Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are a bit different in our house because we have two of one and none of the other.
So I approach Mother’s Day with mixed feelings. I shouldn’t, considering I’m a mom to two incredible, beautiful boys. Plus, I’m married to an incredible, beautiful woman, the other mother to our sons. Mother’s Day should be a double whammy for us. My wife Emily and I should be brunching all day long. Breakfast in bed for two! Perfume, flowers and mimosas for everyone! A big ol’ Mom Fest!
But I’ll admit I’m selfish. I want the perfume, flowers and Eggs Benedict all for myself. As a freelance writer, I work while our twin sons are in school, and then do the SAHM thing from 3 p.m. on. Emily is home from work in time to read them their bedtime books. Sometimes I am jealous of her schedule/life. Sometimes I feel sorry for her. She probably feels the same way about me. I’m the one who drags them, screaming, out of stores when they tantrum. I arrange their playdates. I know what their favorite toy, color, TV show, shirt is at any given moment. I make almost all of their meals. And hear all their complaints about whatever it is I’ve dared feed them. I’ve wiped the most butts, by far.
For an untraditional family, we are, in many ways, very traditional. But that’s the reality of raising kids. Maybe there are some families who split the kid duties fifty-fifty, but I’ve never met one. Typically, there is one parent, whether male or female, who, for whatever reason, becomes the primary caregiver and one who becomes the primary earner. For us, I am the former. And as the primary parent, I deserve my own day. Don’t I?
None of us—or all of us—deserves our own day, I suppose. And today, with more and more stay-at-home dads and working or primary-earner moms (like Emily), the concept of “mother” is increasingly defined by sex alone. Besides, if Emily and I dive deeper into the traditional roles, we’re all over the place. I’m the bug killer. Emily does the laundry. I plant flowers. Emily mows the lawn. I am more often the daredevil while Emily espouses caution. I may wipe the most butts, but I get the most kid-hugs, too, something I’d take over breakfast in bed any day.
So this and every Mother’s Day Emily and I will enjoy—yes—brunch with our kids and some of the other moms in our family. After all, no matter what molds we fill or break, we are both mothers. Good ones.
Which brings us to Father’s Day. While I don’t believe that our boys need a father—they have two loving, responsible parents—I do consider what it means for them to not have one. People have asked if I mind the Father’s Day art projects my sons create at school: cards, photo frames, and construction-paper ties. I don’t. My sons may one day be fathers themselves and I want them to know that dads are something to celebrate. Both of their parents happen to be female, but so what? Our boys give the crafts to their grandfathers, their Papa and Pap-Pap.
I hang out often with dads in my neighborhood who, like me, have arranged their professional lives around their kids’ schedules, so they can be the primary caregiver. In the park and playground after school, we dole out snacks, buckle helmets, tell our kids to be careful with that stick, and console them when they cry (usually due to not being careful with that stick). There is not much difference in how we parent.
Nevertheless, I watch these fathers. What do they offer that my kids may be missing? Sure, the dads are stronger. They toss their kids around with more agility. They lift them up to higher tree branches. Their deeper voices seem to resonate a bit more when it comes to discipline. But that’s it. I am impressed at both the fact that these men are their kids’ “primary” parent (not being used to the idea myself, raised by a stay-at-home-mom) and also that what we’re providing our kids with is the same: love, attention, stability… snacks.
I admit to trying too hard sometimes to be as physically capable as these dads. On a recent family vacation, I jumped off of a very high waterfall. I wanted to show my sons that I could be just as fearless, just as “cool” as what I imagined a dad might be. Afterwards, Emily not-so-subtly pointed out that I was just being stupid and reckless. In fact, my waterfall stunt brought her to tears. Why? Because she’s a great, thoughtful parent, worried about the other parent to her children.
Roles are fluid. There are so many ways to be a good parent. My dad was the breadwinner when I was growing up. He didn’t prepare my meals or deal with my tantrums. While he may not have known what soothed me when I was uncontrollably crying (answer: my mom’s Revlon face powder, patted all over my face with the included pouf, preferably by my sister, Michele), he is trying to know me now, and that’s a gift. Involved parents, whenever they happen and whatever gender they may be, are a gift.
So come Father’s Day, we will also celebrate. Our families are filled with plenty of great dads. Most importantly, Father’s Day is another opportunity to honor the gift of involved, loving parents: Being one, having one, knowing one. It’s also a great excuse to eat BBQ and drink beer. No waterfall-diving required.
Happy Parents’ Day, everyone?