It's a Mommy's world — exposing Dadscrimination

Photo via The New Yorker.

Jerry Mahoney is talking about discrimination that dads face everywhere kids might be — in public restrooms (no changing tables!), playgrounds (moms think they're pervs!) and even in parenting groups:

Look, I'm not one to cry "oppression". I'm a middle-class white male, after all. My kind have had it pretty good for the last few millennia or so. Yes, I'm also gay, but let's put that aside for a minute. Other than that, I'm fairly demographically charmed.

Still, I'm in a minority group because of what I do for a living, and as a result I face a particular kind of prejudice on a daily basis.

That's right. I'm talking about "Dadscrimination". There may be more of us than there used to be, but in a lot of ways, the world still doesn't get us. We're second-class parents, a joke or an afterthought. Yo, it's hard out here for a Daddy.

You never see "Men at Work" signs anymore. It's always "Crew Working In Trees". We don't call them "Policemen" or "Mailmen", they're "Officers" and "Postal workers." But when it comes to parenting, everything's "Mommy". "Mommy movies", "Mommy & Me" classes, "Mommy wars", "Mommy Zumba". It's as if the M-word is synonymous with "parent". No matter what barriers we break down in terms of gender inequality, inclusiveness goes out the window once you have kids.

It just gets better: read the whole piece and then let's start talking about changing how everyone sees stay-at-home-dads… because they're in this parenting thing, too.

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  1. I would love it if this place renamed itself Offbeat Parenting or Offbeat Parents someday. It's not all mommies around here, after all. I'd like to see Offbeat Mama walkin' the walk a little more!

    1 agrees
    • Yep: if I could go back in time, it would be Offbeat Wedding, Offbeat Family, and Offbeat Home. At this point, however, a rebrand isn't in the cards.

      1 agrees
      • Even if a rebrand isn't in the cards (especially since someone else has grabbed the Offbeat Family address), maybe you could register offbeatpapa.com and have it lead to Offbeat Mama (maybe to a "welcome dads" page, thus helping dads find their way here.

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  2. The way the author presents this seems similar to the way a feminist would note all the positive changes to society while still lamenting one aspect in a focused way–but the tables are turned and it's parenting we're talking about instead.

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  3. Maybe it's a Canadian thing, but my husband has never had a problem finding a change table in the men's washroom. Family washrooms are also increasingly available, as are large neutral stalls with wheelchair access and a change table (but maybe it's just the city where I live). I've also noticed that even though the majority of the people I meet at playgroups are women, the naming is typically gender neutral: Me and You Babe Fitness, Stars and Strollers or Cinebabies, Books and Babies, Parent and Tot Swims, etc. Is it a regional thing? A cultural thing? Is it related to Canada's parental leave laws? I don't know. Food for thought.

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    • Yep, I think maybe it is a bit better for us Canucks! My husband is self-employed and his schedule is a bit flexible so he does a lot with our kids during the day. Everywhere we go there are always family washrooms. And most of the groups in my city are referred to as "Parent and Tot" rather than "Mommy and Me". When I drop-off and pick-up my son from school about half the parents there are dads, whether they are stay-at-home, or work from home, or some are on shift work. Maybe it is a cultural thing. I think Canadian parental leave laws have a bigger impact than most people realize.

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    • I think it's a Canadian thing. I live in the US, and several times I've asked my husband to take our toddler to the bathroom to change a diaper, only to have him come back moments later reporting, "the only changing table is in the ladies' room". Happily, I have found that speaking to locally-owned business proprietors (restaurants and such) typically results in the installation of a changing table at all, and/or one in both the men's room and ladies' room.

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    • Some of it depends on the programming. The American Red Cross Swimming programs are titled "Parent/Child", and instructors are advised to tell our teachers that the "parent" could be mom, dad, grandparents, nannies, etc.

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  4. This. This. This. I grew up with a stay at home dad in the 80s. I get so fustrated trying to let my husband take my daughter to get changed- because often times, the bathrooms don't have changing tables. In a few years, I know he's going to be considered prey or pervert when he takes her to play groups!

    1 agrees
  5. Both my husband and I work, but we really do try to keep things on an equal footing. I work Sat so he's with the kiddo all day and he gets horrid comments, side eyes, and can never find a changing station. Mind you, we're in a super red neck, conservative area so a dad hanging out with his long haired pirate styled toddler is going to get attention.

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  6. This reminds me of the first piece I ever submitted to Offbeat Mama, about how people were always asking me who was watching the baby when I was working or out without her, never assuming that it was her dad.

    I love seeing pieces like this, I want to see men fighting to be recognized as parents with equal potential to nurture their kids as the mamas do. And good lord I would love it if I didn't have to deal with my husband coming out of the restroom with an unchanged child anymore because there's no changing table.

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  7. I know two dads who are or have been stay-at-home dads. My husband and I have already had the conversation that maybe when we have kids he'll be the one staying at home. I hope things continue to get better for dads doing childcare. I know when I was a kid there was the issue of going out with Dad and then having to be taken to the men's restroom. Ick. It definitely seems better here for there being family restrooms.

  8. My husband is afraid that when we have kids he will be seen as a perv when out with our kid in public. As if because he is a man + burly + tattooed + gauged ears + lip ring + whatever = obviously not a parent, but an evil villain stealing a child. I'm not sure how it really is, but my dad stayed home with us and started a daycare in our home as work, so it seems crazy to me!

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    • I think it depends on where you live. There's a man who lives in my neighborhood whose daughters go to my kids' school who wears a kilt, sports a mohawk and piercings and a long beard. I don't think I've ever seen anyone look askance at him. I even remember everyone being impressed when he pinned a poodle on his kilt for our sock hop themed dance that he took his daughter to.

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    • My husband is pierced, tattooed and black and is totally gawked at when taking our mixed race very light skinned toddler to the bathroom or, basically, anywhere.

  9. My husband and I decided that he would stay at home with our children because I am able to make 5 times the income he would make by going to work. He loves being a stay at home dad and his girls love being with him. I get a lot of negative feed back from all sorts of unwanted sources about our arrangement but it is what works for us. There are very few resources in our area that available for stay at home dads and so my girls are fairly socially isolated due to the "mommy" based programs and not open to all parents. I think the system needs to be revamped to accept all parents on an equal playing field.

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  10. When I see a dad at the park or pushing a stroller with no mom in tow I get the "daawwwws" and rarely ever think "perv" Though I am more acutely aware of the actual pervs since I've been the victim of them a lot in my early teen-20's era. if I suspect someone I will usually try to strike up a friendly conversation. This may only be me but I think men are looked at that way at a park because they tend to bring less stuff with them that identifies as belonging to kids where as most moms have big diaper bags and even a blanket to sit on where as most of the men I've seen at parks have a backpack, which could be used for anything. I know all my dad every had on him when he took us to the park was a fanny pack (don't you just miss the 80's/early 90's? lol!) I also grew up on a military base in the south and there were more dads at the park than moms.

    Though I don't know why he mentions mommy zumba, I'm sure that is more specific to losing the baby weight.

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    • Re: Mommy Zumba, my partner would totally whine about needing a Daddy class to help him lose his "pregnancy" weight too 😀

  11. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I feel very fortunate to live in a neighborhood (on the outskirts of Boston) where stay-at-home dads are common. To be honest, I prefer hanging out with the dads because they don't spend all of their time talking about kids and they aren't judgmental. In the beginning though, I felt strange exchanging numbers with and making play dates with men. I worried about how my husband would feel about me hanging out with some guy he hadn't met and what their wives would think about me. How's that for 'dadscrimination'?

  12. My husband and I don't fit the stereotypical "parent" type. Between his long hair and typical shirt depicting a metal band of some sort, and possibly because he's 6'5, mothers constantly drag their kids away from him whenever he gets within ten feet. He once had a woman cross the street to avoid walking near him. But he's always wanted to be a father. Now that we have our daughter, he's with her every second he can be. He hasn't had any issues with changing tables – maybe we just frequent the few places that do have them. And women are typically more inclined to talk to him about the baby than me, but I'm pretty sure it's because he starts most of those conversations. He'll even pull out pictures.

    What bothers my husband is when people tell him how amazing he is for taking on half of the childcare, for being willing to feed her or change her, for being willing to dance a waltz with her in his arms for three hours just because that's the only thing that calms her down. He once asked me why people would say that when he was only doing what was necessary to keep our daughter comfortable, clean, and happy and I do the exact same on my shifts with the baby, why did people not say the same for me? Since then, he's made it a point to tell me how much he appreciates my work with the child on a regular basis and I make it a point to do the same. For my husband, raising our child is a partnership and he's going to be an equal partner. We go about our marriage the same way. So our daughter will grow up seeing her father actively enjoy spending time with her, even if it's doing something like changing her diaper or feeding her. And she'll see him treating me with respect. And she'll hopefully seek out those qualities with the men (or women) she dates.

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  13. This is fascinating!
    My wonderful husband is a former professional baseball player. When we moved to a new neighborhood last year, and we heard there was need for a new little league coach, I encouraged him to volunteer for the job, but it did not go well.
    My husband and I are childless. A such, his motivations are suspect to some people. Even a married man whose career has been centered around baseball for the last 10 years is assumed, when offering to coach the little league, to be doing it for some questionable purpose, because he does not have a children.

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    • This makes me sad to hear. I hope and your husband find a community where you're appreciated.

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  14. I don't think my husband has ever faced discrimination, and frankly I would rather be on the playground with a dad than another mom. I find most dads to be friendlier. I have noticed that women are nicer to my husband than me. Never would a stranger that is a woman come up to me and strike up a conversation, but they do with my husband all the time. In fact my husband was the parent teacher at preschool, the teachers hugged him and told him they couldn't wait for him to come back with my younger child. I got nothing, no hug, nothing. I helped out too! : )

  15. We have the changing table problem all of the time. My partner will offer to change our son, only to come out of the bathroom and say "no such luck."
    It's a bummer.

  16. My husband and I both work full-time so we share in the care of our daughter in the evenings and on weekends. We live on the West Coast of Canada in a pretty liberal city, so we are lucky in that there are family change rooms at pools and family washrooms, etc. One thing we have run into that drives us crazy is when I go out people ask if he is "babysitting". He's not babysitting, he's parenting his child!

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  17. It's probably a cultural thing, but over here (Aussieland) when we go to parties/bbqs in the park, the mums all sit around and be social while the dads play on the playground with the kids. Rugz is going to be a stay-at-home dad once I have the qualifications for the job that I want, because it will work for us. If it doesn't, at least we'll both have a trade (He'll have two, actually) and can tailor things to suit us. There have been a few naysayers but most people are very supportive and quite a few other guys have said "Huh, you know what? I'd like to do that too, even though I know it's hard work."

  18. Thanks for the link! I loved reading everyone's comments on this site. I was convinced when I posted this that a lot of people – moms especially – would accuse me of whining. Honestly, I never expected to get so much support and encouragement. I really appreciate all the feedback!

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  19. Oh my poor husband goes through this. He was a single dad for 6 years with full custody and he is very involved in his daughter's life. He also is self employed which allows him to be involved in her school and after school activities. What gets me is that other mothers wouldn't want to to let their daughters have play dates with his daughter because he was a single dad, and that made him "creepy." He would chaperone field trips and the other mothers wouldn't even talk to him. He would chase his daughter on the playground while they played her favorite game "Monster" and get awkward stares. It's gotten a bit better since we've gotten married, somehow seeing that wedding ring on his hand made him more accepted, (lame) but it still grinds my gears because he is an AMAZING DAD and the only person it seem to hurt was my stepdaughter.

  20. Dropping in to point out that "dadscrimination" is based in cultures of toxic masculinity which assume that women will do all childcare. So this is an example of how sexism and the patriarchy hurts everyone.

    However, as usually, this admitted middle class white (presumably cis) guy is largely unaware of the wider perspective and for that reason this article squicks me out.

    For instance, "Most women just don’t respect men who stay home with their kids. …When they see a man raising kids, they think he’s lazy. They can’t help imagining his poor wife busting her ass trying to make partner while he stays home wearing flip-flops and eating Fritos on the couch."

    What??? Where does this highly insightful wisdom come from? My male coparents are nothing but highly congratulated for spending time with their kid. I'm sorry this has apparently been the author's experience, and it seems like a very uncharitable and possibly projecting generalization to me.

    So, to the author: we live in a white supremacist patriarchy, and there are many people who are fighting it together coherently. Vilifying moms is not the way to do it.

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