We Are Dads Who Take Care of Our Kids

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If we're going to debate Matt's insufferably squishy thesis that dads can out-mom moms, at least let me start with a memory from my time in construction, where gender issues are notably simplified. I was in my early 20s, installing insulation and sheetrock for $8 an hour in Florida. I had just-longer-than-shoulder-length hair (thank you, Tim Lincecum, for still trying to make that work), and a slight build. In the eyes of my foreman, this combination was downright womanly. He thought up a catchphrase for me. If I took too long on a smoke break, or was otherwise wasting time, he always growled the same thing: "Stop waiting to grow a pussy. Get to work."

There was plenty to dislike about the guy—beyond the chauvinism and general cloddiness, he stiffed our crew out of a week's pay and skipped town—but I hear an echo of the foreman's, um, gender essentialism in Matt's concept of out-momming moms. For the foreman, long hair=woman. For Matt, good parenting=mothering.

Saying that good fathers—the ones who get on the floor to play with their babies, who pack lunch for their preschoolers and help their second-graders with their homework—are just acting like mothers is demeaning to all sides. If men and women have proven anything in the last decade of bloggy introspection, it's this chiasmus: Not all mothers are good parents and not all good parents are mothers.

In my post-construction life here in New York, I've got a fairly steady routine. I wake early, I pee standing up, I get the kids ready and take them to school. That is, I'm both a man and (hopefully) a decent parent.

I'll also take issue with Theodore's anatomical absolutism. I can't presume to know what special bond arises from carrying, or having been carried, in utero. But there are plenty of orphans and adoptees who form full relationships with non-biological parents. And if you start defining parenting through genitalia, before long, you're Little Hans's father, promising your son that you won't cut his balls off because Freud thought the boy needed to hear that.

And I don't know of any parent who wants to go there.

–Nathan

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Presented by

Matt Gross, Theodore Ross, & Nathan Thornburgh

Matt Gross, Theodore Ross, and Nathan Thornburgh write for the website DadWagon. Theodore Ross is the author of Am I a Jew?

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