For the Last Time: Special Parking for New and Expecting Moms Isn’t an Inclusivity Problem
If that really needs to be explained
Since becoming a caretaker dad, I’ve found myself in league with several social media groups consisting of parents, primarily fathers, who share ideas, problems, and encouragement, in hopes that we’re all a little better for it. I even went to one of the retreats this year, and I’ve casually contributed parenting articles around the web for most of my son’s first three years now.
As a result, I hear most of the head-turning parenting talk that makes the rounds. Scary Mommy silently passed on my feature about the emerging network of caretaker dads, but promoted, with great enthusiasm, Mary Katherine’s determination that children probably see ghosts. As you please, Internet.
That’s all to say that, when Canadian dad Justin Simard recently parked in the new/expecting mom parking at the supermarket and snapped a selfie with his baby in the name of inclusivity, The Huffington Post could not get enough, and I heard all about it repeatedly.
This post came to my attention after it was shared by a member of a Facebook group consisting mostly of stay-at-home and work-at-home dads (I’m the latter). Members applauded Simard, enjoying the caption “Dads are parents too!” and responding with an enthusiastic “Yep!” It seemed I was the first person around to take issue with the situation.
For fairness purposes, I’ll include my unmodified, somewhat abrasive response.
Uhh no. Do not park in a parking space for expectant mothers because it’s unfair to your penis. Take a stand when you hear that “choosy moms choose JIF.” Until then, recognize that there’s also a big difference between a woman who just physically endured childbirth and you.
Perhaps a better way to illustrate my point would have been to ask someone from the Simard camp to confirm that they’re comfortable with the idea of a pregnant woman walking to the store from further away, because they, as a man, feel entitled to park there because they’re a dad.
There was immediate pushback, and I had the sense that I was speaking to at least a couple of gentlemen who were already parking in these spaces (some have since confirmed). The primary argument was “Pregnancy is one thing, but ‘mothers with small children’ should include fathers.”
I guess that depends on how childbirth went for your penis. I fared pretty well compared to my wife, who could barely walk for months. If a man took a parking space she needed during that time while I wasn’t around, I would hope someone would get in his face immediately on my behalf.
“Any of their doctors would order a handicapped parking permit, if asked,” one commenter said. “So what is the real issue here, if not sexism?”
For one thing, I’ve never heard of that and have no idea if it’s true or common, but perhaps we’re finally narrowing in on the true issue — where my efforts as a father have left me unchanged, unpopular, and where I believe the grocery store in question got it 100% wrong:
Inclusivity is not more important than logic, or biology, or even just plain doing the right thing.
The idea of a dad announcing his entitlement to a pregnant woman’s parking space is absolutely embarrassing. Label it a sexism issue as you please. My role as a work-at-home dad, my wife’s role as a provider for the house, none of these things change the biological events that took place during or after her pregnancy, and they don’t change the values of chivalry.
Nonetheless, the store in question has updated their signage, incorrectly suggesting that a dad’s need for special parking is equal to a pregnant or recently pregnant woman’s need for the space, and they praised this “superdad” for bringing the issue to light.
Overall, this is not a step forward for legitimizing the male caretaker role. Respect for dads won’t be earned by pretending we are identical to women and that our experience is the same. It will be earned when we embrace a mother’s differences, uphold the values of good men, and pass those values to our children.