It started just days after our first son was born when my dad told me, “Josh is a really big help with the baby, isn’t he?”
I was sleep deprived and hormonal and went on a slight rampage. “He’s helping me?! How about I helped him by growing his damn child in my uterus for 9+ months, then having major surgery to remove the kid from my uterus, and now keeping the kid alive with nothing but my own body fluids!”
I know my dad meant well, but it probably wasn’t the best time to tell me how lucky I was to have a husband who changed diapers.
I understand that there is a generational gap here. My brothers are 40, and my dad still talks about the times he had “to babysit while your mom ran off with her friends every week.” And by “ran off”, he means went to an exercise class for an hour. Forty years ago, not many dads got up to change a diaper if their wife was in the same vicinity, so I can understand that men in his generation are likely to be amazed at how involved my husband is.
Most of the time, however, these comments aren’t from grandfathers. They're from women my own age.
Think of the last time you traveled through an airport. Did you see any parents traveling alone with young children? Let me guess: you glanced sympathetically at the moms and all but fawned over the dads doing the same thing.
When our daughter was about a year old, Josh took her to visit his mom. Everywhere he went he was stopped by women telling him how sorry they were that he had to travel alone with a baby and what a good dad he was for doing so.
He came home saying, “Don’t worry, I defended you and told everyone that you were home pregnant, working, and dealing with a three-year-old.” He is a better person than I am, I would have made up a story about a deceased wife or deadbeat mom, handed the baby off to the first drooling, sympathetic passenger who believed my sob story, and ordered a Bloody Mary.
More recently, an acquaintance found out where we lived and said, “Oh, I know that house! Your husband is such a good dad!” She went on to say how she always sees him in the yard playing with the kids and can tell just how much he likes being a dad.
To which I awkwardly responded, “Yes, he is a good dad! We both like our kids a lot!”
I wasn’t offended, I just honestly still don’t know how to respond to these statements.
Josh and I started the conversations about equal parenting long before we were married. I was well aware of the fact that moms are still expected to handle the brunt of parenting, and I was terrified of losing myself in motherhood. He knew going in that I needed him to be a full partner if we were to have children.
Despite this, the road to equal parenting was rough. When you have carried and cared for a baby for nine months in utero, it’s not easy to turn those responsibilities over to your spouse. I would imagine it’s even harder for a spouse to simply take them over.
Through trial and error – or, more accurately, yelling and resentment – we have figured out roles that work for our family. We’ve learned to be flexible as the demands of career and home change. We also know that what works this season may completely change the next.
So yes, my husband is a good dad. He spends time playing with the kids and takes his turn disciplining them. He volunteers for field trips, visits classrooms, coaches youth sports, helps with homework. He is loving, supportive, and involved in every aspect of our kids’ lives. He’s more than a good dad. He’s an amazing dad.
For the benefit of all of our families, it’s time we come to see this as an expectation, not an exception.