New York City, NY

Dads Are Also Parents in a Pandemic

Modern Parent

Bear with me on this one.

It’s 8 AM. I’m a father of 2 small children, sitting in the bathroom taking a 3 minute sanity break because I do the overnight (childcare) shift. I had about 4 hours of sleep. Both children are vocally upset about their breakfast selection. My wife is taking a well-deserved shower.

As per (what is left of the tatters of) my morning routine, I open the NYT. “How women are bearing the brunt of the pandemic”, read the headline.

Last week it was “An American mother, on the brink”. The week before it was “America’s mothers are in crisis”. Before that, it was “This isn’t burnout, its betrayal: how Moms can push back”.

I cannot describe how much this relentless drumbeat of moms moms moms during the pandemic pisses me off. Not because moms don’t deserve attention. Of course they do. But because it puts parenting back 50 years and hurts both moms and dads.

Since when did the media, even the supposedly progressive New York Times, divine that raising children is once again the sole preserve of women? It’s not just the NYT. Media coverage on COVID and parenting is overwhelmingly written about women (and by female authors). It’s like the editors say “let’s do another parenting story — find me a woman to write about women”. It’s like self-perpetuating patriarchy.

To be clear, I 100% agree with these articles: that the disproportionate burden of COVID has fallen on mothers. Hell, I see that every day in my own house. But disproportionate does not mean total. Unless you’re a complete misogynist or man-child, dads are picking up anywhere from maybe 20–50% of the additional parenting burden (sometimes more for stay-at-home dads); and the same proportion of the life exploding COVID disaster.

Yet to our employers and the media, you’d think it was 1952: they imagine that for men, parenting seems to account for precisely 0% of our lives. We are largely expected to carry on as if nothing is wrong.

This is such crap. Fathers across the nation are having to step up alongside their partners, but are getting little to no recognition or understanding from employers or society. This is hurting women, as well as men.

To wit:

One of my dad friends, trying to explain their reduced work capacity due to 3 kids at home with no school or childcare, was asked why his wife couldn’t take care of it.

My (pretty enlightened) employer ran a session to build an understanding of how COVID was impacting parents: the panel was composed entirely of women.

This isn't about credit. Or recognition. It’s a huge WTF to the way our society seems to still think that parenting is women’s work.

Both parents lose from this approach. Women lose because expectations are placed on them to do all the parenting. Men lose because they are rendered invisible parents: whose employers cut them zero slack and behave as if their kids don't exist (or at least if they do it’s a matter for their wife) and society at large, obsessing over mothers, seems unable to recognize the fact that dads parent too, perpetuating this destructive narrative.

What the hell is going on?

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