Why We Shouldn’t Raise the Bar for Dads

I’m an outstanding father. Don’t believe me? I have proof.

Shortly after our second child was born I took our two sons for a walk in their double stroller through our neighborhood and to our local grocery store. We didn’t need groceries. I just wanted to give my wife some much-deserved rest and alone time.

On our way, someone literally stopped their car in the middle of the road to roll down their window and shout at me: “Dad of the year right there!”

And this wasn’t the only person who noticed my awesome dad-ness. People stopped mowing their lawns to give me thumbs up and cheers. I was greeted with ear-to-ear smiles by the cashiers and cutesy, enthusiastic comments by fellow shoppers.

Needless to say, I returned home quite certain I’m the best dad ever.

That evening I told my wife about our awesome grocery store trip. She laughed.

Then she told me about the time someone stopped their car in the middle of the road to shout at her about how she wasn’t loading the kids into their stroller correctly.

And about all the comments from her fellow shoppers about how she has her hands full or how taking care of her kids will wear on her body as she gets older.

And about all of the sideway stares of piercing judgment as she attempts to make it through her day the best she can while two drunken little pirates grope, spit on, and scream at her.

I was appalled. How could anyone treat my wife that way? Don’t they know how hard it is to be a mom? Can’t they see how strong, nurturing, patient, and resilient she is?

But I also thought about how sad it is that the bar is so low for dads that all I have to do is take my kids for a walk and I’m f#&%ing father of the year. It seemed like an outrageous double standard.

We should expect more from dads, right? We should push dads to be better, to pick up the slack, right?

Wrong. Here’s why…

Most of these comments are coming from other parents. And when we pass judgment on someone, it’s really about us, not them.

We’re choosing an interpretation for how we think the world should be, based on our own internal programming, and then trying to force that interpretation on someone else.

Whether we’re mom-shaming or asking dads to raise the bar, we’re really just projecting our own feelings of inadequacy and regret as parents onto others. And by doing so we’re feeding their internal shame monsters, which will then shame other people, and so on.

What if we could break that cycle?

What if we celebrated every parent for making the choice each day to love humanity enough to care for and nurture our next generation, even when they don’t feel like it?

What if we went out of our way to help every parent feel like they’re the parent of the year?

What if we said, “Hey parent, I’m grateful for you and I’ve got your back! You’re doing awesome.”?

Think of the change that would create for parents, for their children, and for all of us.

And do you know who the first parent is that you should cheer? It’s you.

Give yourself permission to feel like a great parent. I promise you that you are.

Just the fact that you’re reading this means you care so much about your children that you spend time and energy thinking about how you could be a better parent. That is awesome. Accept it, own it, live it, and celebrate it with others.

When we feel like great parents, we’re more quick to recognize the greatness in others. And when we project that feeling into the world we start a completely different cycle, one that creates a more beautiful place for all of us.

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