We’re not planning any barbecues. He’s not planning any golf outings. He’s not planning a day at the social club. The only thing in the lineup this Father’s Day is to do absolutely nothing. Which means, I’m on call that day, all day because come Monday, we’re both back to work.
There will also be no proverbial red carpet, rolled out and dotted with rose petals. There will be no blinking billboard extolling the feats of fatherhood with my partner’s face splashed across it. No flashing paparazzi. No hashtags. Okay fine, maybe a few hashtags.
This day isn’t about the accolades or taking a breather from bringing home the bacon.
For us, this day is simply about taking a breather.
My partner, my husband, the father of my two kids is a hands-on, frontlines, in the trenches, “work at home” dad. It is by far the hardest job he has ever had.
Calling all hands-on, in-the-trenches Dads, I understand you! To my partner, the father to my kids, I hear you!
I know what’s a treat to you these days.
Things like taking a dump in utter peace and quiet. Taking a shower without a sticky hand swatting at your balls because a “co-shower” is so much easier than setting up a tubby. Things like waking up at 7am and staying up past 10pm! Things like not ever having to take 45 minutes to rock your baby to sleep, only to have him wake up when you put him down to have you start the rocking all over again. Things like not having to hunch over the changing table while the baby with the poo smeared all over his balls writhes and screams in an unnameable misery or decides to grab them, getting poo on said hands and of course, said dad.
I get you!
I know what you’re thinking, is this some comparative anthropological study?
We’ve both taken time away from our traditional out of home jobs to care for our kids at home. We’re both teachers and grateful union members with benefits which allow us unpaid leave for up to 4 years. While we do not get paid, we at least do not get fired. Without those benefits, we wouldn’t be able to swing our current childcare finagling.
This year it was Daddy’s turn to stay at home.
Even with these shift changes, we both still do double shift labor. Actually, call it triple shift. We both scrub the toilet, haul the damn laundry to the laundry room and yes, we both cook. Sometimes we do this ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
I’m even been accused of being a tad disconnected from the frontlines by him. Whoa. I’ll jet to check my email, check FB or even pontificate about the outside world, my partner fuming silently because he’d been holding in his shit for 2 hours waiting for me to come home.
Yes, he’s right about that. I DO disconnect sometimes, but mainly, because I can. Sometimes I do act like a coddled little child, knowing he will step in when Son #2 pushes that chair a little too far or if he’s about to pick up that stale Cheerio from the ground or when Son #1 shits in his underwear during R.E.M. sleep. (I don’t know why he does that sometimes. Shrug.)
You know what’s the kicker about being held accountable to the labor of parenting? I can’t really argue. There’s also the flip side to accountable parenting from the father’s end. There has been occasion when he’s been called overbearing, been told to relax, and even been browbeat for being considered patronizing to mothers in general, for doing what is usually regarded as par for the course for women.
How dare a MAN show up a woman on how to MOTHER?
Well, because he can.
He’s enjoyed many a not so fuzzy reality so often exclusively reserved for the overworked and overtired mother (cue the muted and mauve images of maternal bliss):
(not listed in any particular order)
- Lacking sleep
- Gaining weight, or according to him, losing muscle tone
- Contending with boredom
- Checking the clock waiting for me to come home
- Getting pissed at me when I make a mess in the kitchen and elsewhere…right before I jet out the door
- Keeping track of the bills, passwords, and deadlines related to all the bills, passwords and the deadline we keep forgetting
- Accepting the impossibility of a pre-children social life
- Missing his window for his on deck No. 2
- Forgetting to eat
- Making sure dinner is ready when I come home because “the breadwinner” gets to break bread first RIGHT!?
Being the breadwinner connotes a competition. We’re usually co-breadwinners, in this little coop of a family we have. We both wake up at the same time, get ready together, but this year, I get to shut the door behind me, screechy and restless children (and partner) trapped within the walled confines of nap schedules and impending tantrums.
What a masterful escape this thing called “work”.
One consolation remains. My partner receives a good amount of praise for staying home with the kids and taking one for the team. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve such praise. No drinking of the haterade here! I’m just wondering where my gas grill and rare piece of cow meat dripping with entitlement is. Alas, this isn’t about me. I got my day already, last month. Thanks.
This is not a tit for tat. No, it’s not a competition.
It’s work. Why call it anything else? Parenting is work.
It’s also not the time to give him a once over, not a stick-it to him, NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL.
No. We embrace the “Clean up. Clean up. Everybody. Everywhere. Everybody do their share.” model of parenting. A simple nonnegotiable prerequisite.
We figure this model makes sense, considering we became parents at Exactly. The same. Time.
He and I have learned how to change diapers together. We have learned how to burp our sons together. Hell, we have even learned how to breastfeed together.
We have learned to schedule everything with our first. We have learned to let loose a little with the second. We will openly critique, confer and consult many a parenting decision we make down to how tiny we should cut the pieces of carrots Son #2 enjoys chucking to the ground. Correction. Spitting out and then chucking to the ground.
Despite having been together for 5 years prior, our relationship started the day our first son was born.
Predictably, he gets more accolades for doing exactly what I do. Like this father says, much “undue adulation” is so often showered upon men for accomplishing the most pedestrian of childrearing tasks. (O great! The kids’ are still alive!) These “micro-expectations” don’t necessarily add up to equal work; instead, the labor between these parents, particularly in straight relationships, are divided by gender normative tasks; and whereas, most men are perfectly capable of doing a “woman’s” job of childrearing, they are often relegated to the rare occasion of “baby-sitting” and subject to miserably low expectations by their own partners. #myhusbandisbabysitting #callthenationalguard #hopethehousedoesntburndown #heisjustadad #hecantevenwipehisownass
Okay fine, my partner does hug a lot more. Hey, he’s Italian. Leave me alone.
Like the author says, sharing in a all-hands-on-deck labor of parenting is a new space. We’re forging that new dialogue, reflecting a seachange in modern home economics
I’m so bored of the tropes, rehashing old gender norms within parenting “decisions.” The father brings home the economic capital only to become a pointless body mass sipping on the fruits of his economic prowess in front of a flat screen. All the while, his children wreak havoc in the home and the wife feels like she’s at her wit’s end. (Wine, please!) Tired old nuclear fam-tasies. What happens when the urine dries on the toilet rim after someone lifts the seat to piss all over it? Will someone, anyone clean it off? Let’s name it; it’s usually not Daddy who gets the cleaning on, but it’s usually Daddy who does the peeing on.
We love throwing that word, “Equality!” around like it’s a beach ball ricocheting pointlessly in a wading pool of ennui. We tell our kids that “We’re all the same.” except only mommy vacuums and daddy get’s a fucking Oscar for reading a bedtime story (tosses book to the ground).
Instead, why don’t we practice making life easier for the family by expecting more and asking for more from each other, grounded in the real world labors of making children experience justice firsthand in the very place where they also learn how to walk, to talk and to love: our homes.
This Father’s Day, let’s make this a day of reconciliation. Let’s make sure we’re celebrating the right thing. Let’s make sure that every perfunctory stab at that raw grilling meat is earned, not inherited. Let’s not use this Father’s Day for just another photo opp for the signing and the sealing of poorly rhyming greeting cards.
Let’s make this Father’s day about taking a well-deserved (tiny, itty, bitty) break from doing the job of what a father should do: parenting.
So the next time you see my husband, don’t give him a pat on the back, unless it’s part of a massage. Don’t tell him what a great dad he is for changing a poo diaper in under 30 seconds, unless you want to do it for him. Better yet, next time you see him, offer to babysit (We’ll pay you in food, lots of it.).
Because like any “mother” figure perpetually fingernail deep in poo, this father–my partner–just needs a damn break sometimes.