Sam Wilson

On being the Dad

2004-08-30 09:39

I am often asked how I manage to maintain an active social life despite having two small children and a full time job.

"That's easy," I always reply. "I am the Dad."

"Yes... but you go out at night and away on business trips," my quizzical questioner will continue. "Who looks after your children then?"

"That's my point," I say, speaking a little slower. "My partner. And it makes no glitch in our system, because... I am the Dad."

I haven't always been the Dad in my relationship. It is a fairly new development, in fact, coinciding with my decision to swap my freelance career for a city-based one.

As my partner and I have both always had full time jobs, we decide primary parentship on whose job at any given time is a) the least stressful and b) the closest to school.

When I worked from our house, three blocks from our sons' pre-school, with the kind of job which allowed me to rigorously defend my right to a 10:00 nap each day... the choice was clear. I was it.

Now that my job involves a 45-minute commute and an inordinate amount of PowerPoint presentations, the parental focus has shifted to my university-employed partner, Andreas, who can get home in ten minutes and still rigorously defends his right to a 15:00 tea break.

So what is it like being a Dad? Pretty nifty. All of a sudden, people start valuing your time, the tardy plumber is no longer your problem and, after a full day of feeling importantly busy, you come home to dinner plans which you didn't have to make and children who are genuinely happy to see you.

"Why didn't you tell me it was this nice?" I asked Andreas, during a post-kid bedtime catch-up the other day.

He looked up from the complicated crystal experiment he was setting up to show our sons the next morning.

"That's so funny," he replied. "Today, I got to play with Lego for an hour. I was hugged at least 27 times. I was just about to ask you the same thing."

What strikes me most about our parenting paradigm is how right it feels. You get to explore both parenting experiences; you can work to your strengths as opposed to feeling caged by your gender; and your children get to see that "the norm" is whatever way you choose to slice life.

I do know that we are really lucky... we are raising children as a couple, we have careers which allow for change and the training to dictate many of those changes ourselves. These are blessings for which I am grateful every day.

But one thing I am struck by is the negative reactions of those around us. Surely our situation can't be that unusual. And if it is working for us, why should anyone else care? But many appear to.

"I can't believe you could work from home but you choose not to! Don't you like being a mother?" asked one acquaintance. (Why do stupid people always make use of this kind of unthinking maternal guilt jab when they can't explain why some mommy-detail makes them feel uncomfortable? Oh wait, I think I just answered my own question.)

"But doesn't you husband mind?" asked another. "Doesn't it make him feel, you know, unmanly? I know my husband would feel belittled by being the Mom."

(Is it just me, or is a man that gets unmanned by doing the school lunchboxes not very manly to begin with? And primary parenting is belittling? I hope no one says that near my mother when she is carving a Sunday roast.)

Come on, people. What is it about difference, even a little one like who carried the Wet Wipes, that is so threatening?

I'd really love to know.

Send Sam your comments

  • Sam Wilson is a strategist for a contract publishing company by day and a columnist for a variety of magazines by night. She is mother to 3-year-old Benjamin and 5-year-old Josef by day and by night.

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