People sometimes ask me how I ‘do it all’. My answer is ‘I don’t’. Not at all. As you will see, I am blessed to have an equal partner on this journey. Someone who has always seen it as his job to share the sometimes exhausting responsibility of raising children with me. Today he’s even writing a post for me! I hope you enjoy his thoughts on his role as a father and being called a ‘super-dad’ for contributing to raising our children.
To my wife,
This may seem strange but I want to thank you for not putting me up on a pedestal like I’m some kind of “super-dad” or “super-husband”. Don’t get me wrong, I know you think I’m a good dad and a good husband…but you also expect me to be. There is a difference.
Yes, I spend time with my kids when I’m not working.
Yes, I try to buck the trend in parenting where it can benefit my children.
Yes, I’ve been known to wear a baby carrier over my best suit at weddings we’ve attended.
Yes, I like to read about innovative ways to raise my kids.
Yes, I am vocal about child safety, the rights of a child, and the happiness of my children.
Yes, I get up at night to put my kids back to sleep so you can get some rest before you go at it again the next day.
Yes, I do the cooking in the house and often eat last to make sure you all have eaten when you’re hungry.
Yes, I sacrifice the things I want to do with my personal down time to make sure you and the kids are getting what you need…and I don’t feel like it’s a sacrifice.
When people learn of me getting up at night, or see me rocking a baby to sleep at a social function when you’re also free and able to do it…I’m held under a spotlight glowing in the gleam of golden stars with a brass band sounding my excellence. And it’s embarrassingly unfair because they are seeing the one or two times I do it each week, and often it’s viewed as though I’m giving you the night off…as though you should be doing it, but I’m such a hero of a father that I’m stepping up for 30 minutes of fame.
Where is your brass band?
Name me a mother…or to be socially correct here, a primary care giver…who doesn’t do all of those things. Why should I get special recognition from family or the general community?
I find it socially unacceptable that there exists an unapologetic double standard in society that the expectations on mothers and fathers are grossly different. When people say to me “you’re such a good dad” who are they comparing me to? There is no good answer here. I’m still at a loss as to why—in 2014—we can still consider someone who earns the money for the family and then plays parent outside business hours an elite talent, when someone who cares and nurtures a family 24 hours a day is the “pass” mark.
Whether rightly or wrongly I automatically feel ashamed and a little embarrassed when I’m told I’m a good dad because I feel as though they are telling me that I’m an exception and to be commended…but those same people can have expectations that mothers should be perfect all of the time. Much like the current expectations of mothers, being an active and involved father shouldn’t be an exception, it should be the rule. I love that we can both see that we’re each working hard with our kids to be active and involved, be happy with each other that we’re on the same page, but don’t see what we do as extraordinary. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. I guess it’s the fact that you know what we are trying to achieve, and I know what we’re trying to achieve, and we keep each other on track. It just doesn’t sit well with me that I get a pat on the back for my role in this partnership while there is an unspoken understanding (and as you’ll see below, sometimes a spoken understanding) that what you are doing is just the expectation.
I recall someone in my family once commenting on me going to work tired from being up late with our daughter and was worried about my health. When I responded that I stayed up late at night if there was a requirement to do so in order to give you a break from having to look after the kids 24 hours a day, the response saddened me greatly: “Well that’s what she’s there for; that’s just what we do”. How do you respond to that?! For the record, my response was “No, that’s what parents are there for”.
If I had to be recognized as a good father—or preferably, a good parent so there isn’t an unspoken comparison against other fathers—I’d like it to be for things that are above and beyond the expectations we should all place on ourselves as parents. Specifically for us, I should think that we could receive plaudits for taking a stand against smacking our children; for treating our kids as valuable people; for taking a stand against demeaning comments directed at kids because “that’s what was said to me as a child and I turned out ok!”; or having the guts to buck convention to homeschool our kids because yes, in some ways it’s a risk! We are making everyday decisions that buck conventional wisdom and having the courage to put our kids first.
So thank you for expecting me to be different.
I love that you expect me to be involved, have opinions, contribute to the planning for our future, and to talk at length about how we will achieve our goals for our family…
I love that you expect me to read about parenting and education and personalities and bringing up daughters…
I love that you hold fast with your position on parenting knowing that you’ve read enough and are experienced enough to have an understanding of what’s best for our children, and that you expect me to do the same…
I love that you acknowledge that we both play a role in our family, we both spend a lot of energy keeping our family happy and secure, and we both are working towards the same goal…and that you expect me to understand what that means for both of us…
I love that you expect me to be a parent, not a father. There is a role for both certainly, but a parent in our minds translates to a partnership.
I am not a superstar father or husband. I get frustrated. I get tired. Sometimes I can be selfish. I make mistakes. I forget what I’m trying to achieve with our family and can take back steps. But isn’t this true of every parent?
No I’m not a superstar, but I do love you and I do love my kids.
And if we’re being honest, you’re not a superstar either – none of us are. But you work bloody hard to make us all happy and make sure our kids get every opportunity they need to be happy in life.
I think we all need gold stars. We all need recognition and understanding. So from me to you, thank you for being you and for letting me be me.