Father’s day is coming up soon. (So is my husband’s birthday. Depending on the year, sometimes, both events fall on the same day!) Here is a column I wrote years ago for my “Sanity Check” weekly humor/lifestyle column in the Dayton Daily News. Though our daughters are now adults, I think it is still relevant. Both daughters are strong, confident women, and while I’ll take a little credit in nudging them that direction, my husband gets credit too. He’s a great dad, and I think we’re all lucky to have him in our lives.
Oh–and the photo? That’s a REAL throw back! But though we’re all a lot older, it still expresses our sometimes-goofy, always-loving family.
My husband does not baby sit.
Not only does he not run a business watching other people’s kids for an hourly fee, he does not baby sit our kids, either.
This fact shocks some people. Every now and then I have reason to be away from my home, without husband or kids, in the evenings. Maybe for a business function. Or a community service event. Even just because I want to go to a movie with friends–or shopping alone.
And every now and then, while I am out on these no-husband-or-kids-in-tow-occasions, someone will say to me, “Where are your kids? Is your husband baby sitting them?”
That’s when I say, “No, my husband doesn’t baby sit.”
And then, as the inquirer looks stunned, I drop the real shocker. “My husband is, however, home with our children.”
You see, while he won’t baby sit, he is more than glad to… parent.
I’ve checked with my husband, and in our 10 years of being parents, during which time he has on more than a few occasions ventured out without wife or kids in tow, NO ONE has EVER asked him, “Where are your kids? Is your wife baby sitting them?”
Somehow, to some folks, even after years of equal rights struggling, moms parent… but dads just baby sit.
And I must admit, I can understand the temptation of thinking that way.
Several weeks after we had our first child, my husband said to me, “you need some time to write. I’ll take care of the baby if she wakes up.” I eagerly went to my office to work for the first time since we’d brought home baby-number-one.
Three minutes into my working session—just long enough to vaguely recall the difference between a noun and a verb—baby started screaming.
My first thought was to go “rescue” both baby and dad. But something told me not to. I reminded myself that my husband is a perfectly competent human being. If our baby needed changed or comforted or fed, he was as capable as I of taking care of her needs.
I didn’t go back to writing, though. Instead, I closed my eyes and simply sat, focusing on my breathing—in, out; whoo, whee; pant, pant, pant. (Lamaze training was finally useful.) Yes, daddy eventually took care of whatever need our baby had. She eventually stopped wailing. I eventually wandered out of my office and found husband/dad/competent-human-being watching a football game, with baby blissfully asleep on his chest.
“Good writing session?” he asked.
“Great, thanks,” I said.
I’d like to say that ever since then I haven’t been tempted to fall prey to the dads-just-baby-sit mentality. But I find I have to be ever vigilant against doing so, because there’s plenty of pressure to give in to such prejudiced thinking.
It’s not just people asking me “Is your husband baby sitting?”
It’s the fact that in every public place I know—stores, restaurants, and so on—the women’s rooms often have diaper-changing tables, while the men’s rooms only occasionally do.
It’s television ads, like the recent one for a certain department store, in which the mom is out shopping alone, and the kids are destroying the house while the poor, bewildered, obviously incompetent dad says, “where’s your mom?” The ad closes with a tag line—don’t worry dad. The sale will be over soon.
I’d like to propose a different tag line. Real parents—both moms and dads—don’t baby sit. They just do their best, one day at a time.