So it’s two days before Christmas, and I’m out doing some things.
Okay, I know in my last post I wrote about how I’ve basically been a hermit during Christmastime due to the frankly reprehensible traffic situation around my house. But thanks to the sprouts, I still wake up like I’m going to work (meaning 6:00 AM is a good, flopping-around-on-the-bed, waking-up-sideways sleep-in session), so I’m able to leave the house at about 7 AM to go hit the stores.
I have several stops to make: Target (last minute gifts), Academy Sports (last minute gifts), the mall (watch repair), and Kroger (last minute groceries). My wife is working, so the sprouts are up and off with me. We pile in the van and off we go.
Now that sprout #2 is seven months old (Jesus, where does the time go) this routine is becoming about as automatic as showering. Out the door carrying sprout #2 while sprout #1 runs (arms flailing like a scarecrow) to the van. He pulls on the handle while I push the button to open it so it slides open automatically and he turns back to me, beaming, “I DID IT, DADDY!” and I laugh inwardly like a maniac. He climbs into his car seat while I buckle sprout #2 in her car seat, then I run around and buckle him in, then one more time around the car to buckle myself in, and off we go.
When my wife and I take the kids out together, we can tag-team, so there’s no need for fancy tricks or apparati. When you’re flying solo, however, wrangling two rugrats requires some creativity. Usually I opt for the Bjorn, a cleverly-designed sling thingy that lets you carry the baby strapped to your front like some floating kangaroo in black. This leaves my hands free to grab onto sprout #1, though the hours of wearing the Bjorn will probably leave my lower back resembling an accordion by the time I’m 40.
…Anyway, this is how I make my way through the stores of the morning: baby in the Bjorn, sprout #1 either toddling along holding my hand or, if the stop is a long one, riding in the cart or the stroller. From store to store we walk like this, in between stops going back to the van to saddle up and saddle down by means of that whole routine I described above.
It’s important to the point of this post (coming soon, I promise) that my wife runs the exact same play from the exact same playbook when she’s flying solo with the kids, which she does way more often than I do by virtue of staying home with the kids most days I’m at work. It’s also important that neither of us thinks much of the intricacy or repetitiveness of this routine because it is, ultimately, so routine.
SO. I’ve made my stops and I’m in the Kroger (last stop) with baby strapped to my chest and sprout #1 kicking his legs merrily in the shopping cart (somehow I always forget his uncanny ability to aim for my junk with his tiny toddler toes), and this mother/daughter pair asks me quite out of nowhere how I made out at the Academy Sports.
This throws me for a second because it’s a little bit stalkerish, and as I’m faltering, the mom says, “no, we just recognized you because of your kids. You’re like a Super Dad! They look like they’re having so much fun!” And I smile and self-deprecate as is my wont and go on my way, with the mother and daughter awwing at my kids.
This says nothing of all the people that smile and point and wave at my kids when I’m in more crowded places (like the mall). I get impressed nods and comments like, “you go, Dad!” (Yeah, somebody actually said that to me.) In short, basically nothing but positive feedback from total strangers I encountered.
Here’s the point of these encounters: I went home and told my wife about them and she got this annoyed look on her face. Like the look she has when I forget to take the trash out, or when I correct her on her grammar when she’s speaking. (I know the consequences of these things, but I can’t help myself sometimes.) Apparently, when she’s out in public wrangling the sprouts around, she gets virtually no feedback at all, aside from perhaps a sympathetic look from other women or a “looks like you have your hands full!” She gets no “Super Mom” comments, no “you go, Mom”s, no winks, no nods, no thumbs-ups.
And this is gender bias, right?
I’m wading into murky waters for Pavorisms. I’m not an activist, I rarely get political, and let’s face it, I’m about as much an agent for social change as I am an agent of MIB. Which is to say, I like to pretend to fight aliens now and then, and you probably wouldn’t remember an encounter with me, but only because I’m incredibly lame and not because I wield a neuralyzer. (As far as you know.)
But, that aside, I’m a feminist. At least, I’m an armchair feminist. I think that speech that Emma Watson gave at the UN a few months back was cracking good. And I realize that women have a harder go of it in our country (and, yeah, in most places in the world) just by dint of being women, and that’s pretty fargoed. I see the videos of women walking the streets of big cities and getting catcalled and it makes me feel a bit ashamed of my fellow men. I cringe at the anti-feminist movements and the “not all men” nonsense. Look, I’m not here to get into what makes you a feminist or not: for me, if you recognize that women have a harder road ahead of them in this world than men do, and you think that’s messed up, you’re a feminist.
So, back to my point. This is gender bias, right? My wife and I, both wrangling two kids, both probably looking a little haggard (because WE ARE), but I get grins and kudos and backslaps of encouragement while my wife just gets sympathetic looks or, much more often, simply ignored.
Think about it this way: I hardly ever see butterflies, so when I see one, it’s kind of a big deal, right? “Ooh, butterfly, pretty colors, big wings, far out.” What I see a crap-ton of, on the other hand, are squirrels. Like, so many, it would be weird if I even mentioned seeing one, because the odd day would be one in which I didn’t see a squirrel. But say you’re from some other country that’s lousy with butterflies but has never heard of squirrels, and here I am taking for granted these furry little miracles of nature and losing my sharknado over these boring insects with the colors and the wings.
Because that’s what we expect, isn’t it? We expect to see moms out with the kids. We’re programmed to see that, and to see it as normal, whether a dad is there with her or not. So it becomes normal, even though it’s anything but. Taking the two kids out in public by your lonesome is hard work. We’re not programmed to see it as much with guys, so a guy out with two kids dragging him around — even if the mom is there with him — garners more attention, garners more appreciation, garners more praise.
And that’s messed up. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate getting appreciated for my efforts with the kids, not least of which because 99% of the time, parenting is the freaking definition of a thankless endeavor. But for all I do with the kids — especially when it comes to carrying them around in public — I’m not a patch on my wife. She does it more often than I do, she does it more efficiently than I do, and she does it with about half as much frustration as I do (GOD those kneebiters can wear me thin in a hurry when I’m flying solo). And she doesn’t get nearly as much positive feedback for it as I do, IF ANY.
My point is this. If you’re the kind of person who would see a guy like me, with a baby strapped to his chest and a toddler riding in the grocery cart kicking him in the nuts, and consider that guy a “Super Dad” or say something encouraging to him or even just smile and shake your head sympathetically at him, by all means, do that stuff, because we appreciate the attention. But if you’re that kind of person, there’s no reason not to do the same thing for a woman with her kids in the same circumstances… in fact, and maybe this is just my own personal bias shining through, but I’m sticking to it; she probably needs it more. It’s not her fault you don’t notice her like you notice me.
Give the moms some love.