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Peace between the at-home mommies and daddies

There's been a lot of discussion lately among one of the dad groups I'm a part of about how to handle moms. Specifically, how to handle playgroups geared for mothers where dads are either excluded or downright not welcome. The discussion usually leads down all sorts of rabbit holes about stereotypes of men as dangerous, perverts, not caregivers, only interested in sex with the moms, etc.. (That's our favorite to mock among SAHD...that every playground opportunity for our kids to mingle, we're really secretly just hitting on you. But, really, SAHD are sexy so who wouldn't be swayed by our nurturing?)

A few of the chats I've witnessed usually go back and forth between confrontation about mommy sexism and proudly forming our own playgroups that are men-only. A fraternity free from discriminatory mothering, as it were. Honestly, I don't like either answer. I recognize the cultural skepticism coming from mothers. I understand the offense against my fellow dads. Better, if you ask me, maybe some sort of cross-branding where we encourage cooperation between mom dad groups? Ideally, we'd have parenting groups where we're free to take our kids to the playground to play together regardless of our genitals. But the last thing you want is a mommy group who pays lip service to the idea of gender equality and be the token dad or two.

I'm lucky where I live that I don't face nearly the level of ignorance or intolerance towards being a male at-home parent that some others describe. A few of my friends can't go to the grocery, park, school, or soccer practice without someone making a horrible remark. Or, worse, deliberately excluding a man who is a father.

As I was listening at our local playground today, a couple of moms were talking about dealing with the breadwinner staying home to work occasionally. (The kids were busy in a 9-person gang building a glittery sandcastle and, oddly, playing Santa/elf.) It's a regular issue for our household as The Mama usually works from the bedroom rather than worry about parking all day at the library on days she doesn't ride the L downtown, etc.. But these two moms were talking about trying to keep the kids quiet during phone calls, trying to keep the kids out of the room, what the normal morning routine looks like with and without the working parent around. All topics I could have conversed with them about. It was something we had in common as at-home parents. Well, maybe not the one who hired a nanny to be around during naptime so she could make sure to get her part-time work done, but never mind that!

I didn't interrupt their girlfriend-chat. It was a little too familiar and we'd not been speaking otherwise despite our children playing together. I didn't want to be the eavesdropping one who butts into a private conversation. But, on the other hand, hey you were talking about something I'm familiar with--in public--so I couldn't help myself.

But, anyway, my larger point is that we have more in common sometimes than we want to admit. I enjoyed an outing with my all-male dad group the other day where we outnumbered moms at the playground. "Taking over" as one dad jokingly calls it. And there are a few dads who show up from time to time when we're out. And more times than I can count, females on the playground actively engage me in conversation about our kids. The discussion is almost always pleasant, thank goodness. The battle of the sexes is out there though. Men can't assume they're always welcome. And, even if we are welcome, there's often a curious assumption that there is a gap in...topics? There are some universals like potty training or food preferences. But do moms really want to hear about your non-parenting hobby? Do SAHD want to talk about where to buy cute dresses for our girls?

Maybe I should have tried harder. I couldn't think of the right opening line. I suppose "oh, I can't keep my kids away from the bedroom door" would have sufficed. Some of my best parenting conversations happen with moms though. I like the support from the dads community. Fathers tend to be a pretty good bunch. But, let's face it, those of us who are caregivers as males need to engage more with the mom community even if we're trying to change the dialogue towards a more generic, genderless parenting. For now, most of our fellow parents are gonna be women. That's just the way it is.

Let's be peacemakers. Maybe more sharing of snacks on a park bench and less exclusion and stereotyping will follow.

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