Parenting is tough. Even the most prepared parents are often hit with the “why did we think we could do this?” stress at some point, usually when it’s 3 a.m. and no one has slept yet. For couples who juggle parenting duties, it’s easier than going through parenting solo, if those duties are actually equitably split among parents. But, when it comes to these parenting duties, dads are far too often praised for doing the very bare minimum – at least that’s what Keira Knightley thinks.
In an interview with HelloGiggles, the 35-year-old British mom of 2 questioned why dads are given more praise and leeway in parenting than moms are offered. “It’s really rare to see a guy at children’s (daycare), and if he is, people say, ‘Ooh, what a lovely dad. Look at him looking after his own children,” Keira said to HelloGiggles. “You would never say that to a woman.”
Keira, who shares 5-year-old Edie, and 1-year-old Delilah, with her husband, rocker James Righton, said that dads get a “free pass” when it comes to childcare. Dads have rarely been questioned the same way mothers are.
“We really need to start asking men about what their role within the childcare situation is, how much of that they take on, and expect them to take on that responsibility,” she said. “We expect women to take on that responsibility, and yet for some reason, we give men a free pass.”
According to the actress, it’s time to start having the same conversations with dads that we do with moms, particularly when it comes to balancing career and parenthood. She told the publication that “the guilt is absolutely constant” when she’s away from her kids and working—and the questions she gets from the media doesn’t help this.
“Why do we not engage men in that conversation?” Keira asked. “Why do we not expect a working man to be looking after their children as much as their partner is? Why do we assume that they don’t feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children as well?”
This isn’t the first time Keira has asked these types of questions when it comes to the different ways society approaches motherhood and fatherhood. Earlier this year, in an interview with Porter, Keira questioned why we don’t have the same pressure and expectations on dads.
“It’s not expected that men should look after their children, it’s seen as a bonus,” she said during the March 2020 interview. “Even in the workplace, my husband is never asked about childcare, whereas that would be asked of me: ‘So what are you doing with the kids?’”
It’s true that there is a big balance issue between moms and dads when it comes to raising kids while juggling a career. According to a recent report on the state of women in corporate America, which looked at the biases against working moms vs dads, the divide has always been there. Still, it’s been amplified further due to the pandemic, with decades of workplace gains being erased by the dual pressures of parenting and working that have been smashed on top of each other for the foreseeable future by COVID-19.
And while Keira’s questions may have been asked rhetorically, the conversation should be had, until the imbalance of parenting labor actually shifts to be more equitable.