As I write this, it is 6 a.m. in the small apartment we’re renting in the inner west suburbs of Sydney, Australia, and Pete is making the girls some bacon and eggs while I putter around on my laptop. Last night, I ran to the grocery while he made dinner and put the girls to bed; the other day, I did laundry while he cleaned the kitchen. There was no discussion or delegation; we each jumped in where it made sense. In most respects, we’re moved past gender-driven division of labor. Neither of us is “in charge” of these things.
Which is why I read with interest this New York Times debate about whether dads are excluded and unheard when spats over parenting issues erupt in the media. (After all, some argue, we never hear about about the Mommy-and-Daddy Wars or have Time covers asking whether we’re “Dad Enough,” although my sister-in-law yesterday sent me a very funny “Dad Enough” spoof showing a man teaching a toddler to nurse a beer … )
It does seem that when we argue about parenting issues, moms lead the debates. Some of that is a vestige of old gender division. It may also be that women are more likely to get caught up in debates (and, perhaps, more likely to cast judgment) over parenting. I have to admit, I rarely hear men sitting around playgrounds whispering, “You know, he’s sending his child to Waldorf next year for preschool. Who knew he was into that kind of hippie education … ”
But I’m pretty sure none of that means modern dads care less about the big parenting issues than women. I don’t even think it means they say less, not when it really matters. They may get left out of news stories — let’s be honest, reporters are more likely to ask a mom what she thinks about a hot-button how-we-rear-our-kids issue — and they may spend less time talking about parenting with their friends. But these aren’t the real debates anyway. The real debates happen at home, when actual decisions are being made.
Dads are there — we just need to do a better job of reflecting it.