There has been a lot of talk about white privilege in recent years so you may be familiar with the concept. Good ol’ Wikipedia describes white privilege as “the societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.” There have been a lot of political discussions around this idea since the rise of Black Lives Matter and many people have a very strong opinion on the subject of how, why, or if white privilege exists. I’m not here to get into all that, although I want to state for the record that I completely stand behind its existence and very real and pervasive effects in our culture. I also do not intend to trivialize or make light of the term.
But Wikipedia’s article also mentioned that some of the advantages those with white privilege enjoy can include the “freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.” And this resonated in a different way with me as a mom because honestly, I’ve suspected for a while now that something we ALL can get behind is the idea that there exists something I call “Dad Privilege.” You know what I’m talking about: all the things that your partner can get away with simply because he’s the dad and often not the primary parent.
Before I continue, I feel online etiquette dictates I must assure you that yes, my husband knows I am writing and has read this post and yes, he does do a ton around the house and has responsibilities that are solely his, which he blessedly takes completely off my plate without complaint. But the very nature of not being MOM (the life giver, the food source, the keeper of all the things) means there are things he does or doesn’t do which he completely takes for granted as someone who has never had to deal with the weight of being MOM. And many memes I’ve seen circling the internet assure me I’m not alone in this feeling.
Example A is preparing to leave the house. When my husband is going to hang out with friends or even has to work late, he leaves the house. He makes sure he has his keys, cell phone and wallet. Upon leaving the house, I, on the other hand, have prepared a quick dinner I know all the kids will like so no one stages a mutiny attack on the sole parent and have ensured that it’s a dinner which only requires easy cleanup so the baby doesn’t get too fussy while dishes are being washed, reminded my husband if it is bath night or not, remembered to put my daughter’s folder back in her backpack, gone ahead and made lunches for the next day, etc., etc. I think it is understandable that I get a little salty when upon my return, I hear, “Yeah, everything went smoothly. It’s never a big deal when I have them on my own.”
I try to remind myself it’s just his Dad Privilege rearing its head — he genuinely doesn’t see all the work I did ahead of time behind the scenes to orchestrate that blissfully uneventful evening because he’s never had to do it himself.
Number 2 is allowing himself to be unreachable during large chunks of time. My husband frequently forgets his phone charger when he goes places or leaves his phone in the car during long stretches of the evening. Many times I have wondered if he made it to the campsite with his friends or if he’s lying on the side of the road in a ditch somewhere only to feel gently chastened when he finally answers, assuring me he “just forgot to call before his signal got spotty.” I was recently at a meeting with several other moms during which we had to leave our phones checked at the door with security. The discomfort on all of our faces was evident, as several asked, “What will happen if my kid’s school or child care facility tries to call me?” What would it be like to wander off on an adventure and have not a worry in the world about being reachable by someone who may need to give you horrifying news about your kid? It would be like being a dad.
Thirdly, the bathroom situation. If I had a nickel for every time I was busy doing something and my husband tried to hand me the baby, saying, “Uh can you take her? I need to poop,” I would be living large. His Dad Privilege prevents him from understanding that if I can manage to poop daily while in charge of not only that baby, but also one to two others, he can probably take her with him or find somewhere to set her in the meantime. This privilege-induced blindness extends to many tasks of daily living which can be carried out one-handed should one need to also be holding the baby, but which my husband frequently believes must wait until someone removes his tiny charge.
I could go on, as this is an idea I’ve been cultivating for a while, but I think you get the picture. Start looking for evidence of Dad Privilege in your own life so you can gently make your partner aware of it, but be sensitive to how you introduce the concept. We never want to invalidate our partners’ hard work and excellent Dadding skills. And Dads, look. We understand that you can’t help a lot of the things that come with being privileged. Someone has to be the default parent and those roles get pretty firmly entrenched. So while you may never be able to fully shed your privilege, will you at least try to be woke to it?