Tag Archives: guest post

‘Who is REALLY caring for your children?’

Image

My wife came with me to the recent Dad 2.0 conference in New Orleans (thanks again, Cottonelle, for the trip!), where I attended sessions and workshops while she drank cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, visited cemeteries, and otherwise explored the city.

I’m joking. Mostly. While she did sample more of the local cuisine and color than I did, she actually attended some sessions, too, and visited the sponsor booths and suites, and met and talked with dads from around the country. She was an active attendee, and I was excited and proud to be able to share the experience with her.

My wife works with developmentally delayed infants and toddlers, a job for which she attended a conference of her own on Tuesday earlier this week. The day after she got back, she surprised me with this e-mail:

“Yesterday, I went to a conference in a neighboring city. It was nothing like Dad 2.0, with all of its glitz and swag (the entirety of my ‘swag’ for this one was a printout of the PowerPoint presentation and a folder—in my color choice—to store it in). No Lee jeans, no Starbucks (in fact, the first announcement of the morning was an apology for the fact that they forgot to buy Half and Half to accompany the industrial urns of watery coffee). I left my house at 5:45 in the morning and returned roughly 12 1/2 hours later. The conference was attended primarily by educators, child development specialists, child advocates, and foster parents.

“During the breaks, I chatted with the people at my table. One woman asked if I hoped to have children someday. I informed her that I already have three children. She declared, ‘Oh, you do not look old enough to have children at all!’ Bless her heart. Of course she asked my kids’ ages. I told her. Upon learning that I have a toddler, she asked how I could get away from him for an entire day to attend a conference. I assured her he was safe and sound with my husband/his father, and I had no concerns about being away for a day. Then she said, ‘Sure, but who is REALLY caring for your children? You must have a nanny or a daycare provider. A man couldn’t possibly handle a toddler and two older children ALL DAY LONG.’ I was shocked. I’m sure I said something about my husband being an amazing father and just as capable of caring for our children as I am. But mostly I remember working very hard to keep myself from expressing my outrage in a way that was sarcastic, rude, or unproductive.

“I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but this conversation—and the sentiment behind it—was repeated all day long as I chatted with more and more conference attendees. I am disheartened to realize that in a room of more than 150 professionals who work with children for a living, so many people are clinging to the idea that men cannot be competent (if not excellent) caregivers.

“I am thankful for Dad 2.0 and the blogging world that is working hard to change stereotypes of men and fathers. I am happy to see small changes in the media and advertising that are depicting involved, loving fathers. I hope to see more. I hope, as each year passes, fewer and fewer people react with surprise and shock when I say my children are with their father for the day.”

I was humbled and grateful to read my wife’s perspective, and though I have flown solo with the children before, I do have to point out that the two girls were in school for part of this particular day, and a friend did watch the kids for a couple of hours in the middle of the day since I edit two weekly newspapers and we were on production deadline. But I did get everyone out of bed, dressed, fed, brushed, and packed up in the morning; had the toddler with me in the office for the first third of the work day; handled all of the school drop-offs and pick-ups; edited articles for two newspapers with and without kids tugging at my sleeve; gathered up all the kids for the third third of the work day; drove them to an appointment in the late afternoon; and took all three back into the office with me at the end of—and past the end of—the work day because a computer crash in our production department deleted several files and I had to re-approve already-done work in order to make sure the paper could get to the printer late but intact.

Quickly moving from assessing libel risk to changing a poopy diaper is an odd shift, but not a prohibitively taxing one.

I am fortunate to have giving and flexible friends, bosses, and co-workers, without whom none of this crazy juggling would be possible. I’m amazed and grateful at the help we receive, and at the fact that my wife has a similarly busy schedule—plus she remembers the laundry—and pulls it off.

I’m not doing any of this (or mentioning it) for applause; it’s what has to be done. But I’m sure glad she’s the one I’m doing it with.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Shallows at 6

The Shallows at 6

My 6-year-old recently surprised me with this doodle taped to a metal loop in the headboard on my side of the bed. I told her I’d put it on my blog, along with her comments.

Me: What should I write?
Her: First, I want to tell you about it. I tried really hard to draw it, and I’m interested in doing the way my daddy draws, and his way, and I really like it.

Me: What is it?
Her: It is a picture of me. You can keep asking me questions.

Me: OK. Why did you draw it?
Her: Because I was interested in it. In the way you draw, I mean.

Me: What does it make you think of?
Her: It makes me think of you.

Me: That’s very sweet. Thank you.
Her: You’re welcome. Next question.

Me: Do you think you might have a job that involves drawing someday?
Her: Eh, maybe.

Me: What would you like to do when you’re my age?
Her: I think maybe be a writer like you. For the pictures.

(At this point she dropped a pomegranate seed she was eating and declared, “This could be a major drama,” before getting a towel to clean it up. I found it and ate it before it could stain the rug at all.)

Me: For the pictures? What does that mean?
Her: That means that I really like your pictures and I want to draw like you.

Me: Well, thank you. Let’s do this again some time.
Her: OK.

—bedtime—

Tagged , ,

Words from my Wife

Words from y Wife

Recently in a dad-blogging forum—because I frequent such places now—somebody posted a link to this babble.com article, “Why I Don’t Put My Husband Before Our Children,” which is about, well, exactly what the title says.

Someone else contrasted that essay with this one from the New York Times, “Truly, Madly, Guiltily,” which presents the opposite perspective.

In case you’re too engrossed in my own writing (or lazy) to follow the links, here’s a summary: In the first piece, a mom discusses the challenges of dealing with three children and the tolls that takes on a marriage—and why she’s OK with that, for now. In the second piece—written years ago, actually—a mother explores the idea that her children are orbiting moons, while her husband is the sun. (She also explores that topic though a lens of sexual attraction, so hey!)

Intrigued by the two views, but leaning very heavily toward the second (given the two choices; there’s no angle here on children vs. no children or single vs. married), I was interested in hearing what my wife thought. So I sent her the links.

She responded pretty quickly, sending me what I now give to you as the first guest post in the Shallows (almost guest post, because I’ve still written a fair bit).

On the first essay: “That mom is going to wake up one day to the realization that the ‘hard’ part of parenting doesn’t end after the children are toddlers. One day she will realize she has no idea who the man is in the bed next to her. Children are needy and exhausting little humans. They will always demand all of you. You make choices about your priorities and how you manage those demands. I think her attitude leads to the kind of marriage that ‘stays together for the kids’ and ends as soon as the kids are out of the house because she and her husband made the choice to not make each other their priority.”

Wow! Maybe I should turn this blog over to her more often.

She continued: “The second one I tend to agree more with (obviously). As I have said before—I married you because I chose you. Our children are needy, exhausting blessings—but you (and being united with you in our parenting) always comes first. You can’t be united if you don’t make each other a priority (or don’t even spend time together). That time does not necessarily have to be romantic weekends away like she says (though that sounds wonderful); it does have to be a regular commitment to communication and connection. Children learn from what is modeled for them—I would hope that we model a love that is committed, playful, supportive, and passionate. I also think sex is a reflection of the intimacy and emotional connection that is in a marriage. I’m glad she talked about enjoying her sex life (though I personally would have been more bold in challenging the play group moms and their negative attitudes)! I actually have had the same thoughts she has about how I would react if our children died versus if you died.”

I’ve been thinking of starting a place in the Shallows for the bigger-issue serious stuff, called the Deep End, and this post would certainly land there.

What do you think?

(P.S. This is an old drawing of Sarah, from back when she had rectangle-framed glasses. Also, as you can see, the straight lines of her eyewear influenced the hole out of which she’s sticking.)

Tagged , , , , ,