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Our Family Unit

I’d like to dedicate this post to all the hands-on dads out there. If you’re anything like my husband, you deserve big props. Not bigger than, say, a hands-on mom deserves. But still, you deserve a pat on the back as well. Because without you guys, this parenting thing would be a lot harder, a lot more challenging. Not impossible, of course, plenty of moms do it alone and do it well -- but having two pairs of hands instead of one, with just about any challenge, usually makes things easier.

I am very fortunate that my husband -- a part-time SAHD -- sees his role as every bit the hands-on parent that I am. If we’re keeping score, he actually does more of the heavy lifting. He’s responsible for replenishing the nursery, and does the weekly Target trips -- for that alone he gets Father of the Year. He’s home a lot more than I am, due to a less demanding work schedule (he owns a Chicago hot dog and Italian beef joint, and thus works for himself). Sometimes it feels like I am the less hands-on one, frankly, which is something I’m still trying to come to terms with, as a full-time working mom. But the guilt doesn’t plague me the way it used to, for better or worse.

The great thing about our arrangement is, logistically speaking it seems to work. We’ve fallen into a pretty standard routine: He’s got the daytime hours during the week (which he alternates with our nanny), and I pretty much take over at night. Weekends are a mixed bag, where we trade off mornings with Preston so the other one can sleep in a little, and afternoons and nights we spend together as a family, but we’re both really good about stepping in when the other person needs a break. We’re very flexible on weekends, so that if one of us needs some time to run an errand, or grab coffee with a friend, we make it possible. But we do just about everything together. So far, that means attending birthday parties as a family; and most of the plans we make are with mutual friends and family, together.

That’s not to say one of us won’t occassionally go out with our respective friends, but it happens pretty infrequently. Mostly because we’re just too tired to motivate to go out on weekends. And, as every parent knows, the end result usually means being tired and hungover the next morning -- it’s simply not worth it when you’ve got a kid to care for.

Preston’s birthday party was yesterday (we went with a Cubs theme, thanks for all the great suggestions!), and Jay was a trooper. He wasn’t so into the idea of a having a big one-year birthday party – before we had Preston, he swore we’d never have a crazy, chaotic kids’ party like that – but when it came time to decide what we were going to do for Preston’s big day, he let me run with it. He even helped put together the goody bags for the party. Talk about hands-on! There isn’t anything that Jay won’t do for Preston and me. His family is his number-one priority; we also know that there’s no football, baseball or basketball game that could possibly come in the way of our family unit. (Right, Jay?) No matter what, he will always be there for us.

Thanks to the great suggestions from readers, we went with a Cubs theme.

This is the “before” shot: Preston digging into his “smash cake.”

This is the “after” shot: There’s cake on his ear!

And it pays off in spades. You should see the way Jay can make Preston laugh, the bond they have is incredible. They’re best buddies -- and I know they’ll stay that way forever. Jay’s also best buddies with his own father, so he has a relationship to model theirs off of. He doesn’t feel like he’s sacrificing anything to put his family first. It’s just what comes naturally to him. I understand it’s not what comes naturally to all guys, which is probably why when you come across a man who relishes being a father, it’s the exception to the rule but not the rule itself. That’s why we feel like we need to give men who are hands-on dads so much more credit, like, “Good for you for being a decent person!” Isn’t that what we all should aspire to be?

It’s rather sad that as a society we’ve come to think it’s “normal” for men to be anything less than hands-on with their kids, as if it’s still solely a woman’s job to care and nurture them. Unfortunately, we all still know men who don’t participate in their kids’ lives the way they should. As hard as it makes it for the moms, it’s really the dads you have to feel sorry for -- they’re the ones missing out. And as any good, decent parent knows, they’re missing a helluva lot.

Happy father, happy baby