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Because of DadMom: Troubling Messages in Ads About Parenting

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I am unabashedly obsessed with the Olympics. Winter or Summer, it doesn't matter. I love watching people achieve their dreams, compete for their countries and do their parents, always featured in NBC's heart-wrenching human interest stories, proud. The summer after the girls were born, I watched a lot of the London Summer Games pinned to a couch under sleeping or eating babies. This year, my only couch time is after those babies are in bed, but I've been watching quite a bit of the evening coverage as well.

One thing that stands out about the Olympics are the ads. Pretty much every spot you see that isn't for a car or truck features an Olympian of some kind. Proctor and Gamble have been running a series of ads called "Because of Mom" in which athletes thank their mothers for helping them achieve their Olympic dreams. I have no real beef with people celebrating their mothers or motherhood. Motherhood is great! It's just that... you bet your sweet bippy that if my girls ever make it to the Olympics (I'm thinking two-man bobsled, maybe?), they'll have their dad to thank as much as their mom. Because they are blessed to have an amazing dad, and I am blessed to have an amazing co-parent. My husband and I are both blessed with amazing and involved dads, too.

I mean, it's really no wonder I grew up to marry a man who turns out to be an amazing dad, because involved parenting is just what I expected based on what I grew up with. My dad, a doctor, but also a scientist, came into my science classes with a little red wagon full of props and gave talks worthy of Bill Nye. He worked odd shifts, so he drove a lot of carpools. He created elaborate treasure hunts for us with riddle clues. He got me into nerdy stuff like "Star Trek" and the Civilization computer games. He got me through high school math and science, both of which were hard for me, with intense, one-on-one homework help, complete with antics like "the ribosome dance," which I will never forget, ever.

I'm willing to bet at least a few Olympians had dads like my dad and my husband. Unfortunately, P&G isn't talking about them. I say unfortunately, because kids need to see normal, everyday people as role models -- how can people who may not have amazing dads in their lives grow up to be or expect to co-parent with amazing dads if we don't see dads being normal and amazing in our lives?

I do want to shout out a company getting it right. I loved this Frosted Flakes ad featuring one of our women ski jumpers (first year in the Olympics for their sport after decades of fighting for equality!), Sarah Hendrickson and her dad. Sarah clearly has a dad like mine. They even have the same taste in names for their daughters!

Meanwhile, if you go looking for a P&G ad featuring a dad, you'll find this, from Tide. DADMOM? REALLY? A dad who stays home with the kids and takes care of the house isn't Mr. Mom. He's not a dadmom. He's just a dad. He's parenting. He's caretaking. He's not stepping outside his gender or being anything less than a man -- a man who has and cares for a family. It's like when I hear people say a dad is babysitting his own children. Nope. That's parenting, folks. People of all gender identities and expressions can do it.

P&G claims to be a "proud sponsor of moms." Well, sponsors usually pay people, rather than expecting to be paid, P&G. And I'm not buying the gendered view of parenthood that you're selling. (I have similar issues with their vision of disability.)

While on the one hand, I love that they're running ads featuring athletes with disabilities that showcase them as athletes, using the same visual style and soundtrack as the able-bodied athletes, they lost me at the final tagline. I'm not one of the world's toughest moms just because my daughter has a disability. As I said on Twitter when I first saw the ad, I think most people are as tough as their circumstances require them to be. We all rise to the occasion. If you "don't know how I do it," it's just because it hasn't been required of you (yet). Just as it doesn't take a special person to love someone with special needs (because they are no more inherently easy or difficult to love than any other person), it doesn't take a tough parent to parent a child with a disability. Because you just parent them, because they're your child.

If someday my Claire is a Paralympian, she'll be thanking both of her parents. And she certainly won't be calling us any tougher than anyone else.

2014-02-24-photo.jpg

My girls in their preschool Olympics onesies.

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