When Los Angeles resident Doyin Richards placed a photo on Facebook of himself doing his daughter’s hair, he had no idea it would go viral — and spark backlash. Yet, Richard’s experiences are a reflection of the 214,000 stay-at-home dads in the United States, according to Census Bureau data — a growing shift towards men taking more active roles in child care.
Although Richards is not a full-time stay-at-home father, he is the author of the blog Daddy Doin’ Work, which chronicles his experiences as an extremely involved parent, and a paternity leave from work he took in 2013 to bond with his two daughters.
“It’s a lot of work being a stay at home parent, but it’s so damn rewarding,” the proud father wrote of his leave. “My baby girl smiles at me nonstop these days and I know it’s attributed to the one-on-one time I’m spending with her. It’s a blast.”
One day when his wife was late for work, Richards offered to do their two-year-old’s hair, a task she normally does. The challenge? To do the older sister’s hair while the infant demanded attention. Richards told his wife he would handle it, to which she responded with the proverbial, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Thus was one of the cutest pictures in the history of parenting spawned. Richards explained on his blog that he strapped his then three-month-old onto his chest with a baby carrier, brushed his toddler’s hair into a ponytail, and documented it all for proof.
After posting the photo on Facebook in October 2013, Richards posted it again in December, when it was picked up by The Good Men Project. It quickly circulated, garnering thousands of Facebook likes and tweets, and coverage from mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! and The Frisky.
People have since liked the photo approximately 200,000 times. Many are moved deeply by the image of a man intimately nurturing his children. But for Richards, cooking, cleaning, and caring for kids should be the norm for men.
“The picture stirs emotion for a few reasons,” Richards said in an interview with Yahoo! Shine. “The media doesn’t portray fathers as caregivers. We’re seen as bumbling fools trying to figure out parenthood, or macho men pushing their kids into the NFL. The other issue is that there’s a stereotype that black fathers are deadbeats.”
That response was evoked as well by audiences.
“Cute picture,” wrote one critic. “Now why don’t you hand the children back to their mom so you can go back to selling drugs or your bootleg rap CDs?”
The perception that there are no good black fathers is one Kuae Kelch-Mattox, National President of Mocha Moms, Inc., is glad to see Richards eradicating.
“As Mocha Moms, we know that our fathers play an integral role in the lives of our children,” the head of this organization for stay-at-home moms of color told theGrio. “Millions of African-American fathers take a hands on role in the upbringing and daily activities of their children, yet many of the images we see today perpetuate the negative stereotypes, and elicit unfortunate and hateful comments. The beauty of this photo, and the story behind it, is that it is real. It’s phenomenal for the world to see an image depicting what moms like us have known all along.”
Sadly, other readers were irked by the fact that Richards’ kids are multiracial. “Look at this Uncle Tom,” said another observer. “No chance he would be doing this if his kids were black.”
Richards has brushed off these attacks, citing that Dr. Martin Luther King fought for the right for people to love across racial lines. (Richards’ wife is half Japanese and half white.)
Despite this negativity, Richards remains focused on paving a path forward so that fathers splitting labor equally with mothers becomes unexceptional.
“Until we can get to the point where men and women can complete the same parenting tasks and the reactions are the same, we will have problems,” he stated on his blog. “If you want to create a statue for me for taking care of my daughters, create one for the moms who are doing the same damn thing everyday for their kids without receiving a ‘Thank you’ or an ‘Ooooh’ or ‘Ahhhh.’”
According to therapist Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Girls, who paraphrases famed anthropologist Margaret Mead in this statement, “the most telling way of judging a civilization is by observing its ability to socialize its men into healthy, attached and effective fathers. Fathers, perhaps more than mothers, must learn to father.”
The valiant leadership in the area of fatherhood by Doyin Richards is a sign that American society is well on its way towards an evolved masculinity.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb