We’ve all seen it — an image of a father and his child, perfectly framed, beautifully lit, adorned with smiles and a caption of how much they adore being a parent.
I look at those photos and I’m envious. I have a few of them, but not a collection like some I’ve seen online. I’ve been to wonderful places with my children and we’ve experienced some fantastic things, but nearly all of my pictures are either selfies or family poses that often look forced.
Then, one day I realized why I don’t have very many of those photos. I’m too busy actually parenting to take the perfect parenting photo. When I see those perfect father pictures my first thought is, What happens after the photo has been posted? What kind of father is he?
How many of those guys have given a bath to a one-year-old as the child wiggles like a wet eel? How many have been up all night soothing a teething baby or changed a diaper in the middle of Disney World like I have or had to squat to do so like Donte Palmer because there was no changing station in the men’s room?
I like to tout the new era of fatherhood, but there are plenty of men that still treat parenting like a part-time job or a chore or worse. (And, in total fairness, there are also quite a bit of dads, particularly single dads, that handle far more than I do.)
There are scores of lazy dads, but you’ll never see that shared on Facebook or Instagram. On more than one occasion, I’ve been in the room when a woman complains about how little her husband does (“He’s basically another child”) but then posts a glowing a status update about how incredible of a father he is.
Real dads are too busy actually parenting to worry about projecting the image of a great dad. Real dads have no problem taking care of their children by themselves and never call it “babysitting” while doing so. They feed the kids first and themselves last. They don’t tell their kids to leave them alone while doing something, but instead stop what they’re doing to be with the child.
I do agree with the concept of presence over presents and any time spent with kids is absolutely better than none, but time and time again I’ve seen fathers use their children as props for pictures on vacations or holidays before returning to their self-involved lives and letting the other parent do the heavy lifting.
So the next time I see that photograph capturing that perfect moment, I’ll have to remind myself that it’s far easier to look like a parent than actually be a parent.
Christopher Pierznik is the worst-selling author of nine books. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.