If We Want Good and Present Fathers, We Need to Expect It of Them

Am I supposed to apologize for having a good husband and a great father for my kids? Sometimes it feels that way.

Recently I wrote an article about things moms should do for themselves, and one of them was to let go of control when dads are around. It’s important for me to let my husband parent our kids his way and not mine. It’s important for me to let someone else be in charge sometimes, to take mini breaks from this often consuming role of “mother.”

This isn’t to suggest that all moms have this option. This, certainly, isn’t to ignore single moms (or stay-at-home dads or working moms or any other potential category of parent). Yet, for people like me who live in a home with a mother and a father, it’s enormously important to not only include fathers but to remember that although I might spend most of the daytime hours with our kids, I’m not more important as a parent than he is.

We want to talk about having fathers who are present, and who are good dads, but this means expecting this from men.

It means expecting men to change diapers, stay up with fussy kids who won’t go to sleep, help with potty training and go to school meetings. We want men to engage with our children as parents, so why is it ok to bash them for laughs, or to act like children who have good fathers shouldn’t acknowledge their presence and how much they do?

I know I’m lucky, though. I know not all dads are as involved with their children as my husband is with our daughters. I know how hard it is when we don’t live near extended family, or when we don’t have nannies or even sitters available a decent amount of the time. I know how hard it is to find alone time, and to have “me” time for the woman outside of my role as “Mom”, because I struggle with all of this too, and I have a partner who is here for me and for our kids. I’m lucky, but I have to believe that I’m not alone.

How can we expect fathers to be active in our children’s lives and to shoulder the weight of this ginormous responsibility of raising kids if we don’t give up some of our maternal control? How can we say we want this as a society if we still rarely put diaper stations in mens’ restrooms and male bash on the side? Dad jokes aren’t just at the expense of fathers, they’re at the expense of our children. We can support other women without criticizing men. We can do better—we have to.

I want my daughters to grow up and see that the relationship I have with their father is equal. I want them to see him doing chores around the house and refilling their sippy cups. In our house, dad and mom are equal. I want them to expect to be treated equally outside of our house, too.

I want them to expect to earn as much money as men. I want them to expect to be treated respectfully if they choose to date or marry a man. I want them to go out into the world, and to be aware of inequality while also expecting more — while expecting what they deserve. And they deserve a dad.

Every child deserves two parents who love them and are there for them, even if not every kid gets this. But for us to move forward as a society into a space where women can become president and men can, at the very least, change diapers, we need to treat each other respectfully. We need to treat ourselves respectfully.

The article I mentioned earlier was a blog on everyday ways moms can practice self-care. Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective. Exercising, spending time alone or with a friend, reading a good book, and letting other people we love and trust help us with our children — these are all ways I care for myself. These are things I can pass on to my kids. I want my kids to see me taking care of myself, and asking for help, and loving people and trusting people, and knowing my own limitations so that they grow up to practice self-care, too.

So if I’m supposed to feel guilty for saying that when my husband comes home, I often kiss him and let him handle the kids for a while so I can spend a few minutes alone, then too bad. Too bad because it’s ok for me to acknowledge that while I might be lucky, this is the way that works for me.

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor, and drinker of hoppy ales. She writes for The Huffington Post, APlus, elephant journal, Be You Media Group, and MindBodyGreen. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your LifeThe Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother and A Quiet Kiss.


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