I call my husband “Daddy.”
No, not like that.
He gets to hear his actual name when it’s just us having conversations after the kids are in bed. But when the boys are up and about, it’s all “Daddy, did you check the weather report?” and “Daddy, which movie did you want to rent tonight?” and “Daddy, I just burned dinner. Pizza again?”
It started, naturally, when we had our first child. We wanted our firstborn (and later, our second-born) to call us by “Mommy” and “Daddy,” so we ended up referring to each other by those titles as well. Now both kids have no problem saying either word—in fact, they say (yell) them far too much, especially when we’d like to get some sleep or use the bathroom.
But our Mommy/Daddy habit has persisted…and I’m glad, especially about the Daddy part.
When women become mothers, our identities are suddenly inextricably interwoven with parenthood, no matter how many strides we make as a gender, or individually, in the workplace. That’s much less often the case with men. In fact, arguably, the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. I interview company leaders for news profiles, and I find that while women often volunteer—unprompted—the fact that they are mothers, it’s an afterthought for most men. Unless I directly ask if they have children, it rarely comes up.
There are probably myriad reasons for this, but I think much of it has to do with the fact that most women I’ve interviewed have had to find ways to balance their esteemed positions with parenthood, so their children were front-of-mind as they discussed with me their ascent to the tops of their professions. But men, especially older ones, seem to rely largely on their wives to handle the parenting front.
Of course, with the ever-rising number of stay-at-home dads, dads advocating for paternity leave, and increases in the amount of time fathers spend with their children, the tide is turning. Accordingly, I believe that, along with embracing their duties and privileges as parents, men are also embracing their identities as fathers. I think far fewer are letting their paternal selves languish in the shadows, or preferring to define themselves to the world solely as doctors, computer programmers, construction workers, taxi cab drivers, whatever.
I know my husband embraces his identity as a father even though, in our case, our domestic situation is reminiscent of the 1950s father-breadwinner/mother-homemaker model. Though I work, my hours are shorter, meaning the majority of parenting duties still fall to me. But he does the best he can, reading stories, playing games, cooking weekend dinners, giving baths, driving to activities and, most important, nurturing our children.
When I call him Daddy, it’s a reminder to us both that being a father is a big—if not the biggest part—of who he is today. And that’s a wonderful thing.