'This is not a dig at dads, it's a dig at our society—a society that applauds dads for handling the most basic of parenting duties + expects nothing short of perfection from mothers.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 27, 2022. It has since been updated.
While patriarchy affects every human negatively, it is also true that anyone who is not a cis-het man has to face disproportionate harm at the hands of the heteronormative patriarchal structure. The same holds true in the case of parenting also. In the case of heteronormative couples raising a child, it is often the case that fathers are hailed for doing the bare minimum while moms are expected to do the lion's share of the work even at the cost of their personal lives and careers. Mary Catherine Starr, a Massachusetts-based artist, yoga teacher and mother-of-two, highlighted these incredibly annoying—and infuriating—parenting double standards in a post shared to her @momlife_comics Instagram account. Titled "An Illustrated Guide To The Double Standards Of Parenting," it struck a nerve with many on social media, quickly becoming her most popular post to date.
Depicting some of the major differences in how society views moms versus dads, Starr wrote: "This is not a dig at dads, it's a dig at our society—a society that applauds dads for handling the most basic of parenting duties + expects nothing short of perfection from mothers (or even worse, shames them for every decision and/or move they make!). Dad taking his child to her pediatrician appointment? That's so great! What a helpful, wonderful guy!! Mom doing it? Obviously; it’s her job (whether she works or not). I could have drawn a million examples like these, but I think you get the point."
Speaking to HuffPost about the now-viral post, the artist said: "I'm tired of our society applauding dads for handling the most basic of parenting duties and expecting perfection from mothers." Starr explained that the scenarios illustrated in the post—picking up fast food for dinner, checking your phone while with kids, being a working parent, and simply spending time with one's children—are based on her own experiences as a mom in a world that sets an incredibly low bar for dads despite them being just as capable of handling childcare.
"People have said lots of things to me that they would never say to my husband," Starr shared. "For instance, once, when my daughter was young and I was pushing her in the stroller and looking down at my phone, a neighbor called out to me that I ‘should pay attention to my daughter instead of my phone.’ I know he never would have said that to my husband." Another example of society's parenting double standards, she said, is when people say a dad is "babysitting" when what he's actually doing is parenting his own child.
"People will ask moms, 'Who is watching your kids?' when they’re traveling or out at night, but don't ask dads that," Starr said. "Moms are expected to stay home from work when their kids are sick, and dads aren't. And, in fact, often dads aren't given the same flexibility that moms are given when their kids are sick." The artist emphasized that the aim of her post is not to bash dads. Instead, it strives to make us as a society more conscious of just how differently moms and dads are viewed when they're basically doing the exact same thing. "My hope is that the more we talk about — and point out — these double standards, the more we can start to change the narrative," she said.
In a testament to how relatable the post was for many parents, the comments were filled with Instagram users sharing their own experiences and observations about these double standards while lamenting how insulting and frustrating they can be. "This hit a nerve with so many women! I was a single mom living in an apartment. Next door, a single dad. Neighbors felt so bad for him that they helped him with his laundry, brought over food, and babysat. For me, nothing. I just shakily carried on somehow. And I had so much less money and opportunities," wrote @saturdayfarm. "Thank you so much for this one! Kind of had to hold my breath for a second because this is such a huge thing and it's obviously everywhere - even in different cultures! Another Double Standard: screen time/games (online or mobile). Dad is the cool guy but Mom has obviously lost it," commented @meuterei_auf_der_bounty.