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Hail to the “Working Dad”

Dad and Baby

My husband, doing his other full-time job

Last Friday night, after a long week of work, my husband walked through the door carrying these:

Flowers for Mom

“Hon! Wow!” I said. “Flowers for me on your birthday?”

“Oh yeah,” he said with a tired smile. “I guess I forgot.”

Granted, his birthday was not technically for a couple more days, but, still. I couldn’t help but be struck by the selflessness of his gesture — and how hectic his week must have been to make him forget his impending birthday.

I don’t write much about dads on this blog. But then I read Ken Gordon’s article, “Am I a Working Dad?” and started to wonder, why not?

Working Dad. That’s a new one. It sounds funny coming off the tongue, but Ken has a point: Why is the term “working mom” reserved so exclusively for women?

There’s a part of me that wants to safeguard this term for women. Despite a study that finds doing household chores actually makes men happier, women still do more of the (unpaid) work at home. Not to mention, women are still being compensated at a paltry 77 cents per dollar for the same work done by their male counterparts in the workplace.

However, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men devote more time doing paid work outside the home, and most still contribute to the household chores. As a result, the total amount of work done by each partner in the average household is actually not too unbalanced. I’ll admit: this was a surprise to me.

Additionally, according to “The New Male Mystique,” published by the Families and Work Institute, “men now experience more work-family conflict than women.” The report claims “although men live in a society where gender roles have become more egalitarian and where women contribute increasingly to family economic well-being, men have retained the ‘traditional male mystique’ — the pressure to be the primary financial providers for their families.”

I guess our men really do deserve a little more credit.

In my household, our roles are pretty traditional for the time being. My husband often jokes that it’s 1940 at our house (and bless him for not pointing out that the 1940 husband rarely had to bring home Chipotle for dinner). His career is extremely demanding and requires long hours, so I’m managing things at home pretty single-handedly. Or so I thought.

The “working dad” article changed my perspective a bit. It’s not 1940 in my house, and that’s not just because I’m absolutely hopeless at cooking a pot roast. Unlike the stereotypical 1940s dad, my husband doesn’t come home and read the newspaper over dinner while administering stern looks to the kids.

When my husband walks in the door, he flings his arms wide and cries, “Wee man!” The dogs wiggle around him, wagging their tails and vying for his attention. He pets the dogs, he kisses me on the cheek. And then, he turns his attention to his son. He makes goofy faces, he rolls on the floor, he plays peek-a-boo behind the flowers he brought home. At some point each evening, he kisses Hudson on the cheek and says, “I missed you today, buddy.”

He is a hands-on dad, and his efforts shouldn’t be diminished just because that’s not his full-time job.

Yes, I do most of the booger chasing around here, and I change the vast majority of diapers. I take Hudson to the pediatrician and clean the dogs’ ears and make sure everyone’s nails are clipped. It’s hard work, for sure. But my job wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for what my husband does each day.

Day in and day out, my husband rises before the sun, earlier than anyone else in the household. He feeds the dogs, makes his own breakfast and often plucks the baby from his crib to deposit him in bed with me, all before starting his professional day.

Ken Gordon writes that “every good contemporary parent is employed on many levels,” and he’s right. Working moms are on 24 hours a day. Stay-at-home moms are on 24 hours a day. And, nowadays, most dads are on 24 hours a day, too. Parenting is a full-time gig, whether you have another job to go to or not.

So, today, let’s hear it for the boys. Thank you: for listening to our fears, for rubbing our sore shoulders at the end of a long day, for drying while we wash. Thank you for sharing with us your fears, and for showing your sons it’s okay to be soft and vulnerable and in touch with your emotions.

Thank you for being our partners.

All hail the working dad! (And happy birthday to the one who lives in my house.)

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