I was bemoaning Ted’s fussy eating habits this evening, as I do most evenings, and I commented that I felt like a terrible Mum, as I do most evenings, when my husband’s reply took me by surprise.
Because he was right.
He said, “of course you feel like a terrible Mum – everything we do comes back on you. Everything Ted does comes back on you. Everyone assumes that the parenting is the Mum’s job and that the Mum is either good or bad. There’s no muddling through or doing your best: it’s just right or wrong”.
I have obviously felt judged as a parent many times and in many ways over the past three years (because, let’s face it, they don’t even have to be born yet for us to be judged). And he’s right that the judgements around Ted’s development and behaviour and eating and, y’know, nose-picking and all of those things, are all aimed at me.
Thanks to our glorious history of staying home and staying quiet women are just assumed to be good at this parenting lark. We’re supposed to instinctively know what our offspring need at any given time and how to deliver it. If we don’t then we’re not only failing as mothers but as women.
The only time we’re told we’re good Mums is when we’re crying to our friends that we’re not.
But Dads? My husband was right again.
He said, “everyone expects Dads to be bumbling idiots who don’t really know what they’re doing, so if you’re any more than that you’re suddenly A Good Dad. I change nappies and get up in the night and take them to feed the ducks and usually remember their names, so I get told I’m a brilliant Dad. You do everything else but you don’t get praised for it; you’re just supposed to do it”.
This is not earth-shattering news. There have always been gender biases in expectations of parenting and I suspect there always will be. I’m sure plenty of people have probably commented on the terrible mother / brilliant father dichotomy before, and more eloquently too.
But having it reaffirmed by the Brilliant Dad in this relationship made me shut up and accept him saying I’m a great Mum, just for a little bit, because I feed and change them and get up in the night too.
I just need to work on remembering their names now.