Dads and Diapers Don’t Mix

‘Dads and Diapers Don’t Mix,’ sounds like a terrible rallying cry. One can hardly imagine anyone willing to wear a T-shirt with that mantra. Nonetheless, I’m going to give a shot at explaining why I think it might be a necessary one.

Like many slogans, the sentiment expressed is meant to be attention-getting rather than being a complete and erudite explanation of an issue. For the record, I think it perfectly fine for fathers to change their babies’ diapers. What I oppose is the thinking that often goes along with publicly promoting the idea that dads should be more involved in their infants’ lives.

As Fathers’ Day and the anniversary of D-Day both move into the rear-view mirror, I can’t help noticing the difference in what we expect and laud in men. Some men of the Greatest Generation were wonderful dads; some were lousy ones. The rest ran the gamut in between. As individuals, depending on their personalities, some shot baskets with their sons, taught their daughters to change a flat tire and offered wise counsel. Conversely, others were silent backdrops to their children’s lives, unskilled as they were in relationship building. As a group, they felt a responsibility to defend civilization, providing a safe world for their wives and children. As a group, they prided themselves on being providers, giving their families food on the table and a home in which to live.

Today, we seem to focus on husbands and dads morphing into wives and mothers. The most praised dads wear baby carriers and walk the floor at 2 A.M with crying babies. They pitch in equally with household chores and let five-year-old daughters paint their fathers’ toenails pink. I don’t necessarily object to all the items on that list, but I do think that it makes an unhealthy presumption. That is, that both sexes should be equally responsible for everything, whether we are speaking of financial or household responsibility.

Some of my daughters will probably tell me that this is the new reality. Since families cannot meet their basic obligations, let alone afford anything extra on one income alone, both spouses need to work. In that case, I can well understand why child-raising duties need to be equally shared as well. But, perhaps, instead of making paternity leave as ubiquitous as maternity leave and agitating to increase both those leaves as well as mandating government-sponsored day care, maybe, just maybe, we should think of changing policies so that devoting oneself to raising a family and running a home becomes, once again, a respected and doable option.

Let me give one example. I know that men are capable of feeding bottles to babies. Very often, that bottle is filled with milk that their wives expressed in the break room at work or in the car as they drove to their jobs. Of course, the job of feeding breast milk just became more time-consuming. Pumping takes time and feeding takes additional time. A naturally brilliantly efficient system has become cumbersome. However, that isn’t the worst aspect. While the nutritional value of breast milk is undeniable, that is only one of its benefits. The skin-to-skin contact, the gaze of pure adoration from a baby at one’s breast, the hormonally inspired bonding and the spiritual dimension of breast-feeding are sacrificed when mothers cannot stay home. As someone who believes that God created both male and female bodies, it isn’t incidental that mother’ bodies, not fathers’, are made for breast-feeding. When, for whatever reason, the best option isn’t available, the number two choice becomes the best choice. What we shouldn’t do is make the first choice less attainable.

I probably changed five hundred diapers for each one my husband changed.  I read 500 stories for each one he read and tied 500 shoelaces for each one he tied. For which I am grateful. His shouldering of the financial responsibility for our household allowed me to be a full-time mother. My being a full-time mother allowed him to focus on building a business. We each supported the other and our children, but we each did more by giving 90% of our attention to one area, rather than 50%. I think that benefitted each of us individually and our marriage and family as a whole.

It is wonderful for fathers to feel close to their children. It is less wonderful when we promote the fallacy that mothers and fathers should be identical. Cultivating a healthy family is more than an economic calculation. If, as a culture we truly thought it was important, we would be more concerned with making policies to further that aim rather than focusing specifically on policies that encourage women to flourish in the workplace.

Are you ready to order your T-shirt now?



42 thoughts on “Dads and Diapers Don’t Mix”

  1. As a stay at home wife and mother, because my husband makes the sacrifice to provide for our family, as I make the sacrifice to tend to the home, I completely agree! Thank you Susan.

    1. Kristy, as with so much else in today’s society, extreme views become put forth as the norm and those of us who disagree are ignored or ridiculed.

    2. The care for these in such manner makes them dear.
      My little sister got my being as father figure, and I got to feed her and clean her for new nappies.
      Then, My, “Three People” were birthed. The practice was given. Care builds.

  2. HAHA-I laugh, having changed diapers and many other ‘NONMANLY’ things going back to working as a Hospital Corpsman in 1975 at a ‘Viet Nam Relocation Camp in SOCAL. The ONLY thing I can’t do is ‘Have the baby, everything else is fair game…..I MAKE TIME for what needs to be done….Just ask my ‘Ruski WIFE’……

    1. Carl, taking care of wounded vets is a human thing – not a manly or womanly thing. Men can change diapers and women can earn money. That has nothing to do with the best allocation of tasks. Glad you enjoy the Musings!

  3. Neweverymoment, Deb:
    Can’t resist: My favorite old cartoon is of a new father attempting to change the baby’s diaper while engrossed in the game on the tv. He has actually diapered the dog, while the baby, stark naked on the floor, is drinking out of the dog dish!

    There is something to be said for a team on which every member has a specialty, and every member is capable of pinch-hitting for every other member of the team if necessary. That is intended for a business environment, but what you are describing for a home seems to be along the same lines.

    1. Deb, I smiled at the image of the cartoon, but if I think about it that contributes to the problem. It’s like a cartoon showing a woman in a business environment fussing over which lipstick color to wear while the business tanks. I think men can be competent fathers and women can be competent in the office. It’s as you say, I think that a partnership works best when each individual has a specialty and I think life works best when men and women partner in marriage.

  4. Susan,

    I continually am reminded why I just love you!! “Kudos” to you for speaking these thoughts out loud! (Remember those chocolate covered “healthy” granola bars?!)

    I was blessed to be a stay at home mother to my three sons. My husband helped out when he could at home and coached all three in football, basketball and baseball; often changing out of his office clothes while sitting in the parking lot by the school practice field. Then all of them getting home after 7pm to inhale my homemade tortellini alfredo with chicken for dinner.
    We made many sacrifices to allow this family dynamic to work -it was our strong belief that we wanted our children to be nurtured, taught and raised by US. We were indeed blessed!

    In today’s society it’s increasingly difficult to defend our seemingly “normal” and “obvious” way of life and family rearing. Everyone has their own ways and beliefs and who am I to judge how and what they do.
    But I have continually found myself feeling somewhat apologetic when people ask where I work(ed) or what I do(did) for a living (now that our sons are grown and out of the home)-saying that I stayed at home to do my job and my husband went to work to do his sounds almost archaic!

    Thanks for reminding me of the valuable reasons we chose our way to build our family, connection is indeed key!…let me know when you print those t-shirts!

    Shaun Laface

    1. I know that feeling of being somewhat apologetic when answering, “And what do you do?” That is because we do disrespect building a home. It helped that we homeschooled a largish family – people could understand that. But stay-at-homes do so much more, including keeping communities together.

  5. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! Sometimes it feels I am the only that holds certain viewpoints (especially as a young woman in her 20s), but your writings prove me wrong.

    1. Bella, if I could find the clapping hands emoji, I would put in a dozen of them. I’m so glad to hear from someone in her 20s who hasn’t been brainwashed! I know there are more of you out there and it would be great if you could meet and support each other.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Bella–
      It is so much harder for a young woman like you to know and acknowledge how the world REALLY works than it is for older and more established people. Well done, we admire you. Stay strong and have courage, as Moses urged Joshua.

  6. I think today a lot of women desire to work as well as contribute their God-given talents outside of the home. While I’ve worked differently at different seasons with all four of our children (full time, part time and now stay at home mom with my own business), I do believe the sacrifice we each contribute can be negotiated over and over again. When my husband went through a rough patch in his career, he primarily stayed home and changed about 18 diapers/day with two boys under 18 months. This was a sacrifice for both him and me as I longed to be the one at home. Now 16 years later our sons have a unique bond with him they probably never would have had. As soon as he was able to get good work again, I became part time again and with our subsequent two children the household chores fell primarily on me. The point is, sometimes as families we don’t get to choose (who is working where and when outside the home) and sometimes we make a choice based out of our personal ambitions and desires. Throughout our 21 years of marriage, we’ve managed to adjust to the cycles and share the burden together. It’s taken a lot of sacrifice, love and communication. Mostly, it’s taken willingness to adapt and change and roll with whatever God is asking is each to do in that season. Maybe the t-shirt should read “Dads who do diapers can determine Destiny” .
    P.S. we love you both and all of your musings!!!

    1. Jill, you and your husband did what worked in your circumstances. I’m all in favor of that. I’m not in favor of the government putting pressure on companies and raising taxes because they would prefer you to be in the workplace rather than your husband or they want both of you there with childcare being relegated to paid individuals (who can be unionized and then counted on to vote for their interests).

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Jill,
      The enormous contributions you and your husband Jay have made in ministry qualify you as an expert already so your points are all well taken. “Learn to roll with whatever God is asking” is wonderful advice. Hope we get to see you again soon,

  7. Years ago I once saw Dr. Laura on TV (I think it was Oprah). The audience of women were in an uproar when she stated that moms should stay home and raise their children. She forcefully raised her voice above the din to ask this question, “Please stand up if you would have preferred to be raised in child-care instead of by your own mother.” The silence was deafening. . .

  8. Susan — Your brief essays have more common sense, insight, and wisdom than the vast majority of people in the media with a much higher profile.

    1. Tony, I don’t completely agree with you. On an individual level, yes, but I think that if couples do what makes them happy, then in aggregate a majority of women will opt to be home more. Also, we tend not to know what long-term happiness is when making these decisions. There is a lot of regret in later life. So, I think it is wrong to push a message that says that, as a group, women and men will want the same thing.

  9. Mary Anne Payne

    Your article did not ring 100% true for me. The question is why as your articles usually do! I did choose to own my own company and bend my work schedule around my children. They deserved to be raised by me and their dad, not daycare. I love the time I have with them. I love that I do pick them up from school and talk with them each day. When they were little, I had home help for about 15 hours per week. As they move into the teen years, I am so grateful for my relationship with them. My days include work and carting children to activities, but more importantly talking and bonding with them. Does my husband help around the house? Well, he must. I can’t work 50% and do 100% of the housework. But I can work 50% while the children are in school. Why work? Well, it is stimulating, rewarding, allows us much financial freedom, provides funds for my daughters special needs, keeps my job skills intact in case of emergency (death, divorce, unemployment for my husband). But you and I do agree on the importance of being present for our children! Love your work. Thank you.

    1. Mary Anne, I think that, for good reasons, you made a choice that works for you and your family, which is what everyone should be able to do. When the government gets involved, however, our choices evaporate. For example, if preference is given to women-run businesses, then a couple who would rather have their business run by the husband isn’t able to make that choice and get the same preference. Many businesses promote not on the basis of what is best for them, but because they “need” a minority or female in the slot. So a couple doesn’t have the choice of the husband getting a promotion, but the wife will. My objection is to government (and cultural) interference that takes choice away from individuals.

  10. Stephen K. Meitzler

    I’m not sure, but I believe as a nation that we worship idols of gold. It’s pure idol worship! There are so many things we want. We want this and we want that and the more money we make provides the gold to buy what we want. I think that we have largely lost sight of what is really important. God blessed us with children to raise for Him. Our job is to train our children and that can best be done with a mother that is not overly committed to the point of having to farm her blessing out to the baby sitters. Thank you.

    1. Stephen, there is truth to what you say, but there are also things like insurance that are more needs than wants. As the price of those things goes up, people who want to live simply are having a hard time too.

  11. God’s master plan has been so retooled it’s almost taboo to even mention the way it used to be is far superior to today’s expectations. High fives, Susan, for braving the blow-back by today’s women and proclaiming the emperor has no clothes!

    1. Kristin, if the new ways were so good, we would be seeing much less depression and anxiety than we are seeing today.

  12. Dear Susan,
    I couldn’t agree more–“Today, we seem to focus on husbands and dads morphing into wives and mothers.” How true. So often these days I qualify my remarks with co-workers, friends and even family by saying, I’m old school…..
    Love your musings. Keep musing. I’m so glad I connected with you and your wonderful husband, Rabbi Daniel. And yes, everybody needs a Rabbi and in this case, his thoughtful and insightful wife.
    May God bless all your efforts-faith, family, finances.

  13. I was raised by parents who decided mom would stay at home and dad went to work. I know I’ve been blessed by it because it taught me how to see the sacrifices they made and to appreciate them for it.

    1. Janet, a friend of mine was just at an Ivy League college reunion of a class that graduated in the 70s and was shocked to realize how many of the women, after getting advanced degrees, chose to be home with their children.

  14. Dear Susan,

    I am a stay at home mom; as such I watch my working mother friends live in perfect huge homes, buy all the latest and greatest and yet, they struggle understanding their kids and themselves. They often claim they don’t like cooking and they would be sooo bored without work. I listen sadly as I thought the same until God removed my choice – my husband’s job required that he travel for indefinite amounts of time. So instead of working, being bitter that he was gone all the time, I quit so the kids and I travel with him as often as possible! Our boys love ‘hotels’ and discovering cool parks, meeting new people at church and checking out museums. Admittedly, my husband and I also chose to leave our perfect huge home to afford me staying at home. But we know we can always grow into that again and because I stay home I have been able to help a working class community connect.

    Thank you for your thoughts! They often resonate with me.

    1. Hilary, it’s always fun and inspiring to read about the choices different people make. Thanks for sharing your story. I think one difficulty is that people tend to confuse cooking, cleaning etc. with making a home. While it costs money to outsource those things, it is an entirely different thing to outsource care of children.

  15. When the children came after our marriage, I quit a great job but realized the important job I would be doing by raising my children at home. I had three children that are now in their respective professional fields, enjoying life. We sacrificed so we could send them to college and they are appreciative of these sacrifices. We did not live in big houses, took vacations to see family, not exotic places, and lived within our means. My son and his wife are professional engineers and are work and travel a lot. We are now retired and see how our grandchild is in daycare and it hurts us to see them living in a lifestyle that I feel is hurting their marriage instead of nurturing it. Another grandchild is on the way and I am praying that they will see the importance for the roles that God intended in taking care of their children at home. The price for daycare these days is so expensive I cannot believe they think it is worth it. I truly loved being home and taking care of my family and home. Now that my husband is retired, he helps me and I can give time to my own small business.

    1. Fran, it is hard to see our children miss out on things that we saw as such a blessing. We need to pray that they make the right decisions for their families and remember that we made mistakes with ours as well.

  16. This was a WONDERFUL article!!!!! I love it!!! I was very blessed to be a stay at home mom because my husband worked very hard to support us and we did without a lot of things. Our children are all grown and there are times when I would love to go back for just one more day with my little ones. I am working outside of the home now. There is plenty of time to work and really only a short period in life where you have your babies to raise. I pray that every family would be enlightened as to how to find a way to do this.

    1. Lisa, you are making such a great point. It’s reminding me to go look for a Musing I wrote years ago about my friends who all stayed home with families and now, decades later, are rocking it in the business world. You can’t do that it the opposite order.

      I found it! I actually re-ran it three years ago. It is still one of my favorite Musings:

  17. My husband demanded that I work full time even after our fifth child was born. We were wealthy by then and I felt my children should be cared for by me. Finally I quit my job against his wishes. He divorced me within a year in order to be with a much younger women. By budgeting I was able to afford to stay home and raise my own children for the next two years and then work three days a week until they were grown. Now that I’m in my 60’s my only regret is that I didn’t get to spend more time with the oldest children when they were small.

    1. Lisa, I’m sorry for your sad experience. Kudos to you for managing to spend time as you did with your children.

  18. Rabbi and rebbetzin,
    Marvelously said. Before Beautiful and I were wed, we decided that even though she earned more money than I, she would be the one to stay at home with our future children. Even though money was short we had the teachings of Heavenly Father to guide us and it was not until I was medically retired soon after the birth of our last daughter that our roles were reversed. Our last son is almost two years older than his sister and Beautiful has always remarked that she missed the most important times of her and their lives because I had to stay home. Now that we are into our sixth decades, during family discussions, our children, themselves, talk of how great the difference was between having mom home and having dad around all the time. And in their respective families, they have chosen to have mom at home, letting daddy shoulder the financial responsibility of providing for their families.

    1. Sounds like you and your wife did what had to be done, Lloyd. It must give you pleasure to see your grandchildren being taken care of by their mothers rather than caregivers.

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