Working Dads

IMG_0044“I don’t know how you do it.  It must be so hard!!”

How many times, as a working mom, have you heard that refrain.  I don’t know how you find the time?  I don’t know how you make the dinners? I don’t know how you stay in shape? I don’t know how you do it all?  We all know the answer.  We do it because we have to.  Because it has to get done.  Because ain’t nobody else gonna’ do it.  And behind that, is the fear that we’re not doing it very well at all.  That we are inadequate.  That it’s all smoke and mirrors and slight of hand.

Do our men feel this stress?  Do our men feel like they’re juggling a million things and not getting anything quite right?  The answer should be, “Yes.”  If we are strong, empowered, modern women, then the fathers of of our children should be managing fifty percent of the burden, fifty percent of the anxiety, fifty percent of the rough stuff.

Try this on for size.  The next time you meet a man who works and has children, say to him, “I don’t know how you do it.  It must be so hard.”  What do you think he’ll say?  My husband laughed; and then he stopped for a moment.  “It is hard.” he said, “It is hard to work all day and then have the energy to play when I get home.  And, it’s hard to do yard work when I really want to watch football.  And, it’s hard to figure out how to help you, when you seem to have it all under control.”

In all the talk of “leaning in” or “leaning back,” we have forgotten to “lean on.”  Mothering is hard.  Being a grownup is hard. But, there’s no excuse for letting the fathers off the hook. Our expectation that our men can’t handle the stress is merely enabling them.  Our desire to keep everyone comfortable is adding to the problem, not allowing a solution.  We’re encouraging the behavior that forces us to be Super Moms.  There’s a part of us that needs to be needed; that appreciates the fact that Dad can’t make the lunches in the morning, or get the kids dressed.  That if we leave them to do it, they will mess it up and that will reflect upon us.

What’s the worst thing that could happen.  The kids are late for school, and their socks don’t match, the wrong type of turkey is bought, or the sink’s a mess.  But, maybe, just maybe, the dads might feel a little anxiety.  They might feel a bit like they don’t have enough time.  They might feel like they didn’t do it quite right.  And, would that be the worst thing?  That our dads are sharing the responsibility and the work and the stress.  And, that they are capable of handling that pressure.

I have a confession to make.  I like being in charge.  I like knowing the “right” way to do things.  I like the fact that my way is the best, easiest, most conducive for smooth sailing. Mostly, my husband allows me to believe that this is true, because it’s just so much easier to let me at it.  But, I know, truly, that he doesn’t really appreciate it.  That he lets me pilot the ship because it’s easier than trying to wrest the wheel away.  And I know that he can do the things that I think I do so well.  And, if given the opportunity, he’s likely to do many things better.  How much easier would it be if I gave him the space to take the rein sometimes?

Easier, yes, certainly.  My husband has proven time and again that he is an equal partner in this parenting thing, and yet I still resist.  I say that I’m trying to raise young men who are independent and able, and yet I show them every day that I don’t think the most important man in our life is capable.  I needn’t shield him from the difficulties of “doing it all”.  The father of my children is a strong, logical, smart man.  We embarked upon this adventure together.  I am not alone on this journey.  We can be equal partners, with shared responsibility so when people ask us how WE do it, we can comfortably say, “It is hard, but we’re doing it together every step of the way.”

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