Friday, January 22, 2010

Why are we still talking about this?

Every day when my husband comes home from work, I have dinner waiting. The house is fairly tidy, and the kids are clean and fed. That's where the 1950s scene ends. He takes a few moments to decompress from his commute, changes into comfy clothes, and swoops our sons up and into the other room, leaving me to enjoy some silence, tea, and/or a good book. He thanks me for all the hard work I do on a regular basis, and tells me that I'm a great mom and a great partner. We're a team, and this is what I expect in a marriage with children: that wonderful concept, co-parenting.

That certainly wasn't the name of the game in my parents' day, although my Dad was a pretty hands-on father when I was a baby. He changed diapers, got up at night to feed me, and took over the childcare when my mom worked her weekend shifts at the hospital. I suppose I always assumed that is what men do--parent their children--and I married a man who believed in the same. However, I'm finding that a surprising number of women don't enjoy the same kind of equality in their marriage. Although it is the 21st century and parents today were born after the womens' rights movement, not all are down with the daddy-does-diaper-duty concept. And that, my friends, is a cryin' shame.

I'm just going to say it: I've worked in various office and on-my-feet jobs since I was fifteen years old, and I've never worked this hard. I didn't stop working until I had my first son at 31. So, in essence, I've done my husband's job, and I know it's tiring. But what I do now is downright grueling. I had no idea it would be this hard, this non-stop, this intense. I don't get law-mandated bathroom breaks, or a one-hour lunch, or even much of a chance to check my email. I'm in constant motion, and often eat standing at my kitchen counter with a baby on my hip. That said, I love it. But it's not office work, not by any stretch. Yet these other men (the ones who refuse to change more than a few diapers a month) don't get this at all. They assume that what mothers do is 'women's work' and that as the breadwinners, working full time is all they should be held accountable for. Everything related to childcare belongs to the woman, which is "easy," since she's hanging out at home all day. You see where I'm going with this, and don't worry, I won't continue on this essay. To be short, that attitude just burns me.

However, what bothers me is not just the inequity between the two parents. What bothers me is that these fathers don't want to partake in their childrens' upbringing. That they really would rather watch the game with a beer or go out and see their buddies than spend time playing trains with their son, or teaching their girl how to kick a soccer ball around. I mean, changing diapers and giving a child a bath is bonding time! It's tiring, and it's repetitive, and it's messy, but it's ultimately rewarding and a fleeting moment of their childhood that I'd rather not miss. My husband enjoys his time with our kids immensely, I can see it in his eyes, and that is why we make a good team. Every time he hands them back to me, he says "I don't know how you do it, babe. They're a lot of work! You're doing a great job every day with our boys." (I know, I know, you can stop rolling your eyes. It is pretty sweet, though.)

To be honest, I can't imagine a marriage with anything less than that regard. We are both responsible for caring for our children, he doesn't just bring home money and I don't just raise the kids. The old roles are ever-shifting, interchangeable, and dynamic. And that's just the way it should be, folks. So get in there and raise your kids, men. It's the manly thing to do.


Melusine said...

Great post, hon. This is something I really admire about you and R. I saw it with Rachel and Abe, too. If you guys had been our first friends to have kids, we might have considered it more seriously. I think you're both doing a great job for your boys and for each other.

CafeMama said...

Awww, thanks!!! Glad to know we're doing something right!