If women live with a sexual double standard, then men live with a parenting one.
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.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory -- a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|