Moms vs. guys who happen to be dads

It happens every time. An old female friend finds you on Facebook and asks to friend you. With fond memories (or, maybe, really fond memories) you happily oblige. The first thing you do is head to her photos, hoping to dig out a bikini shot or two to relive the past, or vicariously enjoy what you missed — or see the bullet you dodged (well, maybe she dodged you). And … Shit! Where are the photos of her?

It’s all kid shots. Babies in cribs, toddlers smeared with ice cream, kids carving pumpkins. There may be a shot or two of her husband scattered in there, usually with a squirming youngster on his lap and a look of “what the fuck?” on his face. Almost all of the few pictures of her include children.

Your blood runs cold. But your  angel isn’t a centerfold — she’s a mom-bot.

So … maybe I’m generalizing a bit. But not overly much. Women who have kids do seem to adopt their offspring as a major part of their identity, even to the point of displacing other aspects of their lives. Guys … We tend to run more along the lines of, “Oh yeah. I have a kid, don’t I?” Your old buddies probably don’t use photos of their newborns as profile pics, and they do post lots of photos of themselves.

Which isn’t a problem if you’re gay. Good for you!

I think this is one of the under-appreciated challenges for stay-at-home dads that somewhat differentiates them from stay-at-home-moms. Yes, everybody deals with runny noses, developmental milestones, tantrums, socialization and the like. But whether it’s genetic, or cultural or subliminal programming inserted into TV commercials by space aliens with a traditional parenting philosophy, women often seem more likely to embrace life with the wee ones to the point of transforming who they are, and are less likely than men to resent the demands and trade-offs necessitated by the little beasts. Men, who don’t so easily merge their own identities with their parenting duties, may kick and scream a bit more than their female counterparts as they struggle to keep major portions of their life un-crusted with goo, unaccompanied by nursery rhymes, or simply unsubmerged in the role of a dad (that’s the unflattering way we see it, anyway).

The flip side is, I suspect, that we emerge a little more easily at the other end, individual identities intact, when the kids are ready for launch.

Now that I’ve written this, I know that I’m going to hear from moms who don’t completely identify with their kids and from fathers who do. I grok it, really, I do. It would be frightening if the alien subliminal-programming campaign was 100% effective. And seriously, we’ve all met the frustrated jock or business also-ran who tries to achieve the success that eluded him through his children. But I think my observations are accurate, broadly speaking.

Many women who have children are moms — that’s who they are. Men tend more often to be guys who happen to be dads. That’s an important difference in emphasis when it comes to identity that just has to have a major impact on the way we perform our parenting roles.

And on the likelihood of finding bikini shots.


  • akaGaGa says:

    So that sleeping little tyke at the top of the page is … you? Nah, I didn’t think so.

    But overall, I agree that women tend to take their identities from motherhood, I think it’s a nurturing gene. And, yes, the kids will fly the nest and the Moms will need to find a new identity. Some of us do that joyfully, declaring, “free at last, free at last.” Others not so much.

    Men, on the other hand, take their identities from their work. As a result, they have a harder time dealing with losing a job, and are downright persnickety until they find a new one. And when they retire, you’ll often find them following their wives around like a lost puppy dog. The wives – at least some of us – tend to resent this encroachment on their hard-earned freedom.

    So, in the long run, which is the better identity?

  • J.D. Tuccille says:

    I totally agree about men taking their identities from work. I had the hardest time reconciling myself to the new role of a stay-at-home-dad because it’s not “work.” Of course it is work, but there’s no paycheck or employer, so…

    Identity issues get very complicated and it’s amazing how we tend to tie ourselves to fixed perceptions of who we think we should be.

  • J.D. Tuccille says:

    Oh… And as for the tyke… Well, it is a blog about being a stay-at-home dad. 😉

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