When you have a lot of kids, people do a lot of counting. They look at your crew of children, count them up in their head and then say, “Are they all yours?”
So it was pretty typical when my husband and I were out to lunch recently and a woman leaned over to inquire whether we were indeed responsible for all these children hanging around us. But then she said something I didn’t expect.
“Wow. 5 kids. That’s a lot of children to take care of. Actually I should say you’re taking care of 6!”
“What do you mean?” I asked. (Oh my gosh – Am I pregnant and this woman has some kind of maternal intuition?! Please no!)
“Well, your husband too.” she said, laughing.
I knew what she meant. She meant my husband was my 6th kid.
“No, he pulls his own weight,” I said. “In fact, he’s an amazing dad.”
I’m going to give this woman a pass since she was older and I’m guessing she grew up in a time when dads literally didn’t touch a diaper. And because people are prone to saying dumb things to strangers (myself included). But really, why is there still a tendency to treat dads like bumbling idiots?
Way before I had kids, I remember taking a trip with one of my best college girlfriends. I naively asked her, “Who’s taking care of your daughter? Is your husband babysitting?”
Now my friend was very quick to clarity that dads don’t babysit. They parent. Noted. And once I become a parent myself, I completely understood what she meant and why she had made this distinction. Dads should be equal partners in this journey of parenthood.
But society still sometimes relegates fathers to second class parents. Even though most dads I know are incredibly hands on, very responsible and have changed more diapers than they could ever count. And when we discredit the contribution made by dads, we do a real disservice to our children.
This doesn’t mean men and women parent in the same way. Nor should they. My husband and I are very different in our approaches. I can pack a diaper bag while making the kids breakfast while canceling a doctor’s appointment. My husband admits that would make his brain explode.
But he’s the one who gets the kids to school on time, grills Sunday night dinners and could play in the pool with them for hours. I last about 7 minutes in a pool before I’m shivering and desperate to get out. And this is in Florida. Where it’s like 100 million degrees outside (estimate).
Neither of us is a better parent. We just each have our strengths. And our weaknesses.
Like the time that I forgot to go to my son’s teacher conference. But somehow remembered to take a nap that day.
Or the time he forgot to give the children dinner. One of the kids reminded him that they were indeed very hungry and could they please be fed before bedtime.
But despite these parental missteps, we are doing our very best to raise loving, creative, passionate children. And I couldn’t imagine doing this job without him.
Like the other night – I wanted to get the kids into bed early because they had school the next day. My husband wanted to watch the last few exciting minutes of a NCAA basketball game with them.
The children stayed up. And even though I was a little cranky about it at first (because I was so desperate to have these children sleeping so I could get the house chaos under control), I’m so glad they did. Because they will remember that game and those moments with their dad for a very long time to come.