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Aren't 'Super Dads' Just Being Parents?

Ryan Gosling loves fatherhood.

Ryan Reynolds does night feedings.

Ashton Kutcher wants to change a diaper in a public restroom.

And the Internet goes wild.

But what is the big deal?

A single dad recently wrote a post on the Life of Dads Facebook page devoting himself to his daughter, and he now has 600K followers. I get it; it's super sweet. And we don't typically see Public Displays of Dadness (PDD), so we get all sappy when we do. But does that mean we don't expect it? Why are we treating these guys like Super Dads and not just good dads? Talk about a biased workplace.

Remember the term "Deadbeat Dad"? This was a term in the '80s given to men who fathered kids and then intentionally never paid a dime—true slime balls. So, if Super Dad is changing diapers and talks openly about being devoted to his child and a Deadbeat Dad runs away, what is the in-between? Non-Abandonment Dad?

I think it's time we stop swooning over celebrity dads—and even our coworker who picks up his kids on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This isn't Super Dad-ing. It's parenting.

What if we lived in a world where a Deadbeat Dad wasn't someone who jumped ship, but was someone who wasn't picking up 50 percent of the work? Approximately two-thirds of families have both parents working. And according to a 2014 Working Moms Tipping Point Survey from Care.com, 80 percent of working moms feel stressed about getting everything done. This isn't because everyone loves their jobs and wants to work, it's because life is expensive, kids are expensive, and the family needs both paychecks. But these days we can't just have dad changing diapers and sharing pictures of his kids around the office to be considered super. He needs to be helping relieve the care responsibilities so his partner can be successful outside of the house as well.

Or at least trying to be 50 percent.

A lot falls on us as women, as moms. We carry the baby, have to heal from delivery, nurse and bond with the baby on maternity leave—if we actually get it. So obviously, we form a deeper bond. We start to know what different cries mean. We know their schedule like we know the nose on our face. So when the baby cries, we moms know what to do. Dad is starting from Square 1 when he gets home from work and rarely gets to Square 2 because both of us default to the expert. (This is one reason we need more paid paternity leave in this country.)

So then, when dad does know something—when he doesn't just sit there and get told what to do—we praise him like he invented our favorite ice cream. And he sits there sopping up all the praise.

While it sounds like I'm complaining here, I think we've come a long way. Remember the Deadbeat Dads I talked about? That was the trending dad story in the '80s. Now the trend is hands-on dad-ing. Media sites focused on fathers have launched with millions in investments, numerous PDD hashtags have gained momentum (#DadLife), and Lego just launched a Stay-at-Home Dad figurine. Perhaps we can thank the celeb dads for making fatherhood so hot.

But we still need to push these so-called Super Dads to higher standards, and that means we need to redefine what it means to be a Super Dad. We can't swoon when we hear of a dad who takes care of his kids—physically, emotionally and financially. It should be expected because he's a parent. Reporters should no longer ask celebrity dads if they change diapers (would they ever ask a mom that?) Instead, they need to ask well-known dads how they manage their careers and family.

And we moms need to expect more co-parenting support at home, while men should expect more family support at work.

Things are changing. And it's super.

Katie Herrick Bugbee, senior managing editor at Care.com, focuses on global content for parents, caregivers, pet-owners, and families in need of senior care. As a mom of two small children, grandchild of an ailing grandfather and all-around pet lover, Katie relates to these topics and works diligently to provide the best advice and resources for Care.com readers.

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