Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Daddy in Misery

Don't misinterpret this post's title. I love being a dad. Love it. However, I have a problem with how dads, moms, babies, and families are treated or expected to act.

Take Lu's and my trip to the doctor's office today as an example. Lu had a fever yesterday and hadn't been herself for the past 24-36 hours. R and I decided to get her an appointment ASAP. Since she had another commitment during the doctor's appointment, I had to take the baby to the clinic alone.

While going through the preliminary checks with the nurse, she commented on Lucia's attire. She said, "Ooh, you're wearing a lot of colors. Daddy must have dressed you today." I don't know if she was saying that Lu looked bad or mismatched or what. Whatever she meant, it sounded sort of insulting. I know how to dress my daughter. She happened to be wearing an outfit of mostly blues and greens (which she looks good in) with her pink plaid jacket.

After I explained that Mommy actually was the one to dress Lucia, the nurse explained that whenever her husband dressed her daughter he dressed her like a boy.

What the hell does that mean?

This is what she was wearing. Maybe she was giving me a hard time for putting those shoes on her. She hasn't quite grown into them yet. Either way, what did the nurse mean?


Another example of something that annoys me about parenthood is the lack of changing tables in public restrooms, especially men's restrooms. I don't know how many times I have been forced to change my daughter's diaper on the floor of a public restroom or had to pass her off to her mother because only the women's restrooms were suitable for changing.

Why is this a hard concept for stores and restaurants? Just put one of those Rubbermaid fold-away changing tables in every restroom or provide family restrooms in addition to those divided for the sexes.

Eventually, I plan to start one of those Google Maps that identifies all the businesses with changing tables for dads. That or I'll start changing diapers on restaurant tables and counters (after we eat).

People always assume R is solely responsible for Lucia's well-being. Sure, thanks to breastfeeding and whatnot, Lu is in a mommy stage and turns to her mother the most. However, that does not excuse me from my responsibilities as a parent. I can dress, feed, soothe, entertain, nurture, and teach my daughter as much as my partner. Granted, I don't do nearly enough, but I'm working on it. It doesn't help that so many people assume and accept that I do nothing. And it certainly isn't fair to R having to take so much responsibility. It's as if she has nothing else to do (like write a book) and I am incompetent because I'm a man.

This goes along with the double standard I felt during R's pregnancy. Sure, she was expected to take her maternity leave, but I was blatantly teased once about my paternity leave. My time off wasn't even a quarter of what R was given (although, she should have received more) and I was made to feel bad about taking my two measly weeks to help out.

R and I talked about this double standard as we negotiated our day. It was plenty acceptable for her to cancel a class this morning in order to be available for Lucia in her time of need. However, had I canceled my training session this evening, I'm sure someone would have questioned that decision, wondering why Lucia's mother couldn't handle it on her own.

I'm frustrated with how folks expect so little from dads. I'm even more frustrated that I fall into the trap of fulfilling those prophesies all the time. There's always more I could do, but it seems as if it's OK for me to flake. Default care always falls on R's shoulders. I'm doing what I can to right this wrong, but I've got a lot working against me.

Sometimes the expectations aren't just for the parents. People often have these preconceived ideas for what Lucia should be. I really get annoyed when folks try to pigeon-hole my 7-month old daughter.

First of all, Lucia is not "Daddy's little girl" or his "princess". She is Lucia. Lucia is my daughter. She is as much her mother's little girl as she is mine. And that princess crap...Don't even get me started. Lucia will be allowed to be herself, whether that's princess-like or a tomboy or whatever she wants to be. To me, the terms
"Daddy's little girl" and "princess" are limiting no matter how well-meaning people intend it to be.

Secondly, Lucia does not have to constantly be identified as a girl. Sure, she is a female and has been given a feminine name. Yes, we periodically dress her in somewhat girly clothes, but this is not a prerequisite for her identity. Lucia does not lose who she is as a 7-month old because she's wearing blue or lacks a frilly dress. It's not a big deal if you confuse her for a boy. It doesn't offend me. We won't give her baby bangs or those headbands with bows just so you know she's a she. Lucia is Lucia and that's enough for me. (Sorry for rhyme. Too much Sesame Street.)

I could probably go on but I won't. I don't want to offend anyone for making comments or assumptions about my family and me that were only meant to be positive. Also, it's fine if you want to cling to traditional gender roles within your own family. I just have to vent about all this somewhere. It gets old and tiring to constantly have to combat with societal views that do not jive with my own.

So, when you see me with my kid, don't assume that I'm counting the minutes until Mommy returns. Try not to limit Lucia to a princess with no gumption or identity that stretches beyond traditional gender roles. Know that I love and try to take responsibility for my Lucia as much as her mother does. Know that this daddy thinks about these things and is trying to raise his child the best he can.

11 comments:

MonkeyGirl said...

Bravo!

jsb16 said...

You rock.:-)

True (funny) story. Many moons ago, I was walking next to my older child's bike while my kid attempted to ride it without my help, when an older gentleman complimented me on my son. I had to try very hard not to laugh: after all, my 'son' was wearing a red velvet dress, and the red bike had pink and white streamers on the handlebars. But rather than compliment me on my daughter (who was riding a "boy's bike" and not wearing any pink herself) or compliment me on my child, this gentleman assumed that my child was male. <sarcasm>After all, calling a boy a girl is an insult, but if a girl wants to be recognized as a girl, she ought to wear pink frills, right?</sarcasm>

Keep up the good work.

ks said...

I think she looks super cute in that outfit. What's that nurse's prob??

Jennifer said...

I totally agree Zach. Your kiddo is beautiful and is lucky to have a Dad who sees her as a person rather than a "girl" who needs to be shaped into some predetermined set of criteria. Keep standing up for her.

Jennifer

jenny said...

Being a nurse is tough work. You have a million people to process, all of whom are cranky from being sick and from waiting so long. You try to put people at ease with little throw-away comments and small talk. That nurse was probably trying to just relax a parent who was worried about his sick kid. I wouldn't read too much into it.

But I do think public places are becoming more sensitive to dual parenting roles. I see more and more family restrooms. There aren't enough, but I think it's growing.

And, for that matter, I think there's also an anti-parent sentiment in general among some places that I once frequented. It's not like people love to see mothers and their kids sitting beside them at nice restaurants. They don't want kids there period. So, when you try to find a changing table at a nice restaurant, they aren't anywhere--not in men's or women's restrooms.

All this is to say: It'll be okay, man.

comoprozac said...

Thanks all for the supportive words.

Jenny, I agree that the nurse probably meant nothing by it. My problem is having to deal with it at every turn. "I'm a bumbling daddy who doesn't know how to care for his daughter." It gets old after a while.

abby said...

Amen!
Lucia is Lucia!

Kate said...

I think Lucia would have looked even better in a "Lucia ist Rad!" *wink, wink* hoodie but what do I know, I'm only a bumbling aunt who woudln't even know how to change her niece's diaper. Fight the Power, Zac!

Oh, and I think Targets and malls are the only places I've seen family restrooms. I was just trying to think of places that have those and there aren't many, for realz.

Telebastard said...

There is a movement in Germany (sponsored by the government!) encouraging stay at home dads because of how positively it seems to influence the upbringing of a child of either gender -- including some kind of tax break or some other financial incentive. I know you're not a "stay at home" (I see your work-related Twitters too often to think that), but it's awesome to see how involved you are in your child's life and development.

Jerry and Dena said...

Just to add my 2 cents...I think your dad was a good role model considering the times (70's/80's)we raised you - he often did as much, if not more than I did in taking care of you three. I remember when he had to take Katie into men's bathrooms if I wasn't around - back then there were no changing tables or family restrooms anywhere. You have a legitimate gripe - people's attitudes take forever to change - keep working on it!

Daniel Burkholder said...

just came across this - I had the same frustration with a lack of changing tables for dads, so I started this small little blog: http://changingtablesdads.blogspot.com/

best!