2017 is more or less an amazing time to be a woman. I’m not neglecting the progress that begs to be made (Hi, maternity leave, I’m mostly talking about you, you elusive mystery…) But let’s face it: The 1950’s would never have survived me. I’ve never in my life baked a pie of any kind and look tragic in polka dots. Just, no. I realize this is a pretty reductive outlook on the 1950’s. I wasn’t there, so you’ll have to forgive me.
Women in 2017 can and do everything. We are the stewards of companies, charities, TV networks, churches, and families. We are released into a world that demands us to be bold, to think big, to do big. Ranks upon ranks of powerful and vibrant women have paved the way and been our advocates so that we might have a voice and place. Our grandmothers might have been encouraged to be docile and polite, but – with spark and chutzpah – raised a generation of spicy and fiery women who would shatter glass ceilings and still make it home in time to carpool to soccer practice.
Fine. I’ll say it. Women are kind of my favorite.
But – if I dare to make a suggestion, or maybe just an observation – it feels like we’re missing a piece of this “equality” and “progress” conversation. The other half of the parenthood puzzle: Dads.
Hear me out.
I’m at a table full of mothers yielding a day’s worth of toddler trouble to frozen margaritas. We get together every month or two to eye roll about potty training and lament about our stretch marks and our dark circles. The conversation turns to our husbands, and all of a sudden we’re exchanging horror stories about the time Jenny’s husband – God bless him – dressed her kids like Beetle Juice (not on purpose, which is even funnier) or how petrified Mary is to be out and leaving him alone with her youngest (who is three). She clutches her phone, waiting for him to text, “I’m just panicking that bedtime is going to be a nightmare without me.”
It got me thinking: I do not think there’s been a single time that, enjoying a beer after work, that my husband has panicked about my ability to care for the kids in his absence. I’ve even asked him. Response? “Um, no? You’re their mom?”
And none of my mom tribe has ever confessed to texting their husband, “What laundry detergent bothers Sally’s skin, again?” or “When’s Jack’s next appointment?” Jenny has a PhD and a full-time job, much like her husband, but admitted that at home their equality drifts. She is the default parent… and it’s not entirely her husband’s “fault.”
Is it possible this is sometimes a system of our own making? What if we stepped back a little and stopped taking ourselves so seriously? What if we allowed the partners in our lives the opportunity to parent equitably? What if we relished in the different and wonderful ways our husbands love our children? It would mean relinquishing our roles as “Head Bitch in Charge” (side note: I ought to put that on my business card!) but it might mean resenting being the default parent a little less and enjoying the partnership of parenthood. Nothing is more relieving to a tired mom than her partner grabbing the baby and changing them without a word. Truth be told, Mike may very well be the better parent in our household. He has endless patience and makes the best living room forts you’ve ever seen.
I learn so much from watching my husband parent. He and our children live, really live, together and he idles in their joys and sorrows in the moment and doesn’t obsess over their eating and naptime schedules. His wife (hi, me), on the other hand, navigates motherhood with the balance and calm of a recently committed mental patient. I cannot begin to tell you how many charts I’ve made in the name of “good parenting.” *Insert anecdote about the note in my phone that has collected data regarding a certain 3-month-old baby’s poop, right down to color and texture. Jesus, be a fence.* And of course, all went to hell in a hand basket one day when the toddler decided he was uninterested in my game of “PLEASE EAT YOUR BROCOLLI.” Do not pass go, do not put bananas on this plate. Zero stars for the meal chart.
Mike is so dear. He is present and funny and they adore him. I hope they grow up to be everything like him (maybe less noisy when chewing cereal, but no one is perfect, you know?) in spite of their bizarre mother and her charts. If I didn’t have him, I’d cave to my own insanity. The kids would eat enough broccoli, but they’d never stay up past their bedtime to watch another movie, just because he wants to kiss their cheeks for another hour.
We moms are special. Important. Made for this, even. But Dads? They’re the secret sauce of life. And guess what else? They’re just as capable as us; a realization that totally knocked me off of my self-important mama pedestal. No one loves to pat themselves on the back as much as I do for doing #ALLtheThings. But, when I got home from a doctor’s appointment one day and both kids were napping and he’d finished all of the laundry (ALL of it, you guys) I realized maybe I wasn’t the one with the parenting super powers.
So, get out of the house, mama. Throw in some dry shampoo and get a margarita.
The kids will be fine.