Sunday, November 04, 2007

"what matters to moms"




They started sending me "Parenting" magazine in the mail at some point, probably because they thought I was a doctor with an actual office and a waiting room. While there are a couple of reasons to dislike a magazine like "Parenting," the one that irks me the most is the slogan that encompasses their one-note take on child-rearing: "What Matters to Moms." Moms. I'm sorry, but is this the 1950s? I mean, I know that for better or worse, women still shoulder the majority of the load of childcare duties across the board, but how can you have a magazine entitled "Parenting" and so easily and unabashedly discount the role that dads play? I mean, aside from having little sidebars about forcing dad to limit himself to either college or pro football on TV, not both, so that he might keep an eye on the offspring for an hour or two, thus giving us womenfolk a chance to run out for a pedicure or Midol or some such other female thing.

We are lucky in that at this point, Joe and I really do split the childcare responsibilities 50-50. It didn't always used to be this way, but after what I euphemistically call "a period of growth," we have pretty much settled into an evenly balanced parenting routine, one that even occasionally tips the scales more towards Joe's end, especially during weeks that I have a lot of call or when I am on a more difficult rotation. It's much easier now that one of us is no longer a resident, of course, but I guess I'll just point out the obvious: that I'm very attuned to issues of gender equity in parenting.

One thing that I've noticed in the hospital many, many times is the fact that lots of guys I work with (surgical colleagues, other residents) see the idea of taking care of their kids as anything but automatic. In fact, my pet peeve is the fact that many, many of them refer to the act of taking care of their own children as "babysitting." As in:


MICHELLE
So, what are you doing this weekend?

SURGEON
Oh, I have to babysit for a few hours on Saturday.

MICHELLE
Who are you babysitting?

SURGEON
My kids. My wife has to do something that morning.

MICHELLE
Your own kids? That doesn't count as "babysitting." That's just called "parenting."

SURGEON
Oh, yeah, I guess.

MICHELLE
Don't you think it would be weird if your wife referred to taking care of your kids as "babysitting"?

SURGEON
Yeah. Sad, isn't it?

MICHELLE
Sort of.


Also, could we stop treating it like some freaking miracle when dads are actually involved? This attitude only champions and reinforces ideas that are ridiculously outdated. Like celebrity interviews wherein new moms are asked about the level of their partner's participation in the day-to-day of caring for baby. "He's been great! He changes diapers and everything!" Are we really still living in a world where the fact that a dad actually deigns to change diapers means that he deserves a commemorative plaque? Of course he should change diapers. Are society's expectations really so low?

Anyway.

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