John Legend is all too familiar with the different sets of parenting expectations for mums and dads.
The singer and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, had a viral moment back in 2016 when they went out to dinner 10 days after welcoming their daughter Luna.
While Teigen faced criticism for going on a date night so soon after giving birth, Legend said he was not subjected to the same backlash and called for more equal treatment.
Now, he’s continuing to call out the double standards mums and dads face and is advocating for fathers to play a more active role in parenting. Legend teamed up with Pampers and Koala Kare in a pledge to provide 5,000 changing tables in men’s public restrooms across North America over the next two years.
“I think it’s, as George W. Bush said, ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations.’ So much more is expected of women, and so little is expected of men. Every time a man does even the smallest thing, everyone’s like, ‘Oh, that’s so amazing, he’s such a great dad,’” he told HuffPost.
“So much more is expected of women, and so little is expected of men. Every time a man does even the smallest thing, everyone’s like, ‘Oh, that’s so amazing, he’s such a great dad.'”
“Meanwhile, women are doing lots more, and it’s assumed that’s what they’re supposed to do,” he added. “They’re not celebrated for it. I think part of changing behaviors and the ways we interact with each other is changing the way we talk about these things, and I think one way we can do that is not to lower the bar so much for men.”
Promoting dads’ role in diaper duty is one way Legend is trying to raise the bar for men. Last year around Father’s Day, he starred in a Pampers ad singing his “Stinky Booty” song, which he wrote while changing Luna’s diapers.
“It’s become a growing campaign where we highlight the fact that dads can be part of diaper duty. Obviously many dads already knew this, but I think it was something that was good to highlight in a big national campaign,” he explained. “After that, we grew the movement. We did a commercial with lots of other dads and one with Adam Levine. It was really great to say that dads can be part of this duty.”
This latest initiative is about making sure dads have the facilities they need to play an active role in parenting ― specifically changing stations in public restrooms that allow them to be involved in diaper duty at all times.
“But bottom line is, let’s make [diaper duty] more convenient for dads, and let’s say that it’s not just a woman’s job to do this.”
“It’s a thing you never think about until it’s a thing that you need. You never understand it until you’re actually in the situation. And of course, you just improvise and make it happen,” Legend said of the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms. “But bottom line is, let’s make it more convenient for dads, and let’s say that it’s not just a woman’s job to do this. Men can share in this role as well, and let’s make sure there are facilities out there that make it possible.”
He added that there are many types of families, including those with single dads or two dads. “My dad was a single dad for the second half of my childhood, and he had four kids,” he noted. “We were past diaper-changing age, but you have to recognise that there are all kinds of parenting relationships and parenting roles out there. We should have bathrooms that acknowledge that.”
To Legend, Teigen’s mum-shaming experience epitomises the lack of awareness around the active roles dads can and should play in caring for their babies.
“It just shows you. We both were going out, and it was a couple weeks after Luna was born. We had child care. She wasn’t home by herself. Chrissy got criticised, and I was right next to her and didn’t get criticised,” he said. “It just lets you know, those are the different expectation levels a lot of people have for men and women, and I think we need to have conversations to evolve past that.”
In addition to 3-year-old Luna, Legend and Teigen are also parents to 1-year-old Miles. Getting involved in movements like the diaper duty initiative is one way they serve as role models for their kids and work to create a more equitable world for them.
“A lot of what we do, we think about our kids and the future we want for them,” the dad said. “A lot of it is also about character and interpersonal behaviour toward each other at home, and we want to model that in the way we talk to each other and in the way we talk to them. We want them to be smart, we want them to be kind, we want them to be good leaders, and we want them to be empathetic. And hopefully we’re able to model that at home with them.”