Happy Father’s Day: Dismantling patriarchal systems in parenting

I frequently encounter attitudes about parenting that are clearly informed by patriarchal ideals. My husband is constantly praised for doing what is actually the bare minimum required in parenting. Feeding, bathing, diaper changing, playtime. Yet, rarely is my parenting commented on.

We have created a societal structure of parenting predicated upon antiquated and misogynistic mindsets. We cling to gender roles, despite gender being a concept we shaped over time, but has no real basis in fact. These gender roles disseminate through every aspect of life, including parenting.

This is why so many find it amazing and shocking when a dad is alone with his kids and caring for them.

When I point this out, the typical argument is that, “Well, there are shitty dads out there.” And, okay, sure. There are shitty dads and always will be. There are also shitty moms. Doesn’t stop most people from gasping in surprise when my husband takes the boys to the park on his own. But don’t bat an eye when I do the same.

Having a partner that recognizes his responsibility and actively works to do his share means everything to me.

When our oldest was born and rarely slept more than four hours a night, my husband stayed up with him. Our son used a G-tube for months. It had to be hooked up and ran several times throughout the night, unhooked and everything cleaned and put away. It was my husband who usually woke up each time and sat through the hour-long process.

He knew I was steeped in exhaustion and would spend my entire day with baby, so, he believed it was his responsibility to do his part.

When our second came along, he once again woke up each night with me while I breastfed. He was exhausted, but he knew I was too, and sat bleary eyed nearby until our son was done feeding.

Our boys are now almost nine and four. My husband works in an office and is gone all day. I work from home. When he’s home for the day, we tag team, and I’m off the clock for a while.

He’s aware how difficult it is for me to accomplish anything during the day with the boys. Half the time, I’m frazzled, and my husband knows I need to unwind for a minute.

He also cleans, does dishes and leaves time for me when I need adult conversation, a foot rub or cuddle time.

He gives me the space to grow and continue to learn who I am and what I want. My goals are his. He understands that this is a partnership.

My husband is not perfect, far from it. We bicker, have differing opinions and sometimes need space from each other. But when the boys leave me to pulling out my hair and hiding in my walk-in closet, cramming gummy bears into my mouth, he puts up with my frantic, incessant text messages.

“I’m leaving, this is it.” “I’m literally crying.” “I fucking hate you.”

“Cause, ya’ know, bitches be crazy.

He just comes home, takes the boys elsewhere and allows me to recharge.

I don’t care what the traditional role of father’s used to be. I don’t care that the world still insists on placing the burden of parenting on moms. We are conditioned to be amazed when dads seem to play an active part in raising their kids.

But every time we comment on this, we uphold an antiquated, misguided attitude. We perpetuate the idea that dads are hands-off, and moms do all the real work. Stop coddling and enabling shitty dads. Make them accountable.

For all the dads out there doing their share, continue to do so. Apparently, society hasn’t received the message yet that this is and should be standard.

Here’s an interview with three dads who are active, vital parts of their kids lives, and who work to create an equitable partnership in their relationship.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you manning-up and sitting a kid on a potty, making PB sandwiches, reading a book, tossing in a load of laundry, asking your partner how they are, and generally every other responsibility crucial to co-parenting, however the relationship with your fellow co-parent looks like.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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