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The Dad Double Standard

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If women live with a sexual double standard, then men live with a parenting one.

mom clutching child

Dr. Wendy Walsh: One day last week, I arranged for my 6-year-old daughter to be picked up from school by a classmate's mother, because I had a work obligation. An hour before the scheduled pickup time, the mother texted me with the news that she was detained at work and that her boyfriend was going to pick up the kids and take them to his place instead. The guy is a single dad himself, but that didn't matter to me: I politely declined.

I have a firm rule that my two girls cannot go on a playdate if only the father is home. It's completely sexist, I know. In my case, though, I have some real-world evidence that makes me leery of men left alone with little girls: Something bad happened to me as a kid, and something questionable also happened once with my older daughter when she was on a playdate. So I have drawn a firm line. In preparation for this article, I surveyed other mothers of girls and asked them if I'm being too paranoid. More mothers than not said they have the same rule I do. The problem is simple: We fear sexual abuse. Bottom line.

The people hurt most by this double standard are the good, moral fathers -- many of whom are raising kids alone. Plenty of men have e-mailed me about this problem. They say that they are excluded from the mom-village altogether. True. Single fathers -- and stay-at-home dads with working wives -- have less of a parenting community. That means fewer people to call when there's a carpool need or medical emergancy -- not to mention the negative impact on their child's social life.

So how can our village extend a warmer welcome to those wonderful fathers who are putting in the hours as involved parents? Unfortunately, we have to make ourselves available for supervised playdates. Last summer, I spent a lovely afternoon at the beach one day with a stay-at-home dad and our two daughters. I packed a picnic lunch and was pleasantly surprised by the diverse subjects of our conversation. (Conversations with other moms on playdates focus mainly on parenting/school stuff. Conversations with a playdate dad, however, span the world.) Of course, as in any interaction with a heterosexual male, flirting boundaries were the order of the day. (They'll ALL go there if you let 'em!)

I think the important thing is for us moms in the village to be aware of various family situations. Not only must we be prepared to pinch-hit for moms who are hospitalized or working extra hours due to the recession, it's high time we support the struggling dads out there, too. I mean, when my ex takes our girls to a sporting event, I shudder to think that they'll be seeing public men's rooms! Wouldn't it be nice if another mom offered to take them into the ladies' room? It's up to us to reach out to the amazing fathers out there who are doing great work. They can't do it with one hand tied behind their backs. It takes a village.


next: Stop Picking on Malia and Sasha's Weight!
19 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenn D February 10, 2010, 7:35 AM

This is absolutely appalling. People like you are the reason my poor husband is so uncomfortable taking our two little girls to the park by himself. Shame on you for being so eager to judge and think the worst of people.

chris February 10, 2010, 8:34 AM

Wow, wasn’t your last blog about not judging? Does that only apply to other women? So many men these days are much more involved in raising their kids and I for one am glad to see it and support them in it. It seems to me that if men aren’t involved than there bad and if they are involved then people question their motives. Kinda like damned if you do and damned if you dont. Make up your mind. I love the fact that my husband is a hands on dad. GO DADS.

Tyler February 10, 2010, 10:27 AM

This article goes beyond being sexist, its just downright insulting. You obviously feel superior to poor, dumb men but think its justified because you admit your thinking is sexist and you call some of the dads “amazing”. Really, all men follow if you lead? Are we nothing but dumb animals who don’t know what to do when a pretty girl bats her eyes? I am truly sorry for the bad experience you and your daughter had, but if I wrote an article about thinking women were unintelligent because I met a few dumb ones I would be torn apart, and rightly so. You’re right, there is a double standard, and you just gave a perfect example of it with this article.

Anonymous February 10, 2010, 10:37 AM

sorry, i agree with the blog. heck, the way the world is now, you can’t send your 13 year old boy to friends house if its only the mother home, with all the women sleeping with their students and kids boyfriends and friends! it’s not just the men anymore. unfortunately its the way the world is now.

Pamala February 10, 2010, 10:41 AM

I have some poor experinces with my own father but you know what, not everyone is my father. I run a playgroup specifically geared towards including the entire family. We had a single dad at one point, and he was run out because of scared mothers. I had to lay down the law, the group is open to all, like it or not. Being paranoid over a man is just plain weird. To think every man is going to molest your child because you had an incident in your life is illogical. It’s no wonder men have such issues such as going out alone with their kids, or taking their children to the bathroom (my husband hates doing this).

Pat February 10, 2010, 11:47 AM

I think the saddest part is the seeming lack of recognition that women can abuse children too, both boys AND girls… I think the underlying assumption that all women are “safe” and all men are potential abusers is false. The more prudent choice for my son and daughter is to evaluate the specific adult involved — man OR woman — using the same criteria for safety: do I know the person and/or do I have reason to doubt their behavior.




samantha February 10, 2010, 12:55 PM

I am sorry to say I agree with the article. I have a son and wouldnt feel comfortable leaving him with a man. I feel its better to be safe than sorry. I am accused on a regular basis by other mothers of being “paranoid” about my ONLY child. But I remain over protective.

tennmom February 10, 2010, 4:02 PM

I was comfortable leaving my 2 daughters with their father (my late-husband),am comfortable leaving them with my current husband (their “dad”), my father, my brother and none of my friends have a problem with any of the above watching their kids, either. Often on a weekend, my Dad will have my daughters & a friend or two at my parents’place while my Mom is running errands, etc. Often is the weekend where one sees my Dad or my husband hauling our girls & friends to get ice cream, go bowling, mini-golf, skating.
My 12 year old daughter’s best friend’s father is a Stay-Home-Dad. The friend’s Mom is a doctor, and it just made better sense for him to stay home after the family adopted 2 children a couple of years ago. I completely trust that man to care for my daughter, his 2 daughters & son overnight when his wife is working the hospital.
Of course they are not strangers to me, but I trust the Dads of all of my daughters’ friends.

deaddrift February 10, 2010, 10:14 PM

This article has bad information on several levels, not least of which is that children — of either sex — who are sexually victimized are overwhelmingly more likely to be attacked by a family member or friend of the family, and NOT a stranger.

Pat has a healthy and mature viewpoint, in my opinion.

lexie February 11, 2010, 7:17 AM

Dr.Wendy you need to go back and do some therapy with yourself. You can not put your abuse issues on others-that is operating out of fear. Fear keeps you in the past.

This article is terrible on so many levels. I have playgroups with dads and have NO problem.I think you need to take a look at yourself and deal with your issues.

DadsNursery February 11, 2010, 8:01 AM

Quote “stay-at-home dads with working wives have less of a parenting community”

So that’s true for all of us is it? I’m a SAHD and take our daughter to playgroup and meet up with the other mums & kids from my wife’s birthing group at least once a week. I’d say I’m part of a very good parenting community. How can you make so many sweeping generalisations about fathers and expect to be taken seriously?

Quote “Of course, as in any interaction with a heterosexual male, flirting boundaries were the order of the day. (They’ll ALL go there if you let ‘em!)”
Give me a break, that’s just insulting.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion but perhaps you should keep these kinds of thoughts to yourself.

SAHD's Wife February 11, 2010, 9:44 AM

Dr. Wendy, I find it shocking to believe you are a doctor of anything, lease of all Clinical Psychology. This is the most appalling, sexist, disgusting article/blog I’ve read in a VERY long time.

When I was about 9, I was at the beach, with a very large group of people, and went swimming (having taken years of lessons and being more than a proficient swimmer). I caught caught up in a riptide, and was nearly drowned. Luckily, I was saved by an alert Dad who was a friend of our family. Since that horrific, terrifying incident, I’ve always had a fear of something similar happening to my children. Now as a mother of three young children… I could make a choice - never let them go in water (including a bath tub) or teach them the skills necessary to live. That’s just what I’ve done… my kids have taken lessons, and learned survival skills.

I’ll be honest with you Wendy - my kids live with a chronic illness that could kill them - at anytime, and I have a choice, I can let them live the life they have, or put them in a bubble. By allowing them to live outside a bubble, I do it knowing that the infection they get could cause a life threatening event. With our doctors help, we’ve taught them the skills necessary to protect themselves, we go over the rules, and why they are important, and we allow them just enough freedom to know we’re there to protect them if they need it. My kids go to REGULAR public school, and fly on planes, go to Disney, and generally LIVE LIFE.

We can’t allow our kids NOT TO LIVE for fear of what might happen if they do.

Living in fear of what could happen is normal, being paralysed by it and making broad generalizations as you have is insane. Your making your girls suffer the long lasting effects of what happened to you, and not bothering to teach them how to deal with these situations. Not to mention making them miss out on what other Dad’s might have to offer.

Now, would I suggest you send them to any house, without knowing the parent - no - but taking the time to know, and trust the parent whose home they will be in, and allowing them to grow and learn to trust their instincts is how they will grow as adults to trust their instincts about others (men or women). I gotta tell you, I was a Stay at Home Mom for 8 years, and not only were there SAHD’s whose houses I would not send my kids to, but their were plenty of SAHM’s homes they also would not go to. You see, it’s all about knowing the person, the environment, and trusting my instinct and what I’ve learned about the family.

My husband and I switched roles a year ago, he is now a Stay At Home Dad, and I’m out working (I had e a GREAT opportunity, and we’ve agreed one of us will always be home). Your daughters would really miss out not coming to our house - he’s taught my kids friends how to paint wood, how to bake bread, he’s spent time teaching them how to use a screwdriver, and how to make s’mores. He volunteers every single day at our kids school, and spends time at group play dates, and alone play dates (even taking the kids to the mall to see a movie), He’s the first person others call when they need help with a pick up, need another hand at a party, or want advice on how to work through a problem.

I’m sorry you had a hard event in your past, but making your daughters suffer isn’t the answer, a little therapy might be in order.

Heather E. Sedlock February 12, 2010, 2:34 AM

Okay, First I read Jay’s response and then I read this article.

I think some of us are being a little harsh on Wendy. She *is* trying to suggest ways to HELP these Dads while maintaining safety That’s a legitimate concern. Did she know this boyfriend that was to pick up her daughter? If not, I’d decline too!

But that goes for women as well, Dr. Wendy. There are NUMEROUS cases of WOMEN molesting children, if not as many as men. You just don’t hear about it in the news. And just because women suffer from sexual double standard, does mean men have to. Two wrongs don’t make a right, isn’t that what we want to also teach our children?

Regardless if the parent is male or female. Safety should be of the upmost concern— I was raised by a single father from age 10 and up. My mom was unable (not unwilling). He was reported to CPS because teacher could not fathom that a male can raise his children without the mom being DEAD first.

I thought we had moved past those times!!

ProudSAHD February 24, 2010, 7:14 PM

Wow. I am quite frankly disgusted by this article.

If I were to say “Well, here’s this sexist prejudice that I have, but ho hum, I see no reason to change” then I’d be ripped to shreds. That’s as it should be; ALL sexism, including the garbage displayed here, ought to be dragged into the light and exposed as disgusting prejudice.

If you genuinely fear sexual abuse, you ought to be far more worried about your family and close family friends than SAHDs, as Family/Close Friends (of BOTH genders!) make up the vast majority of sexual abusers.

Speaking of disgusting sexism, “They’ll ALL go there if you let ‘em!” I’m honestly glad you put that in there; I feel it gives the public a good honest view of exactly how you see men.

Given that you’re a clinical psychologist, how ‘bout you do some homework on how androphobia affects children’s future lives and relationships. You’re setting your daughters up to be negative towards and afraid of men.

You had an opportunity to do some good here, and other than your little “Oh, be nice to the menfolk when they come around, they probably won’t molest your kids if you’re there too!” you copped out to paranoia and prejudice. For shame.

For shame.

anna March 17, 2010, 3:43 PM

You are NOT a psychologist, Ms Walsh, but an intern, and methinks you don’t know what you’re talking about.

josh March 24, 2010, 9:25 AM

This makes me sick…..why is it that women assume all men are going to hit on them or abuse their daughters? What makes you think that? You had some bad experiences with men and for that i am truly sorry but to then judge them all and (whether you know it or not) pass those tendencies on to your children is a great disservice to all. I have had some bad experciences with women would it be then fair to impart to my son that all women are like this? You talk of not judging and extending a helping hand as you turn around and do the exact opposite…i truly feel sorry for you and your children and the relationships that they will not be able to have because of your hang-ups and their soon to be hang-ups…shame on you!

Chris May 22, 2010, 8:01 AM

I completely agree with the good doctor! As a woman that was sexually abused as a child and later raped as an adult, I have some real aversions to letting men watch my daughter alone. My daughter’s father wants nothing to do with her, but I wouldn’t put it past him to harm her in some way just to get at me. Someone here posted that just as many women abuse children (sexually or otherwise) as men and that is completely false! The fact is far more men abuse and rape kids than women! So you know why Wendy and I are so cautious. I agree there are some bad mothers/women out there, but they are far and few. Of course I wouldn’t let just any woman watch my daughter. I’d have to get to know her first. My boyfriend knows about my stance against him or any other men being left alone with my daughter, and he agrees with it. He can still play with her and have fun with her, but it has to be with me or my girlfriend there with them. Since he’s not her biological father, I don’t expect him to be a father to my daughter. As for Wendy’s comment about the dad that was ‘flirting’ with her, I know what she’s talking about. I have guys hitting on me pretty often.

danielle June 23, 2010, 4:22 PM

i am a 30yr old mother of 3. i am married and trust my husband 100%!! but as for other men i dont trust them at all…. i was molested as a child by my uncle and my cousin was also by the same uncle… i am a bail bondsmen and see the worst of the worst and live in constant fear of something happening to not only my 2 girls but my son also!! so my husband and i have a rule that our kids arent allowed with men alone and we are very selective about the places our children go weather its men or women!!

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 2:47 PM

Nice article. Enjoyable and fun reading. I have got a small observation to offer about tee shirts.


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