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Smile and nod, by Terrence Shepherd

April 30, 2013

 Thank you to gDad, Terrence, for visiting us on the gDiapers blog. 

Smile and nod

Before I had a baby I thought the hardest part would be the diaper changes, or possibly the feedings, nothing could’ve prepared me for what was to trump my biggest baddest fears … other parents.

From the day I stepped out of that Sierra Vista hospital with Madison I’ve been subject to any one of the following responses by other parents:

1) Where is the mother? (This is the overwhelmingly largest question I’m asked.)

2) You’re taking her out by yourself?

3) Do you need me to hold the baby for you while you do (whatever it is I’m currently attempting to do)?

Even worse than the above three, just yesterday I heard the cringe worthy “GOOD JOB DAD!!” because I had dared to take her out in her push car.  At times it’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel and not leave the house until she is able to drive, or at the very least tote around a female companion to quell the constant stares, questions, and assumptions.

Perhaps the most irritating time was when I was at the airport flying alone with her at approximately the age of 9 months. In a thick creole accent the bag check guy asked “Where’s the mama??” to which I replied “It’s just her and myself this trip”. His reply: “Yeah, likely story”, as if a male is incapable of taking care of a baby.

At first I used to offer an explanation, that my husband and I had adopted her, so there is no “mother,” or rather that I was the one who filled that role, but that became too time consuming. Next I began to just say, “I’m the mother.” which of course opens a whole other line of questions and stares. So now I just smile and nod and leave it at that, it works well for me as people really don’t need to know my life story.

And when I stop to dissect why questions 1, 2, and 3 are so bothersome, aside from the obvious that I have to answer the same question yet again, I can scarcely blame the people asking the question. Nosey-ness is a bad trait, however it’s a trait we as humans are all cursed with, so I cannot hold that against them. It’s that people assume a male can’t put his bumbling aside for a few hours a day in order to take his child out.

There is another layer to the story and one that is not completely lost on me even in my day to day irritations with the outside world.  Stereotypes, however bad they may be, usually have a root in reality and the truth is many men would NOT be good at of taking care of a baby, but then again neither would many women.  The sexism that tells women that they are baby machines and incapable of anything else, is the same sexism that tells men they are laugh-worthy, bumbling idiots and are only good for bringing home the bacon … or in my case, the vegetarian strips.

Moral of the story? Sexism hurts us all. Don’t assume next time you see  a man with a baby and a cart of groceries that the mom is home sick in bed and he is ‘stuck’ with the kids for the afternoon. Maybe he is the caregiver in the family,  or maybe he Is the ONLY family the child has. Before you ask him about his life story or ask (as a complete stranger) to hold his baby so he doesn’t spill his beer all over it, or drop it in front of a moving car, you just enjoy the sight of someone breaking gender stereotypes.

A simple smile will do.


Terrence Shepherd is a New York based blogger and a stay at home dad to a rambunctious 1 year old. You can read more of his adventures in parenting on his blog and on facebook

7 thoughts on “Smile and nod, by Terrence Shepherd”

  1. I love this! My husband is a natural with babies too and I think part of it is that he grew up on a small island, unaware of the fact that men aren’t “supposed to” be good with babies. Great guest post! And your daughter is adorable!

  2. This reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me about when their family goes out for dinner with their adopted son. The waitress always looks to the mom who looks like the child, not the other mom. Sometimes, if the mom who does not look like the child orders the childs meal for him, they look at the other mom as if asking permission.

  3. Awesome post! Happy to say my hubby can do just about everything (except breastfeed) with our boys from the get go and is happy to and great at it.

  4. I have to say that my husband is the bumbling dad. He’s military and has missed most of our girls’ lives. He’s a great dad with the wrestling, cuddling and at home stuff, but I wouldn’t make him take the girls out alone. With that said, I usually don’t think twice about a dad out with his kids alone. I smile, because most of them are laughing, and the children are enjoying themselves. I don’t really notice WHO has the kids, just that they made a high pitched squeal, or a funny comment. I love seeing people out with their kids, regardless of who they are :)

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