Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day Superman

I recently posted this article about Fathers on my facebook page, commenting how I'm so glad that both Superman and my own father are the good kind of fathers.  The kind that have made being active with their kids a priority in their lives.  A father who is actually an equal parent and an equal spouse, doing housework and laundry because it is a household responsibility, not claiming it's woman's work.  (On the same token, I have been known to roll up my sleeves and mow the lawn and take out the trash and grab my tool box to fix a faulty light switch or replace a toilet, because it's not men's work.)

I thought: How sad that this needs to be written in 2011.  It seems like such a 1950s idea of woman as caretaker and man as standoffish provider.  But sadly, I do personally know couples where the mother does do it all while the father works.  And when he comes home he needs his "me time" to unwind from working.  And then spends hours and hours of golfing on the weekends.  For some of them it works (and good for them, who am I to judge), but for most of doesn't.  The women feel over burdened and unappreciated.  And they are sad to see their children who idolize their daddies, getting so little of his time or attention.  And they fume when the absentee fathers suggest having "just one more" baby.  One of my friends even secretly had her tubes tied during her c-section, and as far as I know STILL hasn't told her husband, because he wanted more kids and she didn't.  And some of these women eventually became so tired of being single mothers that they eventually left their husbands to be actual single mothers.

I wouldn't say that I'm lucky Superman turned out to be a good dad, because I always knew he would be.  In fact, that is part of why I fell in love with him.  Part of why I knew I wanted to marry him. We met when we were both working for a non-profit organization that provided care and job opportunities for adults with physical and mental disabilities.  Watching the care, patience, and compassion he had for a population most people are afraid of, I could see the kind of father he would one day be.  And throughout our dating, as I got to know him better and better, I just became more sure of this.

Because remember ladies, we don't live in a patriarchal society with archaic arranged marriages.  We CHOOSE our mates.  We CHOOSE who we want to procreate with.  Who we want to share our genes with and our lives.

In fact, when I first met Superman, I was actually dating someone else.  This guy was fun, funny, interesting, and he adored me (who wouldn't love that?).  I knew he wanted to marry me.  I knew he wanted to have kids with me.  But the thing was, as fun as he was to date...I knew he was not the guy I wanted to be the father of my children.  First of all, he had a son.  And honestly, as much as I liked the guy, I thought he was a pretty lousy father.  True, there are some other factors why I knew he wasn't the one that I won't go into here, but the bottom line was even without any of those other factors, seeing him father his son, I knew I would not be having kids with him.

But I guess maybe I was lucky.

Lucky that Superman didn't change. Some women I know have married men who maybe they thought would be great dads, but somewhere along the line they made their careers a priority over parenting.

Lucky that he turned out to be an even better dad than I ever hope or imagined.

When I found out I was pregnant, we immediately started discussing whether or not we could afford for one of us to stay home.  Even from the beginning, it wasn't how I would stay home.  It was which one of us.  Prior to getting pregnant, we had never discussed how to handle child care.  Which in hindsight was a mistake.  However, as luck would have it we both were in 100% agreeance that we didn't want to put a baby in daycare, and that we would find a way to make sure that, at least for the first year, one of us would stay home to raise it.

Because we had just moved to a new state for my job, and Superman didn't even have a full time job yet (did I mention the pregnancy was unplanned?), he volunteered to stay home.

Then we found out we were having twins.

He didn't bat an eye.  In fact, once he found out we were having twin boys, he seemed pretty excited for his "guy time".

After one year, we both agreed that the arrangement was working so well that he would go ahead and stay home another year.  At the end of year two, we decided to go for another!  For three years, he was the primary caregiver, before we decided it was time for the boys to head to pre-school, and for Superman to re-enter the outside-of-home-workforce again.  I was both happy (for the boys starting a new chapter of their lives and for Superman getting a chance to work among peers again) and sad (because for three years I never had to worry about my children's care and happiness).

But you would not believe how many comments I heard from other women (mothers and non-mothers) saying "I would never let anyone else raise my children".  Excuse me?  I didn't drop them off with some stranger, they were at home with their father.  What makes you think that you have more of a right to raise your children than he does?  What makes you think you'd even be better at it?

Honestly, are there things I probably would have done differently (like more scheduled activities and taking the kids on playdates), but I say probably because I realize some things are easier said than done.  What I think I would have done and what I actually would have done might be two wholly different things...

But I can tell you what they did learn from their daddy that they most likely wouldn't have learned from me (at least not as well):

Patience.  I am much more hot-headed and quick to temper than my calm-demeanored husband; I love that they seem to have acquired his personality.  After all, if I hadn't thought he was pretty great, I wouldn't have married him.

A love for music.  Sure, I love to sing along with the radio, but by three years old, my boys already knew how to keep a beat on drums and hold a guitar the right way as they lip synced to old school 80s rock songs, thanks to hours and hours of home jam sessions.  I swear to you they can tell the difference between Girls, Girls, Girls, Crazy Train, I Love Rock n' Roll, and Jump by just the first two bars of the song.

A love for the outdoors.  Even on the hottest of days, when I would have hidden away in the security of the air conditioning, Superman would venture outside with the boys and find something fun to do.  Whether it was splashing around in the wading pool, looking for bugs, or just taking a short walk.

How to be active.  Superman is an avid runner, and loves being active.  He would take the boys on really long walks, all around our little town.  Often walking them up to my work to visit me during the day.  Now 4 years old, Thing 1 and Thing 2 really show the benefits of being raised by someone so active.  (Not to say that I'm a lazy-ass, but let's just say I find doing a craft project more fun than taking a 5 mile walk pushing a double stroller.)

I could go on.  But, my point is...yes, we are different parents.  But neither one of us is the inherently better parent based on whether we sit or stand when we pee.  We both have our strengths and our weaknesses.  And I like to think that as co-parents we compliment one another well and have raised two amazingly awesome kids because of it.

I think it is time to stop accepting that fathers are some kind of second rate parents.  Quit describing a dad spending time with his kids as "babysitting" or "giving mom a break", he is just doing what he is supposed to be doing...being a parent!  Quit having such low expectations of what a father looks like.  EXPECT a father to be a parent.  A real parent.

And don't accept this "I work hard all day" as an excuse for not parenting nonsense.  Guess what?  For three years I was the working parent with the 9-5 job, yet I somehow managed to come home, change my clothes, and go play with my kids...and my husband (because that is important too).  In fact, everyday I would make sure to 1. notice and give Superman a compliment about the house, 2. give him a rest from the kids (stay-at-homes need this "me time" much more than working parents I think), 3. cook dinner, and we alternated days for who gave the evening bath.  Was it tiring?  Of course.  But who ever said being a parent would be easy?

I'm happy to say that its summertime again, and school is out.  Which means my husband has left his Clark Kent job as high school teacher to resume his role of Superman stay-at-home-dad.  So, for the next 2.5 months, I can rest easing knowing Thing 1 and Thing 2 will be having the summer fun of their lives!

And honestly, I'm pretty jealous.  Because who wouldn't want to spend all day hanging out with this guy --->?

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