Dear Working Mother magazine,
Men are not stupid.
Your current issue’s “10 Lessons from Working Dads” touts many benefits of parenting like a dad, which doesn’t mean things automatically devolve into “Lord of the Flies.” But your “Still, Moms Rule” list further perpetuates the myth of men as incompetent caregivers.
You go for the cheap laugh when you assume men can’t remember to put lunchmeat in their kids’ lunches. And that we don’t know how to do housework, set up a playdate or put anything away. And if you think we would rather check sports scores than hear our kids talk about how their day went, you’re dead wrong.
Nearly 30 years ago in “Mr. Mom,” Michael Keaton learned how to operate a vacuum cleaner and get supper on the table. He even thwarted an oversexed Ann Jillian. In my eight years as an at-home dad, even I – once dubbed Captain Clueless by my Lovely Bride of 14 years – have figured a few things out.
Give us dads a little credit.
* A trip to the park involves logistics. That must be why it took me an hour and a half when I had an infant and toddler to get out the door to the park that’s three minutes away. It was probably because I was diapering and feeding and packing a bag with 18 changes of clothes. Seems like small potatoes compared with packing myself, my children and sometimes even my wife for a family vacation. Would you like to see my one-page checklist?
* Shirts and pants need to match. The nice ladies at the post office think they’re being helpful when they point out that my daughter’s shoes are on the wrong feet. Did they ask if she put them on all by herself? And I choose my battles with my 9-year-old son. Just today, I forced his favorite shirt into retirement when he couldn’t see that it has nine stains on it and isn’t suitable to wear to school. Most other days, however, if it’s clean and he’s dressed in time for school, we all win.
* Enter it in the family calendar. A year-at-a-glance wall calendar, which brings me calm but makes my wife twitch, keeps it all in line in our family. Sleepover on Friday? Check. Haircut on the 4th? Got it. And now that we use the online family calendar Cozi, I know when my wife is working late, and she knows that swim class in on Mondays.
* Mom is the reason our family stays organized. Unless Dad is an organization freak. I’m the one who alphabetized our spice rack, cleaned out the basement closet and is devising a room-sized storage solution for the jelly-bean-colored explosion that is our daughter’s not-quite 8-by-10 bedroom.
* A leftover hot dog bun and beef jerky are not a real lunch. Have you seen what passes as food in the school cafeteria these days? Better to pack your own. Throw in a piece of fruit, some milk and a picky child, and that bun-and-jerky sandwich just might avert malnutrition and protective services at the same time.
*That work meeting is way less important than chaperoning the field trip. This must be why my wife loves going on our kids’ field trips.
* A clean house is sexy. This you got right. Now I’ve got to go clean mine before my Lovely Bride gets home.