Sometimes when I see stay-at-home dads being all competent and relaxed, hoisting their toddlers with one hand while making realistic elephant sounds, I feel a little threatened.
Outwardly, I'm supportive and feminist. Inside, I'm more like Kit De Luca in Pretty Woman when she confronted that hooker for encroaching on her Hollywood Boulevard turf: "Yo, the moms and me, we work Mickey Mouse. We work Elmo. We work Barney. We work all the way down to Dora the Explorer. This is our turf. We got seniority. You better get off our corner."
The number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, partly due to the economy. But rather than bumbling through an awkward shift brought on by circumstances, the stay-at-home dads I know seem to be taking it all in stride. Thriving, even. Seriously, stay-at-home dads, your ability to just ease into the primary caregiver role like it's a job folding sweaters at The Gap is making the rest of us look bad. At least Michael Keaton's Mr. Mom had the courtesy to feed the baby raw chili and overflow the washing machine.
Today's SAHD's make parenting seem too easy and fun. And that's no good for me or my stay-at-home mom job security.
My partner and I have a fairly traditional arrangement. He wins the bread and I butter it, staying home with our 21-month-old daughter. I like it this way. But if I complain about anything -- a missed nap, a melt-down, a chunky bout of car sickness -- instead of sympathy and appreciation, I get wistful jealousy. My man swears up and down he'd switch places with me "in a heartbeat." And that's your fault, stay-at-home dads, what with your cute Baby Bjorn photos on Facebook and your weekday games of tag at the park.
My friend Ian in a recent Facebook photo
House-bound parents are supposed to be cranky, tired, fat and lonely, covered in spit-up and plagued with self doubt -- not hand-crafting wooden toys and starting non-profits in your free time. Play by the rules.
The modern stay-at-home dad's evolution from clueless cartoon to sexy superhero is not the only part of this whole trend that annoys me. I'm bitter that since you're men and not women, you're easier on yourself and each other. How nice that must be for you.
Moms, am I wrong? Take an alpha male out of the boardroom and put him in a parent/toddler class and you will see a parent who is not afraid to take pride in his accomplishments: "Yeah, potty training, I crushed that bitch!" We moms are too busy prefacing every comment, "So I'm sure this is my fault and I'm totally screwing up my kid but..." to ever pat ourselves on the back and relax.
While dudes are generous enough to be self-deprecating about their parenting misfires (see: daddy blogs), they're not nearly as likely as mommies to beat themselves up and shame-spiral.
That's why you never hear about "daddy wars." Stay-at-home dads don't have to judge and disparage other fathers just to make themselves feel better about their choices. They already feel fine. Because they're guys. And that's just not fair.
Plus they don't have to lose the baby weight.
So I say this with the utmost affection and admiration:
Back off, stay-at-home dads.
Originally appeared as a guest post on Dad or Alive.