A large number of people approach my husband when he is out with mini Gwinn to tell him he’s a great father. And he is, there’s no question about it. He interacts with him at the playground rather than sitting on a bench with his phone out. He talks to him at the store. He verbally guides him down slides and through store aisles. He praises our son for being obedient and polite, brave and adventurous. It doesn’t hurt that our oldest son is the spitting image of my husband, either. That seems to give strangers the spring board conversational intro to talking to Captain Laser Pants. From what he tells me, he usually chuckles off the string of compliments (“your son is gorgeous, he looks just like you,” “you’re such a wonderful father”) and goes about his business.
But… I do all those things with my son, too. And no one, with the exception of my mom, had ever said, “You’re such a great mother.”
Why is that?
Society has expectations for parents. Sitcoms tell us dads are lazy and negligent, moms are crabby and overbearing. If a dad is present with his children, that’s good enough, and if he talks to his children, he gets a Nobel Peace Prize. But moms? We have expectations too. We’re expected to know where every miniscule piece of a Lego set is, at any time, even if strewn across the house. We’re expected to meticulously prepare lunches, lay out clothes, come up with ingenious crafts and activities, and 100 other things through the day. But rarely, if ever, are we told we’re being exceptional for doing any of it. Our efforts are usually unacknowledged entirely.
My husband is a great father. No doubt about it. I’m blessed to have him. But I’ve never once had a stranger, let alone several, approach me to tell me I’m a great mom.
I’m going to keep playing pretend with my boys at the park. And making great lunches and science projects and fun art crafts. And taking care of their laundry and doctors appointments. Not for the acknowledgement of strangers, but for the benefit of my fantastic kids. But if someone ever does say something akin to what others tell my husband, I’ll beam just a little bit with pride.