I have to get something off my chest for a minute. And it’s kind of a big something.
You know what would be nice? It would be nice to live in a world where men didn’t get pushed up on a pedestal for “helping” take care of their children. It would be nice to live in a world where men take care of their children and it’s not considered exceptionally exceptional.
I get it. Our society is still finding its way into gender equality. It is still fighting for equal rights for women in the workplace, because, go figure, some women choose to have a career outside of babies and children and home. We are still figuring all this out. Traditionally, men were the breadwinners and women the caretakers, and that meant men didn’t do such things as “taking care of the kids.” So this is a “new” thing for us. But I feel like maybe we should be farther along than we are.
My husband and I are very happily married. But, during prime working hours—6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.—we split our parenting duties as if we’re single parents. Weekends and evenings we hang out together as a family, of course, but on the weekdays it’s one parent on six kids. I take the morning shift, cooking breakfast, fixing lunches, making sure the kids brush their teeth, dress in appropriate clothing and put on their shoes, walking them all to school, walking the three who aren’t in school back home, keeping twins out of mud and toilets, entertaining the baby, reading them stories, putting them all down for naps.
My husband takes over at 12:30, while they’re sleeping. He wrestles with them and sends them outside to play and invites their friends over to play so there are 12 or 13 kids in the house (my anxiety just went through the roof) and makes them do their homework. He knows where all the kids’ school papers go, and he signs all their reading logs, marks their behavior folders, and makes sure their lunch stuff gets put in the sink and washed for tomorrow. He feeds the baby and changes diapers and makes sure the kids clean up their toys before dinner so the house is somewhat tidy by the time the day is through, and then he cooks dinner.
Though I appreciate all he does, it is not exceptional. It is called being a parent.
People are shocked that we do it this way. “Must be nice to have a husband who helps like that,” they say.
Well, I wasn’t the only one who decided to have six kids. I was not the only participant, either. Damn right he’s gonna help so I can work, too.
See, what my husband understands (and I guess this is where he’d be exceptional—because it seems there aren’t many who understand it) is that I am a better mother because of my work. Not everyone is. That’s OK. But I am. He gets that, and he’s happy to make sure I get to pursue a career.
But when he’s watching the kids so I can hole up in my room and write a handful of essays that may or may not change lives, it’s not babysitting. When I go out once a month with my book club friends to talk about a book for all of five minutes and then talk about our lives for another three hours, that’s not babysitting. When he decides to bake some chicken in the oven or organize some out-of-control papers or take the baby for a few hours while I get a little extra sleep, he’s not just “helping.” He’s parenting.
Friends and babysitters and full-time nannies help. Dads parent.
I’m glad we could set that straight.