A Love Letter To The Dads Who Believe That Child Care Is Their Equal Responsibility

by Wendy Wisner
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My husband is no saint. He leaves his socks and underwear on the kitchen counter all the flipping time despite my protests (eww!). He has the world’s worst sense of direction, but completely refuses to pull over to ask for help. He’s got classic “refrigerator blindness” and can’t remember to take out the trash to save his life.

But he’s an awesome husband who loves me without condition — and he is the world’s greatest dad. And I don’t just say that because he comes home and instantly cracks jokes with the kids and lets them climb all over him. I don’t just say that because even though he loses his temper sometimes, he always apologizes, learns from his mistakes, and covers the kids with kisses. And I don’t just say that because he would literally lay his life down for our boys, just as quickly as I would.

He’s a great dad because he shows up. He freaking shows up. He stayed up all night when our babies were colicky newborns, walking and bouncing them around the house while I tried to get a few minutes of shut-eye. And if they woke as babies and toddlers (which was a whole hell of a lot, to be honest), he was just as likely to go soothe them as I was.

From the time they were babies until now, he has never, ever thought of childcare as an extra thing to do. He’s never thought of it as “pitching in.” As a co-provider of their DNA, he immediately knew that he was equally responsible for them, and he hasn’t failed in that responsibility yet — not for one second.

Of course, none of this should be noteworthy. Whether they work or stay home — whatever their responsibilities are out in the world — dads should put their children in the forefront of their lives. Mothers should not be the “default” parent, and no dad should be put on a pedestal if he has moments here and there where he steps up to the plate when it comes to his parental responsibilities.

And yet, my husband seems to be the exception rather than the rule. And that, my friends, is totally fucked up. It’s 2017, isn’t it? I do not understand why I seem to hear daily stories about dads doing the plain old opposite of equal childcare. And I don’t just mean the extreme cases where dads are violent, abusive, or abandon families altogether. I just mean the dads who straight-up have to be told to do basic stuff like change diapers, take their kids to the park, or get them another bowl of cereal.

I work from home, and often I kick my husband and kids out of the house on the weekends for a few hours so that I can get some shit done. Do you know how often someone (and yes, it’s usually a female) thinks my husband is hot shit for having a freaking conversation with his sons over a few slices of pizza?

How is this noteworthy? This is just what parents are supposed to do, right?

I love my husband, and I fully appreciate the fact that he is a dad by default and is totally in tune with his kids and their needs, but I think it’s sad and worrisome that he stands out like a needle in a haystack.

Thankfully, I know he’s not the only dad out there showing the fuck up. I know that there are plenty of dads who will always drop what they are doing to be present with their kids. Dads who will put their kids before their work whenever possible. Dads who make it possible for mothers to take showers in peace, go out for a night with their girlfriends, or do whatever the heck they want to do without begging, pleading, or guilt. Dads who know that parenting is a 24/7 hour gig and won’t just clock out when they feel their time is up.

I know those dads are out there, and I appreciate the hell out of them because they are breaking the mold, shattering stereotypes, and becoming excellent role models for the next generation of men and boys.

And you know what else? If you have a spouse who doesn’t take responsibility for childcare the way fathers are supposed to, you don’t have to put up with that bullshit. Talk to him. Tell him what your needs are. Demand he do better. He’s not a babysitter; he’s a co-parent.

And dads, if you realize that you aren’t stepping up to the plate as much as you should be, today is a great time to start. It’s possible to change your ways, learn a few tricks of the trade, and break the cycle for your own kids and the next generation of kids to come. Your children, and your wife, will thank you.