So apparently “dad bod” is a thing now. Well, it’s always been a thing, but the recent social media storm of women expressing appreciation of this physique has given it a label. For the uninitiated; “dad bod” refers to the somewhat out-of-shape, untoned body that is common among men who have children, are presumably married, and have sort of “let themselves go”.
I think it’s great that dads are getting some love, and that qualities connected to fatherhood are being thought of as positive attributes. If focusing on family and the responsibilities of parenthood is the trade-off for one’s physique, then I’m all for it. Anything that values men’s involvement in family life is much needed and great PR. However, I wonder how many of these dad bods are genuinely the result of deepening family commitments, as opposed to commitments to junk food and watching football.
As much as we need initiatives that free us from our preoccupation with appearance, we are also in need of men who set good examples about making healthy choices and being active; not just a sideline (or couch) spectator. Part of a father’s job is not only to provide shelter and food, but also other sources of sustenance: attention, compassion, positive examples, and healthy insight on how to make good choices.
The prevalence of dad bod is certainly a step in the right direction. My hope is that this inspires people to take it a step further and find beauty in the substance behind the notion. That perhaps the thing that is attractive is not bound to a body type, but that the attributed qualities are what is “hot”. For instance; fidelity, monogamy, responsibility, commitment, maturity, sensitivity. These are qualities of a real man and father and the signs that women should be keying into in order to find a good man, and not necessarily just a good-looking one.
However, the irony here is rich. For one, the “dad bod” is attributed to one who has children, which typically means that these men are no longer on the market. It therefore becomes a form of forbidden fruit, so to speak. That the person of attraction is one who has already gone through the steps of courting, is off-limits, and no longer trying to catch the eye of admirers. Would the same physique still catch the eye of admirers had it not fathered children? Or is it simply the idea of belonging to a dad wherein lies the root of attraction?
The second ironic aspect of this is more obvious. The fact that this positive media attention is given to men who have let themselves go, but mothers with similar bodies would hardly ever be labeled as “desirable” by such an enthusiastic crowd. To further the blow, parenthood obviously has a much larger impact on a mother’s body. A dad may lose a toned body by choosing family obligations over other lifestyle choices, but a mom can easily wind up with a softer physique despite maintaining a healthy lifestyle simply due to the act of carrying and birthing a child. Would the social media hashtaggers promote the sensationalization of “mom bod” just as easily? I’m not so sure.
In my opinion, “dad bod” bringing parenthood into focus to an audience of non-parents is a good thing. It stands to increase appreciation for family values and give love to those of us who have made choices to put familial responsibilities first. At the same time, I encourage people to push the envelope and take the conversation a bit further. Family should take precedence over excessive leisure, but healthy lifestyle choices should be an integral part of that family life. As parents we set the example that our children will likely follow, whether fully conscious of it or not. With obesity and heart diseases on the rise, it is a father’s responsibility to model a healthy lifestyle. Likewise, we should be setting the standards for what is considered attractive and reinforce that character and inner values are of primary importance. As men, if we value women more for their inner qualities, then we can ultimately play a role in reshaping the collective view of the outer qualities and help pave the way for a world where the appreciation of “mom bod” could be as easily conceived of as that of “dad bod”.