Football Players = Totally Bad Parents


steelersWhen you sit down to watch the NFL Conference Championships this weekend, I have a challenge for you. Don't look at the players on the field as stars. Look at them as fathers.

Are you sure you still want to watch? Because playing out on the TV in front of you will be one of America's greatest double standards in action. On the Packers, the Bears, the Jets and the Steelers are dozens of men who at the end of the day are fathers. Brian Urlacher. Antonio Cromartie. Ladanian Tomlinson. Troy Polamalu. All talented players who spend great amounts of time on the road away from their kids. All men. All really bad parents.

Too harsh? Just imagine these were moms on the road. How many people do you see standing up to cheer them on? In the hierarchy of the mommy wars, the working vs. stay-at-home debate is somewhere above spanking and below breastfeeding. But it's the one war that could easily be put to pasture. If we'd just step back and recognize we're only half of the equation.

When's the last time a dad was taken to task in the media for taking a job hundreds of miles from home, a job that caused him to miss some of the pivotal moments of his children's lives? The football players are just one example. Throw in basketball. Baseball. Hockey.

It can't be coincidence that just as I prepped for hunkering down for some football in my house that I received an advance screener copy of the the new Disney movie Secretariat (out on DVD this week). I was watching because my daughter is -- like so many little girls -- a horse fan. But as she cheered on the galloping star (5-year-old screaming "Go Secretariat, go" = cutest thing ever), I couldn't help focusing on the woman behind the reins so to speak.

Penny  Chenery Tweedy
Penny Chenery Tweedy
Penny Chenery Tweedy was, for all intents and purposes, a sports star. She was the owner of the greatest horse to ever race, and I was intent on sharing her good fortune with my daughter as an example of female success. But for all she's celebrated in the movie -- when it first hit theaters some criticized it was too much Penny and too little Secretariat -- there's an undercurrent to the film that sums up quite well the problem with being a successful working mother.

Tweedy's family, including her four children, were in Colorado, while her family's horse farm was in Virginia. She spends much of the three year span from the birth of Secretariat through the Triple Crown, traveling back and forth. And her children lose out. Entire scenes are devoted to how this working mother fails her children by not making it home for certain events. The fact that a woman can lead the greatest horse in history to the Triple Crown and earn herself a feature film but still find her story bogged down by a debate over her worth as a parent depresses me.

To be fair the Secretariat story occured in the 70s, and working mothers did not have the advantages we have today. But it would be easier to write it off as old-fashioned if we weren't looking to this weekend's games and cheering on these dads who spend days if not weeks away from their kids and simultaneously knocking working mothers for spending even one eight-hour span outside the home.

Take the attitude toward Hillary Clinton in the nineties, when she was a first lady not content to sit around the White House redecorating the place. She was vilified for daring to step out from behind her husband, the president, for daring to do more than stay home tending to Chelsea. Now imagine telling Troy Polamalu that his family would be better off if he didn't go earn extra money shilling hair products; his kids don't need to see a dad working all his angles.

Or what of Kate Gosselin today? I don't like her. She's easy to demonize for much of what she's done. But if she's wrong for spending time away from her children on her speaking engagement tours, then so too is Brian Urlacher for climbing on a plane to play in a football game.

Frankly, I think most athletes are just doing what they can for their kids. They aren't "bad dads" if they're using their skills to make money to support their families. But as long as moms are "bad parents" for daring to go to work, then these men are "bad" too.

Too bad working moms don't have the NFL's publicist. Do you see a double standard?


Images via daveynin/Flickr; Walt Disney Home Entertainment

a mom's life


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amber... amberwriteslove

well if you feel this way about a football player, how do you feel about our military? my husband is only around maybe 10% of the time because he is making a living for us and doing something he loves, just like these players are doing for their families. i'm sure they don't enjoy being far from their children. just sayin'. and with that being said DA BEARS!

Kelli... KelliansMom

My husband is not a bad father Bc he is away 90% of the time he is providing for our family. He has a job and puts money in the bank to pay our bills put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. And that's what these men are doing like so many other men around the world. And if roles were reversed and I was the in traveling for work I wouldn't be a bad mother either.

ajbro... ajbrownies

The point of the article is to say that there is a double standard, and there is. It's OK for men to run around  tossing a leather ball around, posing for shoe commericals and being gone for weeks and weeks on end but it's not for a woman. I get the argument. There is a double standard and while I personally feel that it's my job as a woman to be a mother and be with my children as much as possible I also think that fathers have a responsibilty in the home as well.

The military is a whole different ball game (no pun intended) noone would ever think to insult someone serving his country by saying he's a lousy dad but it's also not the same thing as playing a game for a living.


hotic... hoticedcoffee

I suppose there is a double standard.  Personally, I don't have a ton of respect for "professional" overgrown boys in any sport, but that's just me.  I also wouldn't date or marry a man whose current or intended career required so much time away from home and family.  I know things happen to change existing circumstances, and I'd roll with it - but it's not something I would choose. 

Do I think men who elect to be away from their families for work have it easier that a woman who would choose the same?  Definitely. 

Mythi... MythicMMM

That is just silly. The "normal" parental expectations are always changing. Once upon a time ago parents sent their children to boarding school because it was what good parents did to make good children. Give it a few decades and views will change again.

heybo... heybooboo

One fails to acknowledge the anti-glamour that comes with being a professional. Whether it be sports, military, or corporate. There is always a price to pay. And the families involved realize that and do what it takes to make it work. Unless you live the lifestyle, one should not speak. Often times the person making the decisions do so for a genuine reason. In many cases they have brought to their family a level of comfort they would not achieve any other way. Sure to the plain eye it can be frivolous, but to look back on one's history,you can often find a great service to their loved one's.

Life isn't ever black and white.

ArmyGal ArmyGal

I was in the army deployed 3 times myself. Most people will shut up after that, others don't. It's a double standard for real. Since I'm also single, they tell me my child is lacking a father figure, but ones who's father is away just as much still can win father of the year.

momof... momoflilangel

I don't think they are all neccessarily bad just b/c they aren't around all the time.

falln... fallnangel3

Women have fought for decades for equal rights, yet when it comes to "parenting" society still holds a double standard over our heads.  Most men travel for work, and a lot of them are gone for periods at a time.   People do what they need to so their children have the best.  If they can make millions of dollars playing a game, providing a good life for their family, then good for them.

nonmember avatar PC

Also, in a very real, perhaps un-PC sense, if most children had to choose which parent to do without, how many would choose their mother? Maybe part of the double standard is society acknowledging, in a collective, unconscious sense, how much power a woman offers to her children, and how vital that is. And, not to get off-topic, but I suspect that that's why a lot of people balk when considering two men adopting a child vs. two women. (I support gay marriage and gay adoption, by the way--these are just my suspicions.)

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