Our older son is at a Friday night birthday party in the next neighborhood up the road. Our younger son requested a viewing of Frozen.
My wife, their mother, is – as of this writing – stuck on an airplane that is runway-bound while it waits out a nasty Central Florida thunderstorm. She is on her way to Cape Cod for a brief family visit, a weekend with her sister and mom.
That means it’s … it’s … just me and the (gasp!) boys. Oh, my God. What am I … what am I supposed to do? What’s … where’s … I …
Help! HELLLPPPP! I’M A DAD ON MY OWN WITH MY KIDS FOR THE WHOLE WEEKEND! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!!
THEY’RE GONNA DIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
I got this.
Just like millions of dads all over the world would have it if their parenting partner went out of town for a weekend or longer. This is part of the deal. We cover for each other – when I’m out of town, she’s fine. And vice-versa.
If this is starting to sound familiar, that means you are probably one of the very, very small handful of people who used to read this journal in its infancy.
My goodness. I just checked the date of the last time I wrote a post proclaiming that “I got this.” It was May 16, 2012 – almost three years ago to the day.
Here’s a sample from that post, When Mom Travels for Work … It’s Cool:
“When Mom leaves, the boys and I miss her. A lot. She’s absolutely the straw that stirs. Over the long term, we’d be lost without her. (Ugh. I almost deleted that sentence, because it’s too painful to even contemplate.)
But listen … we’re fine. The boys get fed. They get bathed. They receive my attention. They get hugged and rough-housed with and loved. The only real adjustment is I get up a half-hour earlier so I can take my shower and get dressed before they wake up.
I don’t need Mom to leave me a check list. I already know how to call their pediatrician, if necessary. I know how to feed them, and dress them, and bathe them, and read a bed-time story to them. I know how to take care of them. They’re my kids. Of course I know how to take care of them. I’m fortunate in that I have an incredible partner, and there’s no way I’ll ever take what she does and who she is for granted. We need her, and even though that doesn’t change when she goes on the road, we’re fine for a while.”
Was that me, trying to make myself out to be some kind of special snowflake dad who is so much better at this than the rest of you? Hell, no. It was me refuting the antiquated notion that dads are imbeciles who are helpless without someone there to hold their hands when their parenting partners are not around.
A writer for Babble, Lori Garcia, expressed that same sentiment. Not three years ago. Yesterday.
Here is Lori’s salient point:
“Dads, I love y’all, but I’m not falling all over myself because you acted like a parent. You’re capable. You’re intelligent. You’re great at it. And you do it all the damn time.”
Hell, yes! We’ve made it! No longer must engaged, loving, competent dads be considered helpless buffoons in the absence of their partners!
This is great! This is …
I spent a good portion of this evening taking the losing side of an argument that I honestly believed was settled a while ago. After all, hadn’t I written about it three years ago? Hadn’t a lot of people?
Weren’t big brands taking notice that the tired, old doofus dad trope was done and dusted? Hadn’t Dove Men+Care raised the bar for everyone? Hadn’t we decided as a society that dads can (and should) Lean In, too?
Yes! We are beyond it! Aren’t we?
Here’s what I wrote in a good conversation with a group of less-naïve dads on Facebook. I reference the Babble story mentioned and linked above:
“I guess I’m as confused as Lori about why it would be (still) the majority opinion that if one parenting partner takes off for a while, the other parenting partner would melt into a puddle of confusion and despair about bath time and bed time or whatever. Yes, there are ‘red state’ ways of thinking about the family dynamic, but I want to believe that the old, tired way of thinking about these things is being overtaken by more enlightened ideas. At least in theory, if not in actual everyday, everywhere practice. No?”
As I naively tried to argue in favor of progress, a fellow dad posted this ridiculous commercial from AT&T in the same private group: Piece of Cake. Basically, it’s a dad who is left at home alone with the kids and is so inept that only a magical AT&T app that controls everything in the house helps the husband and kids survive the mom’s absence.
It’s the first big-brand commercial I’ve seen in a while that relied on the doofus dad as the primary conceit. And listen – I am aware there are dads who are doofuses. I am aware that everyone forgets things and takes shortcuts and needs a little help every now and then with the kids and with life in general.
I also am aware that in our insular group of fathers who write and interact on social media – the Dad 2.0 Summit crew, City Dads and many others – we do not necessarily fall within the cultural perception of the usual. Maybe it just seems to me like it’s no big deal for dads to be “left alone” with the kids for a while because of the company I keep.
I’d like to think it’s beyond that, though. I’d like to think there has been progress. I’d like to think that it’s “normal” for a dad to be able to pick up his kids at the bus stop on an afternoon, drop off his older son at a birthday party, watch Frozen with his younger son, and plan a fun, productive weekend while his wife was enjoying a wonderful weekend with her mom and sister.
I’d like to think that. Until there are no more commercials like that silly AT&T nonsense above, I’m afraid my fellow fathers are right.
We still have a lot of work to do.
8 thoughts on “The Doofus Dad Stereotype is Still a Thing, Unfortunately”
As an outsider to the “insular group of fathers who write and interaction on social media,” I can vouch for the capability of other dads to parent solo.
Not too long ago, my wife was gone for a five-day conference in Florida, leaving me and our twin 12-year-old girls home alone.
Nothing terrible happened. My daughters didn’t miss the bus nor school. They didn’t starve. We didn’t leave a trail of spaghetti sauce on the living room carpet. There weren’t clothes just strewn all over the place (OK, maybe there MIGHT have been some – but I made the girls pick up after themselves).
Pots of water didn’t boil over, walls were’t used as art canvases, toilets didn’t plug up and overflow, garbage bags didn’t accumulate in the kitchen.
In short, we got along just fine.
So, you’re not alone. We fathers have come a long way in being involved in and capable of rearing our children, whether it’s with a partner or doing it solo for short or long periods of time.
But I share your pessimism whether Hollywood or Madison Avenue will retire the dimwitted dad stereotype anytime soon. Such stereotypes, while no longer based on reality, still appeal to our basic human nature and misconceptions about parenting (Dad as hunter-gatherer, Mom as nurturer).
It may be a losing battle, I’m afraid.
Thanks, Duane! Love the story.
Yeah… that AT&T ad? What’s up, creepy Big Brother Mom?!?
Exactly! But she seems pretty happy about it the whole time. Or at least resigned …
The more our culture realizes fathers are equal partners/parents, the less funny these stereotypes become.
Soon, someone will pitch a ‘doofus dad’ ad/joke/gag, and the other people in the room will give them a funny look as if to say, ‘Huh? I don’t get it …’
That’s the day I look forward to …
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I think part of the problem is that we (dads) are part of the group that it is still socially ok to offend. When a company won’t run an ad because it may offend someone, we are not the demographic they are afraid of offending. Why is it ok to offend dads/men, but not other “groups”?
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