What exactly is it about parenting discussions that make people abandon their brain-to-mouth filter?
In my eight years as a mum, I have noted that everyday sexism doesn’t seem to get called out when it comes to parenthood. Men and women, who would normally balk at saying anything remotely resembling gender-stereotyping, suddenly come out with sexist gems that sound like something from 1955.
Here are four (undeniably) sexist parenting comments that I’m absolutely sick of hearing:
1. “Who’s babysitting the kids? Himself?”
I have been asked this question more times than I care to even remember and I dole out the same line every single time; their father is PARENTING right now. He is not babysitting because they are HIS children. Think about it; has anyone ever asked your husband “who’s babysitting the kids?” when he’s on a night out with the boys? Nope. I honestly don’t care if I sound like an angry, bra-burning, feminazi. I can’t let it slide. The sullen transition year student from down the road who begrudgingly takes a tenner an hour is a babysitter. Dads are at home with the children that they had great craic co-creating.
2. “You don’t look like you’ve got kids!”
Ah, the King of back-handed compliments. On one hand, you really, really, want to take the best meaning of this and feel flattered. On the other hand, this is only ever said to women – never to men – and also implies that there is a certain ‘look’ that mothers have. In reality, this ‘compliment’ tells us that we should avoid looking like we’ve produced children; that motherhood and post-baby bodies are not a good look. I beg to differ. My socially-awkward response? “Why? What does a woman who has had kids look like?”
3. “It’s just not the same as having a mum at home”
Whether this is directed at working parents who have their children in creche or childcare, or at a stay-at-home-dad, the underlying meaning is the same; kids can only thrive when they spend their days with their mothers. Modern life means that for many of us, this isn’t possible – for a wide variety of reasons – and this comment only serves to cement society’s belief that dads just can’t measure up in the parenting stakes. Nevermind the fact that it completely nullifies same-sex mums and dads as parents. Grrrrr.
Let’s stop reinforcing these harmful messages about gendered parenting; it’s not helpful to children, women or men.