Smile and nod, by Terrence Shepherd
Thank you to gDad, Terrence, for visiting us on the gDiapers blog.
Smile and nod
Before I had a baby I thought the hardest part would be the diaper changes, or possibly the feedings, nothing could’ve prepared me for what was to trump my biggest baddest fears … other parents.
From the day I stepped out of that Sierra Vista hospital with Madison I’ve been subject to any one of the following responses by other parents:
1) Where is the mother? (This is the overwhelmingly largest question I’m asked.)
2) You’re taking her out by yourself?
3) Do you need me to hold the baby for you while you do (whatever it is I’m currently attempting to do)?
Even worse than the above three, just yesterday I heard the cringe worthy “GOOD JOB DAD!!” because I had dared to take her out in her push car. At times it’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel and not leave the house until she is able to drive, or at the very least tote around a female companion to quell the constant stares, questions, and assumptions.
Perhaps the most irritating time was when I was at the airport flying alone with her at approximately the age of 9 months. In a thick creole accent the bag check guy asked “Where’s the mama??” to which I replied “It’s just her and myself this trip”. His reply: “Yeah, likely story”, as if a male is incapable of taking care of a baby.
At first I used to offer an explanation, that my husband and I had adopted her, so there is no “mother,” or rather that I was the one who filled that role, but that became too time consuming. Next I began to just say, “I’m the mother.” which of course opens a whole other line of questions and stares. So now I just smile and nod and leave it at that, it works well for me as people really don’t need to know my life story.
And when I stop to dissect why questions 1, 2, and 3 are so bothersome, aside from the obvious that I have to answer the same question yet again, I can scarcely blame the people asking the question. Nosey-ness is a bad trait, however it’s a trait we as humans are all cursed with, so I cannot hold that against them. It’s that people assume a male can’t put his bumbling aside for a few hours a day in order to take his child out.
There is another layer to the story and one that is not completely lost on me even in my day to day irritations with the outside world. Stereotypes, however bad they may be, usually have a root in reality and the truth is many men would NOT be good at of taking care of a baby, but then again neither would many women. The sexism that tells women that they are baby machines and incapable of anything else, is the same sexism that tells men they are laugh-worthy, bumbling idiots and are only good for bringing home the bacon … or in my case, the vegetarian strips.
Moral of the story? Sexism hurts us all. Don’t assume next time you see a man with a baby and a cart of groceries that the mom is home sick in bed and he is ‘stuck’ with the kids for the afternoon. Maybe he is the caregiver in the family, or maybe he is the ONLY family the child has. Before you ask him about his life story or ask (as a complete stranger) to hold his baby so he doesn’t spill his beer all over it, or drop it in front of a moving car, you just enjoy the sight of someone breaking gender stereotypes.
A simple smile will do.
Terrence Shepherd is a New York based blogger and a stay at home dad to a rambunctious 1 year old. You can read more of his adventures in parenting on his blog and on facebook.