Really? You’ve never heard a father say he’s had a tough morning with his kid, who wouldn’t stop throwing breakfast all over the dining room? Or that the little one kept him up all night and now he feels like he got run over by a truck? Or that he had to miss an important meeting to pick up his son at daycare because of a temperature? Or that he could use three fingers of scotch neat because he was worn down to a nub?
Perhaps dads don’t talk in the same way many mothers do, but we do talk about the problems we encounter as parents all the time. We talk to our partners, parents, friends and, yes, even our therapists. However, what we tend not to do is generally dwell on our problems, unless we’re looking to resolve an outstanding issue.
Here’s a recent example. I was talking to another dad, who mentioned it took forever to brush his child’s teeth because the kid wouldn’t sit still. We didn’t stand around working ourselves up into a lather. What’s the point? It solves nothing and I don’t think it makes anyone feel better either. Instead, we discussed potential new tactics for the father to try. And then we made plans to go out and get drinks.
Apparently, prolonged, multi-platform complaining about an issue without having any real desire to fix the problem is something to be encouraged and celebrated. Just read many of the blogs Rodman’s piece mentions, such as People I Want to Punch in the Throat and The Honest Toddler. Or even her own post, I’m Just Not That Into Toddlers, Including My Own. Why any parent would want to spend what little precious time they do have reading endless complaints from other parents is beyond me.
When I have the time to sit down with a fellow parent and catch up, I’d rather dwell on more uplifting topics. Parenting takes a lot of work, some of it admittedly tedious, so I’m looking for some escapism. Tell me about the great movie or engrossing novel I should be reading after my son goes to bed. Share a funny story about that weird guy at work who smells like liverwurst and has an action figure collection in his cubicle. Give me some ideas about where the family and I should go on our next vacation. Hell, let’s talk politics. Whatever we talk about, let’s not wallow in negativity.
Rodman writes, “There needs to be a concurrent societal shift where men are encouraged not only to take on equal parenting responsibilities, but also to be able to openly discuss their flaws and weaknesses, their boredom, fatigue, and other complaints, without fearing castigation and categorical dismissal as bad, bumbling, or uninvolved dads.”
One of the first things I learned about parenting is that both the people who love you the most and those who have never met you will judge you constantly. Being a mother or a father requires thick skin. If I took offense every time one of my parenting choices was questioned or criticized, I would probably be huddled in a corner sobbing. You can’t let those barbs destroy you or define you. Likewise, you can’t allow yourself to feel that being honest about the trials and tribulations of parenthood will make you look like a failure of a father. It will simply make you look human – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Rodman ends her piece by writing, “If Daddy is going to be an equal parent, then Scary Daddy needs to be recognized and supported too.”
I don’t want to be Scary Daddy. That’s not the person who I want to be for my son or wife. I want to be Making It Work Daddy, Daddy Who Has His Stuff Together and Upbeat Through Good Times And Bad Daddy. I won’t succeed all the time – and sometimes I will fail spectacularly – but it sure beats complaining.
Martell is the author of several books, including his most recent: Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. He tweets @nevinmartell.
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