Parenting

Stop daddy discrimination

Katie thinks we should stop portraying dads as clueless and uninvolved.

Photo: JillLang/iStockphoto.com

There was a day, back in May, when I received the following phone call from my husband:

Katie: “Hey love, how’s your day going with the baby?”

Blaine: “Well, I’m at the mall and we have… a situation.”

Katie: “A diaper situation?”

Blaine: “Yes, she’s a mess.”

Katie: “Okay, did you forget the wipes at home or something?”

Blaine: “No, but there aren’t any change tables in the men’s bathroom. Can I go into the women’s?”

Katie: “Not unless you want to be escorted out by mall security.”

Ensue rant from husband. I’m sure I murmured some words of agreement without giving it another thought as he figured out how to recline the stroller and change the baby in a nearby park.

It popped into my head again yesterday afternoon when I was flipping through channels and came across a show called The Week the Women Went. I should have known better, I really should have — I don’t like reality TV as it is — but I’d already watched three back-to-back episodes of The Big Bang Theory while folding laundry and there wasn’t much else on. I lasted all of about 10 minutes. The show’s premise is obviously a set up to make the dads of a small South Carolina town look stupid: All the women go off to a retreat in Florida, leaving the men to get things done around town — everything from rebuilding a train depot to getting daughters ready for beauty pageants.

I was watching one particular dad as he spray-painted stars on a spotless white dress while talking about how he should be hunting with his young son instead, and I thought about that funny conversation Blaine and I had back at the start of his paternity leave. Whether it’s missing change tables from men’s rooms or TV shows that set out to make dads look ridiculous, I don’t think it’s fair to always make Dad into the fall guy. Maybe if we stopped telling dads to play that role, it would be a message to those who think it’s acceptable.

I know some amazing dads — my own included — and not just dads who take their kids camping and to sporting events (though there is nothing wrong with that and I wouldn’t trade memories of Blue Jays games with my dad and grandpa for anything). I know dads who have changed sheets in the middle of the night when a kid was sick; I know dads who have walked around the block for hours to keep a newborn asleep; I know dads who come to the rescue at two in the morning when there’s a spider in a bedroom (sorry about that, Dad); I know dads who do laundry and make Halloween costumes. This stuff is not just for moms. Sure, moms do these things, too, and maybe in some households, Mom does it more often than not. But it’s becoming harder to think of dad as a bystander, a sleeping bear who doesn’t hear a baby crying in the middle of the night, a body at the dinner table.

Blaine is back to work full-time today, after being at home with Sophie all summer. It was amazing to watch, as they got to know each other even better, and I saw Blaine become confident in the everyday things he was so worried about while I was still pregnant. He was as sad as I was to drop our wee girl at daycare this morning. He’s so far from the fall guy, it’s not even funny. And I think he may eventually start a revolt of involved dads everywhere to get change tables in men’s rooms and bumbling, clueless fathers out of the TV lineup.

I’d be the first signature on the petition. Down with daddy discrimination, I say.