I'm Not A Zoo Exhibit, I'm A Dad
"Americans Love Seeing Swedish Dads Out With Their Kids."
I suppose my first mistake was clicking on the article to begin with, but props to Slate for actually acknowledging that it's something of a problem. What, oh what, is the genesis of this article? Well, apparently when Americans go to Sweden they see Fathers out and about with strollers, watching their kids on the playground and just automatically assume that all those men must by nannies of some kind.
There's so much garbage being written out there about the state of masculinity today on both ends of the political spectrum that it's hard to find anything useful buried under the mountains of shit, so I suppose I should open with the obvious one. I'm not a Nanny. I'm not a baby-sitter. Those are, in fact, my children and yes, I am their father. I'm not some kind of exotic zoo exhibit you can gawk and reading this article honestly made my jaw drop. Do people really think this when they see Dads outside, you know, being parents? And more to the point, do other Dads not take their kids places?
I mean, I get it, to a degree. The logistics of loading up the kids and taking them anywhere is enough to give you pause, but that's not a gender-based issue. (Just ask any Mom who needs groceries.) I had all three of them with in Trader Joe's the other week and one was grumpy because he was 6, the other was grumpy because he had just woken up from a nap and the baby was getting hungry. It was like tight-rope walking over an active volcano in public, but they took turns melting down so we managed. When you need to pick up food so you can eat that night, needs must. You just do what you gotta do.
Same thing with playgrounds. During the summer if I'm off for the day, nine times out of ten we're going to get out of the house and go somewhere. Otherwise kids be climbing the walls and going crazy. If there's one thing I've discovered, it's that letting kids get their yayas out is usually (usually) the key to a better day for everybody concerned.
In short, I do most of these things anyway. I mean, why wouldn't you? I think that's what confuses me the most about this article. Do I live in a country where it doesn't occur to Dads to be out in public by themselves with their kids? You kind of knew it was going to come back around to paid family leave, since we're talking about Sweden, but the article has a point there.
I work a weird job, schedule wise. It's not a Monday-Friday 8-5 kind of a gig- about which I am very thankful- but I suspect that despite this country's backwardness on the issue of paid family leave, that 'traditional' schedule for many jobs probably goes a long way to explaining the paucity of Dads out and bout with their kids. I suspect, but I don't know, that given the opportunity, more Dads would be all too happy to get out and about with the young 'uns.
Pulling out for a second to take a big picture look at things, I'm increasingly convinced that we're living in a weird historical moment- and that's not just because of the current occupant of the White House, either. So many of our institutions and systems are anachronistic and sclerotic in many ways and so I feel like it's only a matter of time before the Monday-Friday 8-5 kind of gig becomes a relic of the past. (I'd also like to say that someday, maybe we'll joined the ranks of civilized countries and mandate some paid family leave, but who the hell am I kidding there?) If and when it does, maybe we'll see more Dads taking advantage of the time and getting out there more. I sure hope so.
I'm fortunate that I have a job that let's me take time with the kids and go places with them. It's sad to me that not every day has the opportunity to do so. But that being said: me lugging my kids around a grocery store and carting them off to a playground isn't some kind of weird cultural phenomenon that should generate clickbait for your website. It's me. Being a parent. Nothing more. If you want to start somewhere with this issue that doesn't involve Congress, how about this: let's normalize Dads being Dads. It'd be nice to go somewhere with the kids and not wonder if people are giving me side-eye and getting all gooey over the fact that I'm parenting my children.