Since I wrote a piece for the Role/Reboot website (that is posted today) called, Why Are There No “Working Dads”?, I’ve been thinking a lot about the changing roles of fathers and mothers. While it’s true that there are different cultural expectations for mothers and fathers, I’ve also been wondering how much of these expectations come from ourselves.
The point of my post — that I wrote weeks ago — is that a mom who works is called a “working mother” — and everyone in our society has seen thousands of articles about the consequences, challenges, and benefits of being a working mom — but a dad who works is called, well, a “dad.” There is no equivalent term, no equivalent set of magazines and marketing, and no similar set of cultural expectations and feelings of guilt.
And mothers — whether they work or not — generally take on most of the mental energy of parenting. I don’t necessarily mean the diaper changes or the middle-of-the-feedings. But the worrying, the planning, the remembering of all the likes and dislikes. And this is what KJ Dell’Antonia of the New York Times blog Mother Lode calls “the dominant parent.” The one, when push comes to shove, is really in charge.
As I get ready to go away on a trip for a night away from my son for the first time (yes, he is two years old), I find myself worrying being away from my son more than I am about defending my dissertation, the purpose of my trip. My husband is a co-parent in every sense of the word. But will he remember to brush his teeth twice a day? Will he remember where the night-time diapers are kept?
If you had asked me several months ago, I would have listed 10 “facts” that were proof that I was the “dominant parent,” the one who’s really in charge.
- I was the parent who kept track of the number of ounces of formula that my son drank every day.
- I was the parent who knew how his clothing was organized.
- I was the parent who knew which books he liked to read for naps and at bedtime.
- I was the parent who was in charge of dispensing medication of all forms (Tylenol to antibiotics).
- I was the parent who talked to the doctor’s office and went to all his office visits.
- I was the parent who kept track of all of his pacifiers and his previous “loveys.”
- I was the parent who kept track of when to change his crib sheets.
- I cleaned all of the bottles and sippy cups.
- While my husband and I generally do our own laundry, I did all of my son’s.
- I prepared my son’s lunches for preschool.
But now I’m realizing that these things — every single one of them — are not true anymore. My son is getting bigger, I’m doing more work of my own, and my husband can do every single one of those tasks just as competently as I did. (Often, even better.) And, really, my son will be completely fine while I’m away.
Was I the “dominant parent” for all this time during my son’s infancy and early toddlerhood because I needed to be, because I wanted to be, or because I wouldn’t let myself escape that role?
Is there a “parent in charge” at your house?
Don’t forget to check out today’s HerStories: Tales of Friendship piece “Leslie and Me” at Mommy, For Real. Today’s piece is from Carisa of MCarisa.com. She shows her unique style and humor as she shows us how two very different people can become connected in unexpected ways. And make sure to leave a comment to enter our giveaway for a copy of Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriendsby Shasta Nelson.