Hey Slacker Dad- Parent the Way You Want, Stop Being A Jerk About It

An article in the Guardian defending traditional dads from the peer pressure of “50/50 dads” goes too far in trying to make its case- at one point, insulting involved dads by calling them “Wet Wipes.” Let’s stop with the Daddy Wars, please.

Alex Bilmes' article makes a decent point- IF you can make your way through the layers of judgment and condescension towards other dads.
The layers of judgment and condescension towards other dads obscures the one decent point in Alex Bilmes’ article.

My advice to Alex Bilmes- be whatever type of parent you want to be (short of being abusive or neglectful), let others choose their own styles, and stop being a judgmental jerk about it.

I was enjoying my morning coffee and noodling on twitter when I saw this message from a professional friend: twitter guardian My first reaction was “Aw shucks, Tamsin, I’m flattered.” My second was “I gotta read this article.”

Unsurprisingly, I found this article outrageous–so insulting to other dads! It struck me as yet another volley in the “Parenting Wars”–if you don’t parent the way I do, you must be wrong.

In the piece, Bilmes describes himself as a traditional dad who enjoys long hours at work and business travel, leaves the heavy lifting to his girlfriend (who is a more domestic type), and generally takes a low-key CTFD approach to parenting with his kids (more tv and giggles, fewer educational outings). He also makes a point, as a matter of pride and as a way to differentiate himself from feminized/emasculated “50/50 Dads,” to NEVER carry a wet nap. He derisively calls men who do “Wet Wipes.”

This got my hackles up. But I’m trying to be fair, so I re-read the article.

Bilmes concludes by saying that dads should feel free to parent in their own way–traditional or highly-involved–without social pressure to be a superdad. Ok, I get that and actually agree. In fact, I’ve long been on the record as saying that every dad should parent in the way that is best for him and his family, there is no best approach, and that we dads have to resist the urge to criticize each other for different styles.

However, I’m still skeptical of Bilmes. After his long article that repeatedly insults highly-involved dads and makes sweeping gender generalizations based solely on personal anecdote, I don’t accept his tacked-on conciliatory ending. I shouldn’t have to wade through several layers of condescension and unnecessary cheap-shots just to give him an unearned benefit of the doubt.

It is clear Bilmes is judging highly-involved dads as something less than fully masculine. It’s just his opinion, and however much I disagree, he’s entitled to it.

But this attitude is destructive, contributing to corporate cultures that stigmatize men who dare to prioritize family and to a public policy that virtually ignores the importance of fatherhood. Further, it creates the impression that dads are reluctant or negligent parents by default, lowering expectations and limiting fathers’ roles. It is time we left these attitudes behind.

My advice to Alex Bilmes- be whatever type of parent you want to be (short of being abusive or neglectful), let others choose their own styles, and stop being a judgmental jerk about it.

What do you think about Bilmes’ article? Parenting wars? My response? Any experiences to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “Hey Slacker Dad- Parent the Way You Want, Stop Being A Jerk About It

  1. I was annoyed by the Guardian article for quite a few different reasons. For a start, the Guardian is generally quite a progressive paper that normally takes a more thoughtful approach to issues such as parenting and gender roles. However, the article that you mentioned here is the sort of thing that I’d have expected from a more sensationalist paper such as the Daily Mail. It’s interesting to see that the article was written by the editor of a lads’ magazine, and the tone is one the main reasons that I just don’t read these sorts of magazines.

    There were quite a few shortcuts that the author took that I felt weakened their arguments, and this started with the prelude to the article that states “Prince William changes nappies, Simon Cowell gushes about his newborn – men are keener than ever to prove they are doing at least half the parenting”. As has been pointed out in the comments section of the article, both William and Cowell have nannies. Indeed, Cowell recently reportedly stated that changing nappies wasn’t really a thing for dads (…which hardly marks him out as an advocated for equal parenting).

    Perhaps my biggest gripe with this article was the way that the author took quite a judgmental approach. Like with so many other things in life, parenting is a topic about which lots of people are going to have different opinions. Even among people in my own social circle, there are plenty of different views on parenting issues. Scott – I totally agree with what you said about the need to respect people who find a way of parenting that works for them and which is in kid(s)’s best interest.

    Overall, I thought that the Guardian article was quite simplistic. Feminism’s approach to parenting cannot be reduced to stating that feminism means a 50:50 split between mums and dads when it comes to childcare responsibilities. For a start, that would rule out the possibility of a woman going back to work full time after being a mum. I hope that the Guardian will feature some more informed approaches to parenting in the near future, or at least try to balance the sort of piece that you mentioned with others that adopt a different approach.

    • Well said. I think your comment would make a great letter to the editor at the Guardian!

      Interestingly, Esquire in the US has been very pro-involved-dad over the past two years or so, maybe Esquire UK has a different slant.

      • I’d certainly say that Esquire in the UK are a lot less trashy than certain men’s magazines, although I’m not sure to what extent this means that they talk much (or in a progressive manner) about an issue such as parenting.

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