Should Men Be Receiving Praise For Basic Parenting Skills?

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Seven days after having my first child, I visited the salon for some much-needed hair therapy. And since I couldn’t drive, my mom (and exclusively breastfed baby) accompanied me. During a conversation between my hairstylist, a few of her clients, and my mom about parenting, my mother said, “Her husband is so good with the baby.”

Of course, I smiled since that was the only appropriate thing to do. Still, I didn’t understand why my husband, who had become a first-time parent like myself seven days before, needed that recognition. He should be “good” with her since she’s his child.

Although I initially thought that my husband had been doing a great job, and still think he does a great job with our daughter, it never occurred to me to give praise for parenting skills that are expected.

Recently, there have been a few viral videos of men bonding with their daughters. Whether they’re providing positive reinforcement or participating in a dancing duo, these cute videos have received much admiration and attention.

There were also a few Super Bowl commercials that showed NFL players styling their daughters’ hair. And recently, a video of a girl encouraging her father while he styles her hair made it around the web.

As I watched a few of the videos and could agree that they were very cute, I wondered why such content seemed to be adored. After reading a few social media comments, and the comment of the person who originally shared the video, it’s clear that there are several views on why these videos are so popular, and so important.

For one, people love positive images of present fathers. This is especially true when it comes to ones that display a Black father with their black child. While I love reinforcing the presence of our Black men in their family unit, we don’t really need viral videos to know there are Black men taking on major responsibility in the lives of their children. According to The New York Times, a 2013 Centers for Disease Control report revealed that Black men were the most involved in their children’s daily lives than any other group of fathers.

People also love such images because they show dads at work. However, the parenting skills that I never thought should be celebrated were basic ones that are often lauded:  the ability to change diapers, give baths, or even take a child to his or her doctor’s appointment. While men are receiving acclaim for “helping” out with their child, women seldom receive the same accolades. It’s deemed our responsibility. Because of old-school gender roles, it’s natural and expected that a woman has no choice but to be the primary caretaker for her child, and be a damn good one.

Long before I ever got married, I assumed that my husband would be heavily involved in child rearing. So when I receive a compliment on how fortunate I am to have a husband who helps out with our child, I simply say, “Thank you” but think, It’s his child, too. I also assume that the role of the father has evolved significantly over generations.

Again, I am grateful. I do have a husband who is great with our child and recognize that he might do more than some fathers. I’m all for expressing admiration for a father applying a new skill to rearing his child that is completely foreign to him. For example, adequately styling his daughter’s hair, as a few viral videos have displayed, is worthy of applause. This is an area in which most men have no concept, and once they learn and conquer it, it is commendable.

But when it comes to parenting, both parties should be praised for any work that they do. Instead of the outside world lauding a man for holding down the basics, both parents should find ways to show their gratitude for the work they’re both doing in the life of their child. For instance, within the first few months after waking up in the middle of the night to feed or change my daughter’s diaper, I returned to bed and would often hear my husband say, “Thank you.” I initially didn’t understand why he said it and just knew that my actions were something that had to be done, but I really appreciated it. Now, that simple phrase shows the appreciation that we both have for each other and it makes for a healthier parenting journey.

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