And we're pretty good at it, and we enjoy it. Is that so surprising? A conversation among three involved fathers.
Several times a day, after my infant daughter, Sammy, finishes breastfeeding, my wife, Jean, will hand her over to me and say, "Can you burp her?" And I will duly pick Sammy up, put her over my shoulder, and lightly pound her back until she emits a belch. Done!
Now, Jean is not asking me to do the burping because she's exhausted (although she is). No, she's asking because, frankly, I'm better at coaxing bubbles from the baby's belly, just as I'm better at certain of the other household tasks I've gravitated toward ever since our first daughter, Sasha, was born almost four years ago: planning and preparing our meals, getting Sasha up and dressed in the morning, arranging playdates, putting the kids to bed—all duties that, until not too long ago, were considered a mother's natural province.
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Today, of course, the End of Men has arrived, and we're hip-deep in the swamp of the stay-at-home-dad trend. From enlightened-liberal metropolises to small-town U.S.A., fathers are voluntarily taking on the challenge of parenthood in ways that previous generations never could have imagined, and decrying media images of men as incompetent, bumbling, or, worse, absent from active parenting entirely. We exist! they seem to cry en masse. And more and more, that cry is being heard.
It's now time for that cri de coeur to evolve, and for men to proclaim, gently and kindly, that we may be, in some cases, "better moms"—caregivers, that is—than moms. We are—if you believe the classical stereotypes—less emotional and more practical, approaching child-care problems with a perhaps scientific detachment not to be found in women who, having spent those long months pregnant, may take those problems personally. Whether it's swaddling an infant, precision placement of a princess Band-Aid, or soothing hurt feelings ("Paige said she's not my friend anymore!"), a little emotional distance, data analysis, and hardheaded strategizing can go a long way. And men are, supposedly, better at that stuff.
As provocative as I'm trying to make this argument, I'd like to think this is, in fact, a feminist stance. That is, if women can be as good or better—and better, as Hanna Rosin argues—as men at certain jobs, then why can't we say the same for men, too? Equality of the sexes doesn't mean we're all actually equal. It means we all have equal potential to excel, independent of the shape of our genitalia. If that means that dads start outmothering moms, we have to look at that as progress. So when it comes time to bake cupcakes for pre-K (oh crap, that's next week!), the other moms better watch out, because I make a mean buttercream frosting. Just don't ask me to breastfeed.