Dear moms,

We haven’t been formally introduced, but I am the lone man in the daily drop-off melee at your child’s preschool. You know, the one with the unshaven face and milk-stained hoodie. The one whose unmistakably friendly “Good Morning!” you always manage not to hear.

Please know that, while I cannot presume to know what you are feeling, I share at least part of your pain. My wife does not get a morning greeting either when I’ve been up with an energetic toddler since 4:45 a.m. Speech is challenging for the sleep-deprived mind, as we know.

You see, I am your less able and unfashionable counterpart—a stay-at-home dad. Not the hunky divorced father, whom trashy movies inform me you find attractive.

No, I am the genuine article—an unemployed, unwashed, exhausted, fulltime parent, who happens to be a man.

Of course, that’s not all I am. Like you, I was once young and educated, with a promising career and political opinions and clever words. Like you, I gave it up for my child’s future and my spouse’s career. (And for financial sense—can you believe the cost of childcare?)

My sacrifice is trivial compared to yours. I didn’t experience the agony (and joy) of giving life to another person. Never can I fully understand how childbirth changes a woman’s body. I don’t know what it feels like to be judged by society about whether I choose to work or stay home with the children. Thanks to a wife who is actively involved in housework and childcare, I have no experience with emotional labor.

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I’ve never been in one of your cliques, so I suspect you have many problems I will never know about (and rightly so), matters of feminine mystique beyond my dull, male mind.

Pardon me if I have strayed into mansplaining territory. I may be sleepy, but I am woke enough to recognize the absurdity of a man telling women about women’s issues.

I have no reason or intention to complain. My life as a stay-at-home dad is full of open doors, looks of sympathy, and kind smiles. I benefit from society’s double standards that criticize mothers and glorify fathers for the same parenting act. Not only at the office is a mediocre man celebrated for work that is routine for a woman.

Sadly, we are a long way from true gender equality. You have every right to be wary of me.

All I’m hoping for is a smile.

Of course, I would never actually ask you to smile. I might seem ugly in my vomit-colored khakis (trigger warning—it is, in fact, vomit) but I try very hard not to be an ugly sexist.

I’m just asking for acknowledgment. Namaste would do, as would a curt nod. A wave would be a bonus.

Basically, any word or gesture that recognizes me as a living person who is struggling to do what you are doing so well—raise a child.

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I understand my gender can be cause for suspicion. Rest assured I would never try to flirt with you or otherwise turn our children’s preschool into an unsafe space. #MeToo has made many male allies reexamine themselves. In addition, as my wife (and Myers-Briggs) can attest, I am an unrepentant introvert. Playdates terrify me. If you ever asked me to come over—not fishing for an invitation, this is merely a thought experiment—I would stammer, then flee.

I am a flawed parent and feminist, but I would like my child to live in a world where civility matters and gender does not. So would all of us, I hope.

But I realize your problems are structural, mine minor. If I were in your place, I would likely ignore this note. Thank you for tolerating another man who thinks his opinion counts.

With all my respect and admiration,

A stay-at-home dad

Zia Ahmed

Zia Ahmed is a stay-at-home American dad in London.