You know that Beyonce song, “If I Were A Boy”, where she sings about all of the things she would do if she were a man instead of a woman? How she would wake up in the morning, throw on what she wanted and go, and how different so many things would be as the opposite gender.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve been thinking, not about how life would be if I were a boy, but how life would be if I were a dad. Because let’s face it. Mothers and fathers are not the same. We both bring unique gifts and flaws to the table, but the way we approach parenthood is pretty different. And you can say I am over generalizing and making sweeping statements based on sex. And maybe I am. But I also think there is a lot of truth behind it.
So in the style of Queen Bey or Sasha Fierce or whatever it is Blue Ivy’s mom is calling herself these days, here’s what I think life would be like if I were a dad.
1. Anytime I took my baby out in public by myself, people would smile, say “aw”, and pat me on the shoulder for being such a good dad. Admit it. You see a father alone in the grocery store with a baby and you think, “how sweet, good for him.” And if he is wearing that baby, well then forget it. He should be on the cover of a parenting magazine! You see a mom in the same situation, and you blink and turn back to the frozen food aisle. If I were a dad, every time I pushed a stroller down the street by myself or wrangled a screaming baby on a public changing table, people would nod at each other in a knowing way, maybe whisper a “bless his heart.” Because even in 2016, a dad out by himself with a baby is deserving of praise, maybe even a good old public slow clap at Target. A mom out in public with a baby is expected, routine, and not worth any kind of positive feedback. Because of course you are lugging your child around to multiple stores and shops all by yourself on a Wednesday morning. Your baby might get complements for being so cute, but unless you hold a reading lesson in the middle of the produce section, you are not going to be told by total strangers that you are “being such a good mom!”
2. On a similar note, if I were a dad, I would be killing it all the time. There are entire ad campaigns built around the idea of a father meeting the gold standard of parenting because he does his daughter’s hair before school every day. It does not matter how progressive we get as a society, admit it, there is still this pervading idea that dads excel at parenting every time they give a bath or pick out an outfit or read a bedtime story. Moms who do the same things are just meeting the bare minimum requirements of being a mother. To be a great mom, you have to do all of those things plus plan elaborate arts and crafts projects that are both entertaining and educational. And teach your kid sign language. And manners. And make all of their food from scratch. If I were a dad, I could dress my baby in a cute outfit and boom, CRUSHING IT.
3. If I were a dad, I wouldn’t constantly obsess about EVERY LITTLE THING. There would be whole expanses of my brain freed to contemplate the great mysteries of life, because they wouldn’t be full of every single detail of my daughter’s sleep habit or frequency (and consistenty) of her poops. Sometimes I am talking about my baby’s sleep with my husband, talking in loops about pros and cons of earlier versus later bedtimes, or wondering if she is getting enough formula during the day to allow her to sleep through the night, and he will just give me this look, like I am a total crazy person. And I realize to him, I am. Because his dad brain does not work like my mom brain at all. Dad brains see the big picture. Is the baby growing? Generally happy? Okay then, life is good. Moms on the other hand are like those crazy detectives in movies who are a little too invested and have pictures and maps taped to their walls with pieces of thread connecting them. A dad can be pleased that the baby took a couple of naps. A mom knows just how many minutes each of those naps lasted and how many minutes passed between each nap and the position the baby slept in and the exact axis the earth was on when the baby fell asleep. If I were a dad a nap would be a nap, a poop would be a poop, and a bottle would be a bottle. They would be bullet points. They would not be thesis statements.
4. If I were a dad I would still know what sound sleep felt like. I would still wake up a lot with a baby of course, and sometimes still do the night feeds or early mornings. But when I did sleep it would be true sleep, not the weird half awake sleep that mom’s experience. You know the expression “sleep with one eye open.” A mom sleeps with one ear open (yes I realize ears are always open, but go with me on this one). Even when the house is silent, we are always waiting for the sound of that cry. And we do not experience deep sleep ever again after having a child, because we are so alert and attuned to those cries. Moms wake up at the tiniest little moan from a baby’s room. If I were a dad I would possess the ability to sleep through several octaves of baby cries.
5. If I were a dad I wouldn’t be guilty ALL THE TIME. Mom guilt you guys. It is for real. If I were a dad, I would not constantly feel that guilt. I certainly wouldn’t feel it when I went to work, because society would totally support me working full time and in fact expect it. A full time working mom on the other hand is supposed to feel conflicted and guilty. People routinely ask working moms how they can bear to be away from their babies or how they balance work with home life. Do you think people ever ask working dads those questions? If I were a dad I also wouldn’t feel constant guilt about being that perfect magazine cover mom, the one with a plate of fresh baked cookies and immaculate house. A dad who cooks or cleans the house is celebrated. People find it refreshing. His mother would probably beam with pride. Strangers would want to give him a hug. Mothers who do these things are met with blank looks, because of course we do this type of thing. If we don’t we are slobs, lazy, setting a bad example, possibly even reportable to CPS. If I were a dad I wouldn’t feel guilty every time I had someone watch my baby so I could go to the gym or out to dinner with friends or just to the grocery store alone. I could do what I wanted and know that no one would judge me.
6. If I were a dad I would be more in the moment, be able to be silly with my baby and play without constantly thinking about the structure of her day or if she is reaching her milestones or getting a good balance of fruits and vegetables in her diet. I would play and throw her on my shoulders and be totally present, not thinking about lists or projects or if the baby has enough winter coats. I would spend so much more time in the here and now, not be so bogged down with details.
7. If I were a dad I wouldn’t have to worry about breastfeeding. So this one is obvious, but as I near the end of my breastfeeding experience with my first baby, I am aware even more of how both amazing and stressful it is. It is such enormous pressure on a woman, especially in today’s current breastfeed or die climate. In the early weeks when you aren’t supposed to give a bottle (not unless you want a lactation nazi to chase you down), and you’re still recovering from labor, it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are providing 100% of your baby’s nutrition, and that is the most wonderful thing in the world and also the most terrifying. If I were a dad I would not have to constantly worry about my supply, or if a food I ate was making my baby gassy or if that glass of wine would hurt her. I wouldn’t feel like I was chained to the couch in those early months. If I were a dad I wouldn’t have the stress of feeling like I have to breastfeed exclusively for AS LONG AS POSSIBLE, even if I go back to work, even if it’s hard, even if I have to pump 8 times a day. If I were a dad I wouldn’t know anything about plugged ducts or blebs or latches so painful you can’t breathe for a few moments. If I were a dad breastfeeding would be a vague mystery.
8. If I were a dad, I wouldn’t worry so much about what other people though of my parenting. I wouldn’t assume that every comment was a thinly veiled critique. I wouldn’t read online forums and want to cry at how vicious people can be. On that note if I were a dad I wouldn’t know what LO or STTN or EBF or CIO meant, because I would NEVER stay up late on my phone scrolling through those typically horrible websites or discussion posts where women virtually judge the ever living crap out of each other. I would go with my gut, and not worry about what this expert said or what this book recommended. I would do what I felt was right and trust my instinct, and not second guess it to the point of paranoia.
Here’s the thing. I wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything. And I know that a dad could write this same list from his point of view, and there are so many things about being a dad that I can’t understand or relate to. I know they face an entirely different kind of pressure, to be the breadwinner and primary financial support, because again, no matter how much we progress as a society, those roles are pretty hard to shake. I know stay at home dads face judgment of an entirely different kind, because some people think they should be working instead. I know it can be pretty hard to be a dad too.
But I do think it might be nice to be the dad, as Beyonce said it, even just for a day. And until science figures out how to let us body swap, we can all just try harder to be more accepting of each other, to smile at the mom out alone with the baby because it’s as hard for her to do that as it would be for a man, to not ask a woman who works if she misses her kids (because duh, and men don’t get that BS question), to not ask a stay at home dad if he wants to go back to work one day. As men and women, we can learn a lot from each other. And Beyonce. We can always learn from Beyonce.
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for the all the big and little things in life.