21st Century Dad

You became a father in the middle of the night. After spending the better part of 24 hours by my side you encouraged me to press on. At the moment I wanted to throw in the towel and tell the doctor that I was done laboring and to do a C-section, tears trickled out of your eyes. You saw what I could not… that the end and beginning were so close. Through your emotion you told me, “He’s coming. He’s almost here.” I literally pushed through my exhaustion to deliver our son to the world and you were my fuel. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Everything changed that day and not in the cliché way that is so common. Yes, it was the beginning of middle of the night wakings… that still haven’t ended. Your heart expanded three times and it started out very large. I’m not sure how it doesn’t burst from your chest. You said goodbye to your “old” life and welcomed the new one that was a family of three. You let go of things that were important for things that you think are even more important. You got comfortable with things that prior to Bigs’ arrival were likely unknown… pumping… all the pumping. Man, you can talk breastfeeding in the locker room like no other. You do laundry like a boss… never ending laundry.

We both came from families where our parents have traditional gender/relationship roles. I’d like to think we are very open minded, which allowed us to traverse the transition to a more egalitarian relationship than those we saw modeled through our childhoods. More likely the pressure of life and shared pragmatism drove us this direction instead. I never imagined it to be such a complicated journey. How hard it would be to reset expectations between us and shut out the critics around us.

I never imagined how something so simple as doing the daycare drop off and pick up, could be an emotional struggle for me. You do both almost all the time. Since I’m rarely there, I’m guessing it is highly unusual… especially since when I am, it is mostly moms. Is it that I don’t love our kids as much? No, but sometimes it feels like that is how it looks. Is it something that I count my lucky stars isn’t a part of my morning routine? Yes. What does that say about me? What does it say about you?

We agree that you do much of the heavy lifting as it relates to the physical care of our children. They want you to read them stories. They want you to snuggle them to sleep. They want you when they have bumps and bruises. I admire you for all that you do and how you do it without a clear path laid by your own father.* Yet I sometimes find myself jealous that it is you and not me. I look at you and see that you “have it all” and desire the same.

You do have it all, but not in the idyllic way that I envy (and isn’t real). You make sacrifices in your own career to keep mine on track. You give so generously of your time that it is often the case that you are collapsed asleep next to one of our children by 8:30 p.m. You don’t grumble about the dishes and laundry and yard work and everything else you contribute daily to our household.

Perhaps the biggest contribution to our parenting partnership has been the light-hearted joking that you lost your “Man Card” years ago. It has allowed me to accept that I lost my “Woman Card” (seemingly less coveted, at least less talked about, than the “Man Card”) at about that same time. Your gratitude for all that I do makes me feel secure in this very different motherhood than my mother had. You remind me that all that I do is enough for our family. Sometimes you even convince me to believe you.

Happy Father’s Day to the best father for my children, partner in parenting and in life, and a man I never want to live without! I love you.

*I would like to clarify, that my father-in-law is an incredible man and one who I love dearly for teaching my husband the ways of good men. My comment related strictly to child rearing that was very different 30 years ago for him.

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