Monday, February 23, 2015

"Why don’t dads complain about parenthood like moms do?"

Samantha Rodman asks the question:

It seems like women are being publicly applauded for complaining about parenthood. And dads, well, aren’t...

One thing I have noticed as a clinical psychologist in private practice is that men are increasingly less able to voice negative feelings about parenting, even ones that are entirely understandable. Imagine being at a play date and hearing someone say, “God, I needed a drink all day today. The kids were behaving terribly, I couldn’t deal.” You’re picturing a mom, right?

However, what if the speaker is a dad? The question is moot because I have yet to hear a dad complain this openly and honestly about his kids, and this is not for lack of trying. Dads don’t even take the conversational bait. If asked to commiserate about parenting, the average mom breathes a sigh of relief and sits forward in her seat, but the average dad looks around like he’s on Candid Camera and gives a vague answer about having lots of fun sitting around watching dance class through a two way mirror for the 15th week in a row. . . .

My male clients in therapy, one of the few places where people are free to speak openly, often tell me how stressed they feel. They feel pressure to support their families (with or without the financial contribution of their wives), they have limited time for social or leisure activities outside work and family play dates, and they are expected to be verbally and emotionally open and engaged with their wives in a way that was never required of men in previous generations. They also often have less-than-fulfilling sex lives. (Sadly, research contemporaneous with the confessional mommy movement indicates that women in long term relationships lose interest in sex more easily than their male partners [NYT link]; this is another topic upon which many women today expound with abandon.)

As the icing on the cake for the fathers in today’s families, they are expected to do half the childcare, while being criticized for how they do it. Further, society appears to dictate that men should never complain about the same tedium and exhaustion that women experience for fear of being considered a throwback, Don Draper-like, uninvolved dad. Yet, he must support his wife in her public admissions of her yelling too much, not paying attention to the kids, playing on her phone while parenting, and even being a pothead.

Note: I am not judging any of these behaviors. I’m saying this: Tell me what the reaction would be if a dad talked about yelling too much and smoking pot in front of his kids.