When I was a little girl, my father, and nearly every father I knew, left for work early in the morning and got home at dinner time. My mother did all the meal preparation, except for maybe some grilling on the weekend. She cared for the house and the children and a hearty meal was on the table each evening.
She made sure all the children had their homework done, were bathed, and seated at the table for the family dinner. We were expected to be polite and reverent, understanding that Daddy had worked hard all day long. We wouldn’t have thought to complain to our father about issues we were having. We didn’t come to him for help with anything, unless it was a weekend day and our question involved something with tools, wheels, bats or balls.
Boy, have times changed! We didn’t plan it this way, but the household my husband and I run couldn’t be more different. We both work, he being self-employed. He ends up being the primary parent for a decent percentage of the time. Despite being raised in a patriarchal household like I was, he is the ever-present dad.
Even before he started his own business, he was completely hands-on. He had the full-time day job like my dad, but he jumped in with both feet the minute he got home from work. He helped get dinner on the table, bathe the kids, assist with homework and pick up the house. It has always been the case that, when we were both home, we shared the responsibilities.
In generations past, “real” men were merely meant to provide for and protect their families. In our family, Dad is there for his family both physically and emotionally. Did society change its expectations of men or is it due to the fact that more women work outside the home now? Maybe we charted our own course, joining many of our friends in creating a new template of how families function.
If you asked my husband what his most important role in life is, I am certain it would be that of father. That doesn’t just mean bringing home a paycheck like his father did. It means being there every step of the way, even when it’s messy. If one of his children needs to cry, he would prefer it’s his shoulder they choose.
He is a nurturer. He helps our kindergartener pick out her clothes for school. He hands her the glue stick and the safety scissors and coaches her through her homework. He sits beside our middle child, the musician, and tries to learn how to play guitar. One of his greatest pleasures is when she has the time and inclination to jam with him. Our oldest is the athlete and my husband has played the conventional role of coach to her. He has gone further, though, figuring out how to support her when she has been in a slump and struggling emotionally.
I believe my children are much more well-adjusted than I was at their age. I have tried to figure out why that is. The only conclusion that makes sense is that they have two present parents. Whether it’s their mom or their dad, our kids always have someone to talk to. When they walk in the door, someone is there to ask about their day and offer them a snack. It’s often their dad.