The double standards are revealing and also a little sad. No one would ever refer to a mother as ‘babysitting’ her kids, but fathers get it all the time. If a man is out and about, no one asks, “Hey where are your kids?” but women get it all the time.
There’s an interesting passage in Evelyn McDonnell’s fascinating biography of Joan Didion (who we have written about many times and we also just had Evelyn on the Daily Stoic podcast), that points out another difference between how the public saw Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne, also a great and successful writer. One was clearly identified as a parent and the other was not, even though Dunne actually wrote a whole book about the topic!
“A Google search for images of just father and daughter yields zero results,” Evelyn writes. “I don’t think this is because John and Q were not close; it was he who drove her to school in the mornings in Malibu. ‘John just worshiped Quintana,’ Julia Armstrong-Totten says. Rather, I think that when a woman author is photographed, she is more likely to include her child in the image, whether at her initiative or that of the photographer, because working mothers must always prove their concomitant commitment to their parenting duties. The public does not hold fathers to the same standards.”
Some double standards are unrealistic, but others, like this one, are revealing. Fathers should make their children part of their identity, it shouldn’t be this side project, this thing hidden away. It should be a part of who they are. It’s not something to be bashful about—especially in John’s case, since he was doing the hard work of being a good parent.
As we’ve said before, by talking about the joys and the struggles of parenting you are helping other parents. You are putting things out in the open. You are modeling good priorities. You are allowing other people to prioritize their own children, freeing them from having to pretend that they don’t have these other enormous obligations in their life.
We shouldn’t be bashful or secretive about our families (except in some cases for safety reasons). We, especially men, should blow this double standard apart.
P.S. We wanted to share some exciting news with you: Ryan Holiday is doing two LIVE events in Australia this summer where you can see him discuss the four Tenants of Stoic Leadership, the timeless art of turning trials into opportunities, and more. We’re calling the events The Stoic Life and they’ll take place in Sydney on July 31st and Melbourne on August 1st. We’ll have a limited number of slots for a VIP meet-and-greet as well if you want to chat afterward. It’s going to be great. Learn more and purchase tickets here.