strange and irritating trend toward referring to male caregivers by female terms ("The Mommy," "Mr. Mom," etc.)

I was asked recently what the problem with Mr. Mom is, and Mom 101 nails a good chunk of it. Here's my take on why it's a problem:

* It is unfair to women to "mom"ify the job. Calling a guy "Mr. Mom," implies mom *should* be the one behind the stroller. That ought to be pretty offensive nowadays.

* It emphasizes the novelty of at-home fatherhood. A dad at the playground shouldn't be treated with any more surprise that a female surgeon in the operating room. Why should "Hey -- that kid's caretaker is a *man*!" be any less offensive than "Hey -- that doctor/lawyer/exec is a *woman*!"?

* It glosses over the different skills that mothers and fathers bring to the table. Kyle Pruett at Yale has made a career of noting that men and women generally parent differently, and that kids are best served by both styles of play. Suggesting that a dad is "mothering" shortchanges dads by ignoring the unique advantages of what Pruett calls "Fatherneed." (And it shortchanges moms by suggesting that dads can provide traits that are generally unique to moms.)

* It reminds everyone of Jack Butler, Michael Keaton's character in Mr. Mom. I know that the movie comes to a sweet end, where Jack becomes a good dad, etc. etc. But it is remembered in the collective unconscious as a movie about a do-nothing father who can't iron and who drinks beer in the morning. I could do without those images being attached to dads taking care of their kids.

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