“You’re such a good dad”: the very nice compliment that makes me feel like a fraud

“You are such a good dad,” the moms will say. “I can just tell.” They can always just tell. Part of me feels like they resent their husbands – however briefly – during these interactions.

A couple times a week during the school year, while his sister is away at Pre-K and mom is off at work, my son is home from daycare. In the summer or even the nicer fall or spring days, finding something to do is easy. There are a million parks. We can take the dog for a walk. My son is really interested (I swear) in golf, so we’ll go to the driving range. We even played the back nine at the local course recently. In the winter, though, it gets complicated. We have to find an indoor space to play, a gymnastics class, or something that unfortunately doesn’t involve me bringing my pitching wedge. 

(As a brief aside, I have to mention this: Remember being childless? Days when it was raining or snowing that kept you inside were great days to catch up on movies or that novel that’s been sitting on your bookshelf since last year. Now, it’s like, “How the heck am I going to entertain this kid for the next 13 hours?”)

The world of moms at play spaces, both indoors and out, is not a world of which I would like to be a part. It’s intimidating. I don’t really know the rules of interacting with other people’s wives or children (nor do I want to, by the way); I don’t like the awkwardness of the role of the outsider parent. But I do like the compliments.

And while I bask in their adulation, my son is climbing atop the monkey bars with no supervision, he still has peanut butter and fluff on his cheek from breakfast, and there are definitely no diapers or snacks in the backpack I brought with me.

My point is that the threshold for being labeled a “good dad” is much different than the threshold for being labeled a “good mom.” Men get complimented just for showing up to places like the park or a toddler’s gymnastics class. No one knows that I didn’t even know this place existed until 9:30 in the morning when my wife emailed me – in the middle of Bob the Builder, no less – with the Groupon; No one knows that she laid out his clothes for me this morning; Even I don’t know that she re-upped the diapers in the backpack that morning and threw some pretzels in there in case one of us were to get hungry. It’s those small, mindful tasks that make moms like my wife so very important. Most dads, we have it easy. We were set up with first and goal on the one-yard line. All we have to do it punch it in the endzone. 

Yet, dads get the MVP award just because they scored.

It is nice to get called a “good dad,” but it feels a little … I don’t know … fraudulent. (And, sure, there are a lot of crummy men that do their best to ensure that a dad simply showing up will get that pat-on-the-back.) While I think I’m a good father inasmuch as I love, help provide for, and genuinely care for their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of my children now (and will their entire lives), I don’t think parenting came easily to me. I’m careless and selfish; I’d rather spend Sundays on a couch watching football than picking pumpkins and I’d rather take my son to the driving range than Chuck E. Cheese. 

The most difficult thing to grapple with in this whole equation is that – let’s be honest – most moms just still don’t get the credit they deserve. And so it’s unfair to dismiss the little things a mother – okay, let’s be really honest, my wife – does during the course of the 168 hours every week on repeat 52 weeks a year: the diaper bag being replenished, the furtive trip to the bank after work to ensure there’s money in the checking account for me to grab lunch, or the middle-of-the-night sheet change when our son peed the bed (you know, the one I wasn’t even aware had happened). In a way, too, it’s unfair to dads. In the field of parenting, we’ve been portrayed as bumbling fools, unequipped mostly mentally for the task of taking care of children. So much so that just showing up is enough to get all sort of parenting props from yoga pantsed moms at open gym. 

Yet, dads get the MVP award just because they scored.

It’s nice to be recognized, I suppose. Many fathers are taking a more prominent role in child care, which is wonderful, but I think the last thing we need is more credit for anything. Women have been playing the dominant role in childcare for millenia. Men are finally playing their part, so now we’re going to decide to start dishing out the parenting compliments? 

It’s important for you, dear reader, to understand that I appreciate the cruel irony in all of this. It’s patently unfair and I recognize it. In fact, you should probably compliment me for being such a good husband that I even acknowledge the irony. So I guess there’s only one thing left to say: 

Thank you … I guess?

About the author

Matt Osgood is a freelance journalist based out of Haverhill, MA, where he lives with his wife, their two kids, and dog. While life as a dad certainly provides him with the best material, he writes mostly about sports and booze, both of which provide much needed therapy.


Get the Ovia Parenting app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store