Dear Television and Movie Producers,
In the latest episode of 8 Bit Dad, the refined gentlemen were discussing how fathers are portrayed in the media. With a few notable exceptions (Cliff Huxtable for one), these guys fall into two categories:
1) Men who try very hard to be good dads, but are a bit stupid and bumbling. They find themselves in absurd situations, like having to change a diaper in a public place! No one ever does that! I don't know about anyone else, but my kids only ever poop at home.
The typical image that comes to mind, is a man looking unshaven, rumpled and frazzled, covered in wipes and dirty baby clothes, frantically waiting for the mother to return home. Inevitably, there is a crisis of timing that ends with the mother swooping in to save the day and give him a kiss on the top of the head for trying so hard and doing the best he can with the limited mental and parental resources that are afforded to those with a penis.
2) Men who were very cool before having kids and maybe were pressured into fatherhood by the women they love. They had a great life set out for them with great plans to do great things and now life has been turned upside down because they can't even go golfing without having to take one of the kids.
The recent Huggies debacle also showed a room full of dads and stated that they were the harshest critics of the dryness of a diaper because they would hate to have to interrupt their football game to take care of their child. This situation comes to a head in a screaming fight about how the man desperately misses his old life and how, while he loves his kids more than anything, he wishes he could give them up for a short period of time. In this case, the mother swoops in to save the day by reducing his already minimal parental obligations and allows him more time to himself.
Now, I'm sure everyone knows at least one dad in each of these categories. Stereotypes exist because there is at least a kernel of truth to them. There is, however, a growing number of stay-at-home-dads and a larger portion of men are identifying as the primary caregiver for their children.
I will be the first to admit that my wife is a much better mother than I am a father. She is warmer, kinder, more patient, more creative and more willing to be silly. During the school year, she is the primary caregiver to our girls. This is a function of her personality as well as a function of time.
Over the summer, however, I get to play the role of stay-at-home-dad. I still send them to day care two days a week because I want them to keep up with their social development (and I need some "me time") but the other days, they stay with me. The summer is a much easier time to have kids home because we can go for walks, go to the playground, play in the yard, nap with the windows open, etc.
This will be the third summer for me in this role. The first summer, I started with delusions of play dates several times a week.
Monday: Playdate at XXXX's house
Tuesday: Have XXXX over for a playdate
Thursday: Playdate at the Park with XXXX
This did not happen. We had two playdates throughout the entire summer. It was mostly walks and doing stuff around the house.
Last summer, I had both girls. Brynn was still small enough that I kept her home and sent Harper to daycare two days a week. I was able to hang out with B and get stuff done around the house, including almost completing a retaining wall in the back yard.
This summer will be interesting since both girls are big enough that they need to be watched almost constantly. I relish the time that we spend together and my lovely wife rarely has to swoop down and rescue me. I love the job of stay-at-home-dad and I think I do an alright job with it. In two summers, there have been no hospital trips, no lasting (physical) damage and no food poisoning. I don't open cans of food and leave them on the floor for when they get hungry (usually). We have meals together and Harper helps me cook.
The image of bumbling or resentful father is not a new one, but I think it's one that needs to be changed. In recent months, I have met several fathers who happily take up the mantle of "dad" rather than "guy who lives in our house." We are proud to be fathers and very proud of our children. We are happy to be there to watch them grow and learn and become people.
Being a father is a challenge. It's the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But the idea that I would willingly, even eagerly, give it up so I could go play poker whenever I want, is insulting.
A non-deadbeat dad
P.S.: You can clearly see how adorable my children are. If you want to put them in commercials in exchange for college money, I would be willing to discuss that with you.
Author's Note: This post may also be found at 8 Bit Dad.