I went to NYC this past weekend for a baby shower. Matt was home for the weekend with the kids.
When he mentioned that to someone at work a few days before I left, they were stunned — he’d have all four kids all by himself all weekend?!?!?
It made me mad.
I don’t think anyone is surprised that I take care of the children by myself when Matt has to go on a business trip. It annoys me that it’s shocking that he would do the same thing when I go out of town.
These children are absolutely equally mine and his. Why couldn’t he care for them on his own? Why wouldn’t he be able to do that?
And let’s be clear — Matt absolutely can. He doesn’t worry about it for a split second and neither do I. Honestly, it never occurred to us that he can’t do for the children exactly what I do. (And he probably made pancakes for breakfast one day, when I would most definitely have given them cereal.) These are OUR children. And he’s an excellent father.
Matt says I’m over-reacting. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that, but in this case I think I feel the sting from comments like this a little stronger than he does. He is confident in his role as a father, and he’s better at letting this type of thing roll off his back.
I just hear the echoes of sexism in the expression of surprise from his colleague. I hear that women are the ones who should provide the lion’s share of care for the children, and men should show up to coach baseball and deposit their paychecks into the bank.
I just think those statements undermine the idea that men and women — mothers and fathers — are equal partners in a relationship, in a family, in society.
I don’t think the comment was really intended that way, and maybe I AM over-sensitive (it would also not be the first time I was accused of that). But maybe I’m just tired of feeling like women have to figure out the way to make it all work — home and family and a job — and men get a gold star sticker for doing what women do every day.
Let me make it very clear, though, that I do not include Matt in that statement. He cooks, he cleans, he does laundry, he cares equally for our kids, and he knows it’s not exceptional that he does those things. He does them because we are equals in our relationship. Although he is the killer of bugs, I am the cleaner of puke. We play to our strengths and we balance each other’s shortcomings. It all evens out.
It should not be a surprise that a father is capable of caring for his own children without assistance. It’s time to change the way we view gender roles and parenting and men and women and mothers and fathers. It’s time to change the conversation.