Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day, from The Washington Post

So Father's Day is Sunday. I could say something silly like "Don't forget to get your husband a gift from the kiddos." But every momma I know had it delivered and wrapped weeks ago.

We're just that good.

Today (In The Washington Post, is there any other paper?) Petula Dvorak wrote a piece about fathers and how their roles in the family are changing.

I will not for a minute dispute that the change is tremendous. Fathers don't sit in the waiting room smoking cigars while doctors forcibly remove their offspring from their heavily sedated wives with forceps. Fathers hold a leg, cut the chord (hopefully after it stops pulsing) and sometimes catch the baby and act as labor coach. If he's really lucky he gets do do all these things from the comfort of his own living room. Okay, maybe that's just me...

Despite my Stay-At-Home status we have some non-traditional gender roles in this house. For example: I make 70% of the Home Depot runs. I too sing the praises of the book Go the F*ck to Sleep. Only a father deeply involved in the bedtime routine could write a book like this. Cigar smoking, waiting room sitting fathers need not apply. Dvorak's article sings the praises of men who leave their office job and take on the status of Stay-At-Home-Dad.

Fundamentally, I have two problems with this article: 1. It implies that women have arrived. We are equal to men in degrees received, pay earned and promotions given. But we aren't- it's getting close, but we're not there yet. We're often still seen as a liability in the workplace- we could get pregnant, we could be distracted by what's going on at home, we might cry... or act bitchy... or wilt like a delicate flower. In order to succeed in the same jobs that men do we have to walk this line of an impossible paradox; we have to be hard, decisive and judicious while still maintaining an air of softness. Anything else we can do while we're at it? Stand on our heads? Be sexy yet conservatively a-sexual?

I realize the article is about dads written in anticipation of father's day, but the references to women succeeding equally in the work place are disingenuous.

2. Conversely, It doesn't say enough about how awesome men are for advocating for insisting on paternal benefits at work. This is a big deal, and trying to make strides in this area is hugely important.

By insisting on family friendly schedules, flex time and paternity leave men are able to be, as Dvorak says, 'All-in'. This is awesome. It's awesome because two involved parents is better than one. But secretly, I see men pushing for better parent benefits at work including opening our eyes to benefits women still need in the workplace like a private and comfortable place to pump. As fathers become more and more deeply invested in the lives of their children the more aware they become of holes that still exist (like WIC benefits for breastfeeding mothers and better health care coverage all birth but especially of home birth.)

Like I said before, things have changed so much since the 1950s, but women are not completely equal to men in the work place and the work place is the same as the policy-writing-place. Now, I want that in a big way. But in the mean time, if men become more aware of the flaws in our systems, then women might not have to fight alone for rooms in their offices to pump in, or better medical coverage birth or breastfeeding accoutrements, or family leave after birth or adoption because 6 weeks paid is just pathetically inadequate. I firmly believe that women can change the world but I would much prefer that the world BE changed than that women earn exclusive bragging rights for making it happen.

Like any good Op-Ed piece, Dvorak's article generates lots of talking points and is worth the read.

And now I'm going to get back to packing for my girls weekend away at the beach. I love you, honey. Your Father's Day present is on the dining room table. Don't open it till Sunday, okay?

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