Hey Dads: You’ve Got To Pitch In At Night

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
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My husband wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning before the sun rises. Then he boards a train and heads to the city, where he works his ass off teaching high school English. When he comes home, I throw our two loud, monkey-boys in front of him while I finish cooking dinner. Then we eat, finish up chores, and I retreat to the bedroom to work while he wrangles our boys into their pj’s, and helps them wind down for bed.

Sounds like a pretty decent guy, huh? I mean, I think he’s hot enough as it is, but fatherhood looks damn good on him. Here’s the icing on the cake, though: This man—this exhausted man who works his butt off to provide for his family—doesn’t stop parenting when the lights go out. He helps out when the kids need us in the middle of the night, and he always has.

Our kids aren’t the world’s best sleepers. Night waking of some kind is pretty common around here. Whether it’s babies who need to be rocked, burped, or soothed; toddlers who need another glass of water; or kids puking or having nightmares, my husband wakes up to help almost as much as I do.

And you know what? That shouldn’t be notable at all. I mean, it definitely makes me all hot and bothered when I think about what a good dad he is, but listen up: All dads should help at night. All partners should. If you and someone else made a kid together, adopted one, or are in charge of one in any way, shape, or form, there is no reason, no excuse out there, that should dismiss one of you from tending to your kids at night.

I’ve heard the excuses: “Oh, but he works so hard. He needs his rest.” I get that. I really do. But guess what? You work hard too. Whether you work at home, from home, or stay home all day with your kids, you’re working hard as hell. You’re tired too. Why on earth is the man the one who gets the easy way out when it comes to nighttime?

I’ll tell you why: sexism. Pure and simple sexism.

And it’s bullshit. I see this crap happen in even the most liberated of families. Men insisting that they work too hard to wake up with a newborn. Men assuming that their SAHM wives will be able to squeeze in a nap. And women going right along with this, coddling their husbands, assuming that they themselves should be the more exhausted ones.

Listen, I understand that sometimes children just prefer their moms at night. My breastfeeding babies and toddlers pretty much just wanted me and my boobs at night. I was cool with that. But diaper changes, water refills, sickness soothing, and those insane nights when my babies would be sitting up in bed chattering away or crying for no discernible reason—my husband took the fuck over.

And I will tell you if we didn’t share the nighttime responsibilities over the years, I’m pretty sure I would have died from sleep deprivation. Or I would have killed him first. Either way, our marriage would not have survived at all.

I know my husband’s not an anomaly. There are a lot of totally kick-ass dads out there who understand that parenting is a 24/7 job and don’t hesitate to pitch in. But there are just as many dads who make it very clear from the onset that there’s no way in hell that they’ll have anything to do with it.

To those dads, let me try to put this as kindly as I can: Fucking no. Not OK.

And to the moms who put up with it: Stand up for yourself. Don’t let them get away with that nonsense.

Parenting is hard. It’s exhausting. You probably knew that going in, but if you didn’t, now you do. Some of us are blessed with awesome sleepers. Some of us aren’t. Either way, there are definitely going to be times when our kids keep us up at night, and the responsibility of dealing with it should not rest solely with those of us born with a vagina.

And the truth is, if you start to man up and help with the kids in the middle of the night, you’re not only going to get to share some sweet bonding moments with your kids, but you’ll have a happier, more well-rested partner—and one who is much less likely to wring your neck or file for an early divorce.

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