When Fathers Get Fanfare, And Mothers Get Nothing
Written by Eirinie Carson
Photography by Photo by Evgenij Yulkin
Every day I walk with my baby. She is 8 weeks old, very teeny, very cute. I put her in the carrier and we walk around as I do my errands. Sometimes someone will say something, ask how old she is, but mostly we are left alone.
My husband also walks our baby. He puts her in the carrier and walks around to a smattering of applause at all times.
When I go out without my baby, people I know stop me, they gasp breathlessly, Where is the baby? What have you done with her? As if there isn’t another parent, as if I am the only one responsible.
When my husband goes out, people may ask about the baby, casually, pat him on the back for successfully procreating, but for the most part he is appreciated as a full human.
I resent this. I resent it all. Why is it that, if I am out alone, sans child, and I say that my husband is the one with the baby, people say things like “Good for him” or “Wow, it wasn’t like that when I had kids” or “Oh my god, you got a good one there.” Because yes, yes they’re right, it is good. It is notable. But only in the context of the incredibly low fucking bar we have set for men who become parents. Am I glad I have a husband who sees our relationship as an equal partnership? Yes. Do I think he should be applauded for this “progressive” thinking? No.
My mum was a single parent. When I was 5 she had my brother, and then she was a single parent to two. My dad was never very present and so I grew up with a mum who was trying to do everything, be everyone, be everywhere, and a dad who was so absent that it manifested in me, a gaping hole I spent many years trying to fill. Perhaps because of this I should be grateful, should be standing up screaming “Bravo!” at my husband at the top of my lungs. But really, my husband is doing all the things that, even as a child, I knew a father should be doing.
And let’s talk about my mum real quick. Because she, like many single parents, pulled double duty so hard that she had nothing left over for herself. Because every ounce of strength, energy, love, and time she had went into my brother and I. And yet no one congratulated her or shook her hand firmly and said “It wasn’t like that when I had kids.” No one commended her work ethic, her ability to both feed and nurture us. No. It was a given that this was her work, if she didn’t like it, she shouldn’t have had kids, or at least shouldn’t have had kids with someone who couldn’t stick around.
This is messed up, this notion that it is a woman’s work to raise children. That all a father needs to do is the school run once in a while, maybe treat everyone to dinner, maybe do a lackluster story at bedtime without the voices (my mum always did the voices). Nah, mate. They don’t get to just swan in and do the fun shit; avoid all those nights of bath turds, all those very public tantrums, all those teary nightmares, all those booger eating, pants peeing, endless repeating, nice-furniture-you-bought-before-having-kids-destroying parent duties. Surely parenthood is about all of it, all of the fun and all of the terrible, all of the support and all of the madness.
In some ways, my marriage is quite old fashioned, at least on the surface. My husband earns more than me, and so yes, I think it fair that I run the household, make sure the groceries are in and the house is clean (ish). That is a fair trade-off for him paying the mortgage, balancing the cheque book (honestly, is this even a thing people still do? Maybe I should ask my husband), paying the taxes. But him being the breadwinner is not enough for him to phone in on parenting duties, that is something he agreed to be a part of when we decided to have children in the first place.
And to all those strangers in the street who love to ask, I am grateful for him! I am grateful in the way I imagine he is grateful for me. Life would be harder if we had a partner who didn’t see parenthood as a 50:50 split. We tell each other “I appreciate you” a lot. I am appreciative that he is so present and helpful and considerate, but I am not breathlessly grateful.
Of course, I reckon I still do more parenting than him. Even with an incredibly sensitive tuned-in husband, the balance is a little off. Because that is what his generation, whether they knew it or not, were trained to expect. This was the example set for them.
And this is also why it is so important to show our children that gender does not determine the parental output. That my genitals do not determine my job role. I am a mother because I choose to be, because I chose to be long before either of them were even created. My mother showed me that a woman could shoulder more than the world thought possible, and that a partner, if it was to be there, must be an equal bearer of the load.
So next time you see my man out with our kids and feel the urge to give him a standing ovation, take a second. He’s doing exactly what I’m doing, only penis-ier.
Writer, model, and mother of two Eirinie Carson has previously written about her blissful, medicated birth story, being pregnant during a pandemic, and shared her relatable take on motherhood and pregnancy in our short-film project Mother Each Other (directed by Vanessa Mona Hellmann). You can find more of her writing over on her website.
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