To All the Dads (from your daughters)
Call them … the baby blues?
People are panicking about parenting these days. A cover of TIME magazine features a woman breastfeeding her eight-year-old, and at the movies, a bunch of thirty-something soon-to-be mothers seem to somehow not know what to expect when they’re expecting. Neither do their husbands. Debates rage about formula vs. breastfeeding, co-sleeping vs.cribs. Tiger parenting vs. hippie parenting, the use of “No” vs. “Not now.”
It’s weird. And the weirdest thing is that much of this anxiety is aimed at men. In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, young dads trying their best to be dads is supposed to be funny. Indeed, from The Hangover to the upcoming ABC sitcom ‘Baby Daddy,’ pop culture seems to think that men taking an active interest in child-rearing is somehow silly.
TIME contributor James Poniewozik writes, “Much dad humor today is based on the premise that it’s unnatural for men to be good at caring for kids,” and he logically concludes, “Happy Father’s Day, dads of America! Pop culture thinks you look really stupid trying to care for the babies you made!”
These jokes would read differently if fatherhood were not a very special, and increasingly rare, phenomenon. Changing cultural attitudes about marriage, gender, and identity that are beyond the scope of this article mean that fewer Americans are getting married and starting families than ever before, yet on screen and in real life, Dads are sometimes badgered or made fun of for simply trying to participate.
The literary Left is particularly tormented -– read All the Single Ladies or Marry Him: The Case for Mr. Good Enough, and tell me you don’t need a cigarette break. Romance might cause some of this hand-wringing, but the root of it is really a larger question: It’s, “As women, how do we relate to others?” There’s no scarcity of young women who know they can raise a child by themselves –- what’s confusing isn’t their own motherhood, it’s combining it with someone else’s fatherhood.
Figuring out love, sex, and child-rearing is really about figuring out what the movement creates and how it fits into the world. This is a big question, and there are no perfect answers. There is no perfect way to be a mother, or perfect way to be a father.
So here’s to those who make the brave decision to try.
Being a Dad is life-altering, it’s terrifying, and it’s expensive.
But as Barry himself said, being a Dad is the hardest, but most rewarding job he’s ever had.
To all the dads out there: You rock.
Happy Father’s Day.