Ever heard of “daddy privilege?” Well, the phrase may be new to you, but if you’re a mother you’ve probably experienced it — and maybe even participated in it.
The term has been around for years, but it’s getting closer to becoming part of our popular lexicon thanks to a recent viral video in which a mom went on a rant about “daddy privilege” and how society minimizes and outright ignores the tireless efforts of moms everywhere.
The creator behind the infamous TikTok video is Chloe Sexton. Sexton is a busy woman. Not only does she run BluffCakes, a bakery in Memphis, Tenn., but she is also mom to a 6-month-old and a 7-year-old. The work can be overwhelming at times, but like working moms across the world, she handles all of her duties as gracefully and fearlessly as possible.
There is just one problem: Despite loving her husband very much, Sexton couldn’t help but notice that whenever he does errands with the kids in tow, he is treated like the father of the year, while people barely even blink when they see her at work with a baby strapped to her chest.
So, she pulled out her phone and made a TikTok about her experience, not imagining that the video would soon garner over 5 million views and more than 17,000 comments.
@chloebluffcakesIt’s the daddy hero treatment for me 🙃♬ original sound – Chloe
During her TikTok video, Sexton shares her thoughts while holding her son Theodore. She said, in part:
“I’ve got a fun little story about ‘daddy privilege’….my bakery requires that we buy certain wholesale ingredients at this place called Restaurant Depot every week. You’ve seen me do videos of it before where I’m wearing him or was massively pregnant buying 400 pounds of flour and 100 pounds of butter, and that’s a weekly thing. The list goes on and on — like it’s a lot.
“So, last week, on the day I usually do it, my husband had the day off and he decided to go do it for me, but he also had the baby that day. When I tell you, the way that this man was treated like a hero — A HERO. Mind you, those same people see me there every single week … But my husband, my husband wears the baby and he goes to Restaurant Depot for mommy’s business and it’s, ‘Oh my god, look at you! Oh my god, you work so hard.’ He [my husband] said, ‘Honestly, it was a little bit embarrassing’ … He’s literally not a hero. He’s just a father, just a parent, doing the same [expletive] I do every week.”
Shortly after posting, her TikTok account (@chloebluffcakes) began blowing up with views and comments. Many women chimed in on the comments, saying that they have also experienced the same thing firsthand. One woman pointed out that when she travels alone with kids, people seem exasperated and annoyed by her brood, but when dads travel alone with kids, everyone from fellow passengers to flight attendants praise the dad and try to make their trip easier.
And gender bias experts like Amy Diehl, Ph.D. perfectly encapsulated the concept in a nutshell on Twitter:
Daddy privilege: When men get praise and are treated as a hero for simply being a parent. Literally doing the same work women do day in and day out with little to no acknowledgement.https://t.co/hCFWgR8ljc
— Amy Diehl, Ph.D. (@amydiehl) November 24, 2021
Others commented that people tend to see dads caring for the kids as some kind of gift or break to the mother, rather than as an equal division of labor.
As Twitter user @PaiviTen points out, people say that men are babysitting or playing Mr. Mom when they help look after their own kids, instead of just seeing it as part of a parent’s natural duty:
And when the dad looks after his child, he's babysitting…
— Paivi (@PaiviTen) November 24, 2021
Dads also began chiming in on the conversation, saying that while the praise is nice at first, it can also start to rub them the wrong way.
This comment is from Twitter user @PaulRileySparta.
This used to happen to me all every time when my girls were babies and I would take them on a walk in a stroller and/or strapped in my front carrier around center city Philadelphia. For a while I let it go to my head, but then I started getting resentful.
— Paul Riley (@PaulRileySparta) November 24, 2021
Some moms say it’s not just the compliments, but that they reinforce stereotypical expectations of gender roles, which ultimately has a huge impact on things like family leave and the gender pay gap.
As Twitter user @AmarRenee explains, when we applaud dads for babysitting their kids, what we are really doing is upholding women being “mommy-tracked” and getting paid less for their work, because the assumption is that they need to focus on their kids, instead of their dads pitching in equally:
The cultural bias of women being the main caregivers of children reinforces the gender pay gap and women not reaching senior positions. In places like Iceland men are given equal paternity leave and young men there expect to take significant time off when starting a family.
— material gworl (@AmarRenee) February 14, 2019
Unfortunately, the gender pay gap has only widened in recent months, thanks in part to the pandemic and the expectation that working moms would also have to be homeschool teachers as well once schools closed or went remote. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report from spring 2021 says the gender gap grew 36 years in just 12 months, indicating it will now take 135.6 years for women to reach income equality with men.
As Twitter user @BrigidSchulte writes, we can’t change the gender pay gap until we start challenging these fundamental expectations and looking to men to begin contributing to their families the same way that women do.
New study: the gender pay gap starts early & grows. Worse for women of color. And stop saying women aren’t as ambitious bc fewer aspire to be CEOs than men. Instead, change overwork systems & cultures that still expect women to be primary caregivers https://t.co/uijbWVxSSv
— Brigid Schulte (@BrigidSchulte) September 23, 2021
Daddy privilege extends beyond babyhood as well, and into all aspects of caregiving and family life. While we often expect women to step up and provide all the necessary care for their aging parents, when adult sons contribute the smallest amount, it’s considered heroic and widely applauded.
Twitter user @LabNandakumar shares:
I totally carry daddy privilege. But recently realized that I carry a lot of “son privilege” too. My sister literally cared/cares for my parents/mother 24/7, but I end up getting praises for my cameo visits and sporadic actions of affection. Her efforts are considered default.
— JK Nandakumar lab (@LabNandakumar) November 24, 2021
Research shows that 66% of caregivers are female. They also devote much more of their free time and emotional labor to family members they tend to. Female caregivers spend 50% more time with their aging and ill family members than male caregivers do, according to the American Associations of Retired Persons.
These unequal roles in caregiving can not only cause an undue emotional burden on already overworked women, but it can also harm a women’s career and earning potential. This is being called the “care chasm,” as explained by Twitter user @kazweida:
Ahem. When we talk about the gender pay gap on #EqualPayDay , we often don't take into account the unpaid labor women assume as primary caregivers of their families and the gaps it leaves in their career.
This is called the "care chasm." And it's YUGE.
— Kaz Weida (@kazweida) April 2, 2019
Convinced that “daddy privilege” needs to go? Experts say that by normalizing the expectation that men and women should both actively and consistently participate in all aspects of parenting — and maybe by offering compliments and praise to the harried mom in the grocery store or the woman grappling with toddlers on the airplane — we can start sharing that appreciation for both mom and dad, across the board.
“Women carry equal and, in some cases, majority breadwinner weight these days and still are deemed less worthy of parental praise somehow,” Sexton told Buzzfeed. “I am a feminist to my core and will always fight for what is equal and just — today that means giving EVERY parent the same amount of attention. Every parent deserves to know that they are seen and appreciated.”