The Dad Effect


Something magical happens when a dad is out in public with his children.  I’m not talking about the lovely one-on-one time, or the relationship building – nope!  I’m talking about how other people respond.  I don’t know what to call it.  I don’t even know that “it” exists for other people besides our family.   All I know is that it’s annoying, frustrating, and irritating – for me, that is.   He loves it.



My turn

Last week the kids and I went to the mall with the Lego store.  The mall is always a tough gig: on this trip we had to go clothes shopping so it was frustrating for everyone.

We did our errands and played at the Lego store and came home.  I was limping, the kids were tired and frazzled, and it was an otherwise normal day.  The people around us were either frustrated by my kids or ignored us – and that was fairly normal too.  So normal that I went about the business of getting our stuff done and not caring what other people thought.

The kids behaved fairly well except at key points in the shops.  Otherwise, they were just being kids.  Our normal.


His turn

During the weekend, my husband took the kids back to that same mall and Lego store – they wanted to spend their yard sale money on crack … oops!  I mean Legos.   This outing ended up being the poster child for gender norms because we swapped parents.

They had fun.  The kids (mostly) behaved – no running away into parking lots, no flopping on the floor in the clothing store or trying to climb the displays.

An older lady at the play area complemented him on how well-behaved his children were.  She told him that she was a former teacher, and he briefly explained 2e and special needs and watched her eyes go wide.  She said he was doing a great job considering all of that!

Later, a few retired military veterans stopped them and complimented my husband on being a good leader for his family.  They chit-chatted for a minute and talked to the kids, then went about their day.


Why does that irritate me?

He came home and told me about his experiences.  I was happy that people were so nice, but I started to get annoyed.  For some reason, he is routinely complimented and applauded for doing the same damn thing I do EVERY SINGLE DAY!

This isn’t the first time this has happened.  The last time they went to Target, some lady stopped and complimented him on being a good dad because he let the kids run circles on the logo (outside on the ground.)  When I let them do that people get irritated that I’m not controlling my kids.

Here’s the thing:  good parenting is good parenting.  Period.  So why is it that moms are expected to be good parents and judged if they fall beneath the social standards, but dads are lauded for just being present?


Why the difference? 

Do dads really need coddling and applauded for doing the job of a parent?  Or is it that moms are ignored, considered “normal” for doing the same job?  I love that people stopped and took the time to tell him these amazing compliments, but I’m ticked that it never happens to me.

If I’m being fair, I have to admit that the children didn’t deserve compliments for their behavior on my trip, because they were bored and annoyed and acting out.  Still, even when we’re out in public and the kids behave perfectly, I’ve never gotten those kinds of compliments.  If anyone says anything at all it’s usually some kind of encouragement or the classic “you’ve got your hands full!”  (why do they always expect me to laugh at that?)


I’m not asking for pats on the back.  No, I’m just frustrated with how our society seems to work in this case.  It’s condescending to have such low expectations for the father, and insulting to have such high expectations for the mother of the same kids.  We’re a team.  We raise our kids together, with the same values, same discipline, and same expectations.   Gender doesn’t matter – but it seems to anyway.


My kids are internalizing this message: that dads deserve kudos for being a parent.  And that really ticks me off!


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