This Is A PSA: Dads Are Parents, Not Idiots

Photo: credit: Mike Reynolds

Since becoming a dad who writes about being a dad, I've learned that there are more men than I ever could've expected shifting the perception of what it means to be a father. 

None of us are identical in what we're doing to change perspectives or in the ways we share our lives with our kids. Some have worked hard — and continue to work hard — to remove the archaic ideas of "Mr. Mom" or dad as "babysitter" to his own kids. 

Others are focused on improving the landscape in the United States when it comes to parental leave for fathers. (It's frighteningly bad and there are incredible people behind these policy shifts.)

These men display through their actions (more than their words) that dads are capable caregivers. 

For me, it's something else.

Recently, I was called "Mr. Mom" while spending a few days looking after our kids while my wife was away.

I expected it to bother me, to send me into a fit of rage. But I found I didn't care.

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I live in Canada where, for now at least, dads have fairly decent access to parental leave and I work for an employer who's always willing to let me take my daughters to doctor's appointments or to take sick days when my kids are ill. So, I'm not an activist and I'm not a lobbyist.

So what room does that leave for me to make changes in the perception of dad? Tons.

Most of us who share our stories about raising boys or girls fall into a category of dads trying to change fatherhood by being visible: Wake up in the morning and make your kids breakfast. Stay up late holding a cloth to little heads when our children have a fever. 

Teach them how to ride a bike. Show them how to cook an omelet. Answer your daughter when she asks if she's pretty and remembers you're always learning from your son.

Success is a dad doing his daughter's hair and getting no applause from anyone but his daughter. Success is a dad taking three days off work to care for a child. 

Success means needing nobody to tell me my girls are "lucky" because they have a dad who cares about what the media says about their bodies or how they're treated differently by toy companies.

Alyssa Croft, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of British Columbia's Department of Psychology, said in a UBC study around the professional ambitions of daughters"Girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents. How fathers treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role."

I want my daughters to grow up to be so ambitious that they switch paths hundreds of times — and I'm willing to vacuum thousands of floors to make it happen.

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You don't have to look hard to see that the idea of the "Manly Man" still exists. Through the ads we watch on television, men are encouraged to treat boys differently than girls. We're encouraged to hold on to our emotions or, at best, to let them out when we're by ourselves.

A "dadvocate" isn't emotionless; dad lobbies for his kids to grow up as themselves, not as an idea the rest of the world has of them. 

And while more dads are taking greater control of parenting and household duties, the majority of this work is still being done by women.

The progression is slow but necessary, and this is why we must continue to tell our stories: Not for praise from moms who wish their partner would take a more active role around the house but to show other dads out there that being a real man isn't about ignoring your child to take out the garbage or mow the lawn; it's to spend all the time you can with them helping them develop into someone who will be caring, compassionate, and driven.

I can do better — and so can millions of fathers out there right now.

So dads, keep telling your stories because there are so many good dads out there ... but also many who aren't. Dads who, despite part of their family's makeup, aren't part of the support network being built for their own kids.

Be involved and be great until great dads are considered normal.

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Mike Reynolds is the author of two children's books and the writer behind

This article was originally published at Puzzling Posts. Reprinted with permission from the author.