We all know the stories about Daddy the Domestic Doofus. Daddy the Domestic Doofus doesn’t know how to operate anything in the kitchen other than the refrigerator door and the microwave. Daddy the Domestic Doofus is baffled and overwhelmed by the vacuum cleaner. Washing and folding the clothes simply involves too many steps for Daddy the Domestic Doofus. Daddy the Domestic Doofus is too simple for the complexities of diaper changes. (No! No! Don’t even mention cloth, or worse–prefolds! Daddy’s brain gets all fuzzy just thinking about it!) Daddy the Domestic Doofus certainly doesn’t know how to put baby in a simple matching outfit. He may have learned colors in kindergarten and somehow manage to dress himself without looking like a total bonehead every day, but once you add a baby into the equation, all of the basic steps to getting dressed–like making sure your buttons line up–go right out of Daddy’s head.
Silly, stupid Daddy. No wonder Mommy takes care of all the cooking, cleaning and baby-related tasks!
Of course, even though Daddy the Domestic Doofus can’t figure out how to change the sheets on the crib, he didn’t have any problems single-handedly putting it together. And Daddy the Domestic Doofus might be at a total loss how to operate the bouncer or the baby monitor, but he has no problem telling you which of the 10 remotes go to which electronics or deciphering the 500 buttons on his $300 “universal” remote (why do we need the other 9 again?) that looks more like a panel on the bridge of the Enterprise rather than something you’d use to change the channel. Daddy the Domestic Doofus spends 2 minutes awkwardly holding his crying baby before claiming he’s out of his league, but will spend hours staring under the hood of his car with tools and code readers and random parts he’s picked up at AutoZone before he’s willing to admit defeat and take it to the mechanic.
Hey, wait a second…are you saying what I think you’re saying? Are you saying that Daddy isn’t really a doofus or a dummy? That maybe, just maybe, his inability to think critically, solve problems, or even follow basic instructions might be more a selective issue? And that maybe, just maybe, he’s only flunking IQ tests when it comes to basic household chores or baby care because they’re not as fun/manly as tools, cars and electronics?
Believe it or not, the very fact of being a Daddy does not render you incapable of figuring out how to follow a recipe and cook a meal. It doesn’t keep you from being able to wash dishes or clothes or from figuring out how to put them away properly. There is nothing inherent in diaper and clothing changes that makes it so that only Mommies are capable of making them happen. And if he can figure out the mechanics of pretty much every other electronic device in the house, manufacturers don’t spray some sort of Daddy repellant on the baby-related ones that prevent Daddies from coming anywhere near them.
So why do so many people argue that Daddy can’t figure out how to do basic household chores? Why do we make jokes about how certain products or activities are not Daddy-friendly, even though usually they’re no more unpleasant or complicated for Daddy to do than for Mommy? Why does Daddy get out of doing things just because he doesn’t like them, when our entire routine seems to consist of things that aren’t particularly fun for us but we don’t have anyone else to pass the buck to? (I mean, who honestly likes dealing with body fluids and screaming babies?) Why aren’t we holding the Domestic Doofus more accountable? After all, aren’t these his kids, too? Didn’t he willingly participate in the whole, “hey, let’s make a human” thing right along with you?
Why does Mommy always have to be a Domestic Expert, while Daddy routinely gets away with being the Domestic Dimwit?
It’s one thing if you and your partner have decided on an equitable division of labor where the household chores are yours and everything else is his. If that’s the case, though, it’s not that Daddy is incapable of figuring shit out. It’s just that you both have decided that you’re happy to be experts on separate topics, and that while you probably could figure out how to be an expert in your partner’s area, you don’t really want to. But to pretend that men are somehow too dumb to figure out how to do all of the things that women do all the time? It’s insulting to men (even if it’s an insult many of them like to play up), and it’s unfair to moms, because it means moms never get a break, never get help, never get a moment where they’re not the only lifeguard on duty because dad gets to pretend forever that he doesn’t know how to swim even though he demonstrably does.
I just get so sick of reading these comments, jokes, or stories about how inept fathers are when it comes to helping out around the house and especially with their children. There is nothing wrong with men that prevents them from understanding how to operate simple household appliances or following the unbelievably simple instructions required to perform basic domestic tasks. If he were really that incapable, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy or participate in virtually all of the hobbies he has that I guarantee you he will never have to give up because he doesn’t have time or is just too busy chasing down children or because his life has been monopolized by other more important chores like doing laundry, cooking and cleaning for every single person in the house.
Let’s stop insulting men’s intelligence by saying they can’t do this stuff (even if some would prefer the insults to keep coming) and hold them to the expectations they have shown themselves to be worthy of in every other aspect of their lives.
Disclaimer: My husband is awesome around the house, so I really have no complaints. The man cooks, cleans, does laundry, and is excited about being a full participant in his daughter’s every day care. He does all of this without having to be asked or nagged, and he does it all well enough that I never feel the need to go along behind him and “fix” it myself. I know my husband is hardly the only man like this. I’ve seen firsthand what a man is capable of around the house, and I’m sick of seeing women and men alike set the bar for men depressingly low, leaving women with a ridiculously heavy burden of being the only one keeping the house and the kids from falling apart. It doesn’t have to be like this, and if it is happening, it’s certainly not comical.
PS: There are a lot of daddy bloggers out there who further demonstrate the principle that men not only can be equals in the parenting equation, but actually want to be! I think it’s awesome that there are men out there like the guys at 8bitdad and Memoirs of a Single Dad who write about their experiences as fathers and are actually kind of passionate about being seen as just as much a parent, and just as important to parenting, as moms. I don’t think that men like this are particularly rare or hard to find. I just feel like in our cultural narrative about parenting, they are largely ignored in favor of “easier” cliches, and I think in some households, these outmoded stereotypes about dads are allowed to prevail–again, because it’s “easy”–to the detriment of the family as a whole.