It may be all fun and jokes, but dad bashing can impact how your home is run and the way your kids see their parents.
Moms, we like to vent.
Except we tend to vent about our spouses.
We rant on online forums and social media about dads glued to the computer with the baby propped on his lap. Or we harp on dads for messing up your 4-month-old’s nap schedule again. Even parenting books with “Just for Dads” sections assume moms do all the reading and dads aren’t involved.
And we may have good reason to vent. Maybe your partner does need to pitch in more with child care and household duties. You could be the only one researching, scheduling, cooking, and feeding. Your comments may even be said with good intentions or humor.
Why dad bashing needs to stop
But dad bashing and these stereotypes do little to resolve the issues we’re venting or laughing about to begin with. While commiserating with other moms who can relate can feel good in the moment, staying stuck in this mindset doesn’t help the situation.
It can cut deep ties, thread by thread, disguised as humor or exasperation. If you constantly joke about Dad’s shortcomings, think twice before developing that habit. Here are three major reasons why:
1. Dad bashing undermines dads
The more we laugh or vent about the dads, the less opportunity we’re giving them to step up to the plate. Denying dads their duties undermines their abilities and forces us to take them on when we’d rather that they do.
We already assume they can’t handle tasks, or that we’re the only ones who can do them correctly. Refilling the fridge and labeling every container before heading out of the house sends the message that he can’t feed the kids on his own.
Venting and eye rolling also discourage dads from pitching in. Let’s say you want him to be the one to change the baby’s diapers. Expecting him to do it exactly as you do with no leeway makes him want to avoid it in the future.
The same is true with re-doing what he had done according to your standards. You may load the dishwasher a certain way, and for good reason. Perhaps your arrangement packs in the most dishes efficiently.
But don’t re-arrange the dishes because he didn’t load them the way you did. He’ll likely notice and get a clear message of what you thought.
Every one of us can’t be efficient if not given the opportunity—and the space to make mistakes—to try.
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2. You’re not working as a team
Dad bashing also prevents parents from working as a team. Parenting becomes a divide between the two key people who ought to work as a unit. We might even “keep score” of who did what and bristle when we feel like we’re doing more than the other.
And for each complaint and task that we make fun of dads for, the same could be said about us moms. You may not install the car seats, take out the trash, or even make the bed, and that’s okay. But by bashing dads and joking about their inabilities, we forget that we need to work together.
3. Dad looks bad to the kids
Imagine the message we’re sending our kids about their dads with each joke and eye roll. Whether said with humor or not, finding fault in front of your kids makes Dad look bad. You don’t want them to assume that dad can’t handle the household without mom around, or that he’s simply the babysitter.
Kids should see dad as equally competent as mom and carry equal weight and authority. Complaining about how dad never goes to appointments or isn’t interested in school projects doesn’t help anyone.
What to do instead
Occasional venting is okay—the last thing you need is to bottle up your frustration because you don’t think it’s okay to express your feelings.
But chronic venting and complaining prevent you from doing anything about the problem. Give yourself a few minutes to feel what you feel, then get right down to work. Here are three ways to turn dad bashing into constructive change:
1. Stop with the jokes
Whether online, with your friends, or in front of your kids, watch what you say about your partner. Never insult him in front of your kids—imagine if he did that with you.
If you’re venting, make it a constructive conversation with a friend, such as asking for ideas on how to get him more involved. Make online mom forums a place to look for suggestions, not another way to laugh about him behind his back.
We all get frustrated and need to vent, but don’t make it a habit, especially one that doesn’t help you solve the problem.
Learn the top 7 qualities of a good father and husband.
Avoid heaving heavy sighs, hoping Dad can get the hint. He won’t (now he just knows you’re mad about something). Instead, discuss your concerns, with no defenses or accusations.
Keep your conversation focused on how you feel and how he could help. Admit your mistakes, such as micromanaging or not communicating early enough. Then, be open to suggestions he may have as well, like not jumping up each time a task comes up.
(How often have you assumed you’d be the one to do a task without asking him whether he’d be interested or available?)
And the best time to have this conversation? When you’re both in a good mood (not when you need something in the moment). You’re more likely to talk and see each other’s perspectives when you’re calm.
3. Don’t disrespect
That’s your partner, your children’s father. You can share your feelings, but avoid saying things so terrible about him that you couldn’t say them to his face.
Don’t assume he can’t do the simplest things (hint: he can, but he may need time and the chance to do them). Remember that he’ll make mistakes as he learns, just as you did. And communicate with the respect you would want to receive.
Sometimes, there’s a good reason that moms vent about dads. But doing so undermines dads and doesn’t allow us to work as a team. Dad bashing also sends kids the message that one parent isn’t as “good” as the other.
Instead, replace dad bashing with actively seeking solutions, rather than a simple vent session. Hold honest conversations about both your needs and, above all, don’t disrespect him, no matter how frustrating.
And I get it: Hands-on fathers and being a great dad can still be a novelty. When only 32% of fathers from dual-income households are performing the same as moms, we have work to do. We need to bump that number higher, where all dads are just as involved with the kids as moms.
And one of the best places to start is to stop the dad bashing.
Get more tips:
- 8 Effective Ways to Involve Dads in the Household
- Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds
- 6 Surprising Ways to Balance Work and Family
- Dads Are Co-Parents, Not Babysitters
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
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Thanks for sharing this. I hate the way dads are portrayed sometimes, especially in the media.
You’re welcome, Sheryl. I agree!
Great article. As a soon to be first time dad, it’s nice to know there’s people out there sticking up for us!
Right on, Kyle! Congrats on your first born. It’ll be a great adventure, and yes, we need to co-parent alongside dads, not beat em down 🙂
Da Pope says
A-freaking-men. I’m giving you a standing ovation at my desk. (It’s a stand-up desk, but you still deserve the standing O.) I am new dad and I am VERY much a part of my daughter’s life. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I couldn’t have it any other way. For my daughter, I have taken a hard look at how women are treated in society and have even gone so far as to change the way I speak: all the third-party pronouns that come out of this mouth are feminine. (When the gender isn’t known.) Just like her mom, I want to make sure that she is given every opportunity in life. I never want to hear her say that she can’t do something because she’s a girl. And for the most part, the friends and family that have had babies near me all have the same outlook to parenting.
Gone are the days when women were expected to stay home with the kids while dad’s out making the money, and good riddance to them. My partner is not my servant, she’s my equal. The parenting paradigm shift that has happened over the last couple decades caused a re-balancing of “fairness” and “power,” and rightly so; however, I think the pendulum has swung too far – in some areas – and men are taking the heat because of it. Someone else commented on how men are portrayed in media and I think that is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. My mom was actually the one who pointed this out to me. If you watch a family show these days you’re almost always going to see a dad who acts like more of a child than the kids, but the mother – who is on the continuum between normal and certified genius – puts up with his crap. She tolerates him. That’s a great message to send kids. Yeah, you know that guy who would give his life to keep you safe? He’s an idiot who can’t be trusted with the most menial of tasks and is guaranteed to screw up. Because – and I’ll bet you’ll never believe this – we DO screw up! Everyone does! But now, when I screw up, I get that infuriating look from all the women around that says, “Well, we were only humoring you anyway. We knew you couldn’t really do it right.”
We all know the shows we’re watching are for entertainment and the people are portraying a caricature of a role, but that stuff will eventually sink in and our subconscious will run away with it.
Don’t believe me?
There was a commercial a while back about a woman who was making fun of her husband and they cut to him and he’s literally stuck in the shades. When they cut back to her she’s smiling and shaking her head… with that look. That look. It’s everywhere now. I’ve seen a guy who has a degree in law get that look.
Sorry, I’m rambling now, but hopefully you all understand my meaning. Thanks for writing this article! I love your blog! It’s helped me change who I am to make this world a little easier for my little one and for my love, my teammate, my everything: my wife.
Nina Garcia says
I LOVE your comment and no it’s not rambling, it’s exactly the kind of conversation I have with folks about this issue. The more we enable the idea of dads as the ‘fun guy’ or the guy who messes up and can’t figure anything out, then the more this stigma sticks around.
Or how about the dad who doesn’t even know where the pediatrician’s office is, or the mom who assumes she’s the one who has to keep track of all the school assignments?
It goes back to both sides: men need to step up (and are increasingly doing so these days), and women need to let them. This means no making fun, no re-doing the ‘mistakes’ they did, no taking over when dad is struggling (how else do we learn but through struggle?).
Thanks so much for chiming in, and for reading the blog! Way to go dad! Your daughter will appreciate it.