I’m sitting at the beach and a young couple is sitting nearby. They have what looks to be a nearly 3-year-old and an infant. They trudge down to the beach with all their baby gear and settle in not far from me.
And then I hear the dad say to the mom, “I want you to go. I want you to enjoy this vacation because you’re with them all the time.” I imagine that he’s sending her off to get a few minutes alone doing something she wants to do or just sending her off to do nothing. How lovely, I think.
Mom gets up to go and the baby starts to wail. Mom hesitates, the wails stopping her in her tracks. She stands in a moment of indecision until Dad says “Go, I’ve got this.”
Is it okay to praise dad for taking care of his kids?
It’s not politically correct to praise a father for taking care of his own children. After all, they’re his kids and isn’t that just what we parents do? It’s certainly something moms do every day; juggle any number of children and their needs. Even when it’s a struggle and the baby is crying, the toddler is demanding, the pre-teen is rude, and the teen is surly we moms manage to somehow keep all the balls in the air. And no one thinks we are heroic for doing it. It’s just part of the job.
But how many dads actually say those words? How many dads, without being prompted, say the words that mean I see how hard you’re working, I appreciate it and I want to help. How many follow up with a “Just go because I can do this.”
My generation accepted moms as primary caregivers
If you are in your 50s like me and your kids are grown and your spouse was that kind of supportive, consider yourself fortunate. But the reality is that the heavy lifting of childcare fell and still falls primarily to mom. Many of my generation just accepted that as a fact. I certainly did.
In my home the division of labor related to childcare was decidedly uneven, although not necessarily unfair. By overt or tacit agreement, although we were married, I was what we jokingly called the “custodial parent.” Sometimes the memory of how smothering it was to shoulder 95% of the childcare makes old resentments bubble up.
I was often told, “They want you,” or “You’re so much better at this.” And, I bought it; hook, line and sinker. I reasoned that my husband and I were each playing to our strengths. But the truth is that that reasoning was and is silly and circular.
Childcare became my strength because I made it so, because it was expected, because there really was no alternative. And if you do something enough you get pretty good at it.
Be that kind of husband and dad
So, when I heard that dad on the blanket next to me-it struck a chord. It made me tear up because kindness does that to me. It also made me think about the next generation of dads that we are raising, that I am raising.
To our growing and flying sons, I say: Be that husband. Be that father. And to the young women, I say don’t let them off the hook. Help them be that husband or that father by knowing your own value and then giving them the space to make co-parenting their strength.
And because we moms take on everyone’s problems, we are often exhausted This is Why Moms are Exhausted, Always Exhausted