A Different Kind of Father’s Day Gift

I had a craptastic Mother’s Day. Not because my husband didn’t buy me anything or my kids were climbing off the walls or the house was a mess. I spent the day (and the two following) in the hospital with gastritis due to an adverse reaction I had to pain medication. Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like an endoscopy.

My husband, bless his heart, took my three daughters to my favorite store earlier that week to find the perfect gift, because you know if you can’t find me something I love at Tarjay, you don’t know me at all.

Unfortunately, in the whirl of holding my bed pan to catch projectile vomit,  transporting our kids to and from their activities, and trying to keep his job, somebody forgot to actually give me the  special gifts.

A few days later I returned from the hospital, feeling weak but ready to get back to the world of the living, or at least those not on a liquid diet. I noticed a Target bag sitting in our laundry room sink, but figured it was one of my kids’ dirty practice clothes. Because my mom is staying with us during my recovery, and had generously offered to do our laundry in my time of need, of course I left it there unchecked. If I looked and didn’t do anything with whatever disgustingness lie in there, then I’d really be a jerk.

What I did find later that night when I decided it was time to start eating again was a stash of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Three cardboard containers of Vermont’s finest just calling out to me from the freezer in the garage. The pint of Half-Baked seemed to shout “eat me”  the loudest, so my spoon and I nestled deep into my lazy-boy for some quality time.

A few days later, I saw the bag out of the corner of my eye again, this time with the gray slipper sticking its nose out of it. Of course I let it sit there again, thinking maybe my mom had bought something that needed to be returned.

Then one day, my mom finally yelled said to me, “Will you please take your freaking Mother’s Day present upstairs?”

And so I did. I unwrapped the bag to find pair of fancy pajamas and a sweet pair of coordinating slippers. As opposed to my normal boudoir attire of stained yoga pants and a t-shirt that usually has a hole in it, this was an outfit I could proudly wear to the mailbox  and not get heckled by the neighbors.

Now, one would think that being in the hospital would be the perfect time to give me those pajamas, right? Not so much.

It was only later that night when he saw me modeling them as I was brushing my teeth that he remembered. I thinks his exact words were, “Oh yeah, whoops!”

To rub his nose in my  gifting superiority, I asked if there was anything he wanted for Father’s Day.

“No, but you can leave my gift in the sink and then eat whatever else you get me that’s left in the freezer.”

That’s when I found out that he let each of my daughters pick out a Ben & Jerry’s flavor for me. And while I was a little bitter to find out he plowed through the entire carton of Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, I decided to forgive him, but only because there was some Boom Chocolatta left over.

Truth be told, my husband gets a pass on this one. I’ve been sick for the past three months and he takes care of me, my kids and our home without a complaint.  He stays up late every night catching up on work he missed because he left early to take my daughter to horseback, soccer try outs, a birthday party, haircuts or whatever else they need that I used to take care of regularly. The pajamas were a present, but the real gift is his love and commitment, about the only things you can’t get at Super Target.

Although I did find some great gifts that I plan on having the kids present him on Father’s Day, I think the real win is I am forever indebted to him. When a man takes care of you for three months, I mean really honoring that in sickness and in health part,  you can’t really needle him for forgetting some of the details. Plus he can never un-see some of the things I’ve gone through the past few months and he still wants to share a bed with me.

That means he leaves the toilet seat up…..I’ma gonna let it go. Wants to watch a marathon of Ultimate Fighting Ridiculousness? Letting it go. Leaves his wine glass in the sink every night even though the entire kitchen is clean and the dishwasher is four inches away?  I’m going to take several deep breaths, and it’s gone.

But eat my ice cream again…dude, then it’s on like Donkey Kong. Even love has its limits.

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Doing his favorite thing in the whole world, with his three favorite ladies.

Happy Father’s Day to my number one, and to all those men out there taking care of kids. It’s an important job you have!

 

 

What I’ve Learned from Modern Dads

I remember several years ago talking to a stay at home dad at my daughters’ preschool. He told me about how he lost his engineering job when his company got purchased, and in the same week his wife landed a new, well-paying gig for an accounting firm. His youngest had three years until he would be in school full time, so they ran the numbers, and determined it made sense for him to make a career change. After joking about the initial feeling of emasculation, he willingly embraced his new role.

I actually would say that he was pretty damn good at his new job. In fact, he killed it as the primary parent. After watching him, I was the one that was emomulated (see what I did there? Emasculated/Emomulated.)

1And1more_tonemappedIt’s pretty typical nowadays to see dads playing an increasing role in their children’s lives. Some estimates say the number of at-home dads who are primary caregivers for their children totals nearly 2 million according to the National At-Home Dad Network.  The 2011 census states that nearly seven million dads can be considered primary caregivers, meaning they are a regular source of care for their children under age 15. That’s nearly one-third of all married dads.

Every day I see them baby-wearing at grocery stores, early to school pick up, putting in pony tails at gymnastics and even rocking it at the completely misnomered “Mommy and Me” classes. Some of these men stay at home, and some share the child-rearing load with their partners; but the most important factor is that more dads are understanding that childcare is difficult, important, and not only for Moms.

What is particularly interesting is how men have redefined the “Mr. Mom” stigma. Instead of replicating the way their partner would provide care for their children, dads are parenting to their strengths — not to society’s preconceived notions. This is something us moms should note.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from some great dads:

+ Confidence. I would think you have to be pretty confident to be a stay at home dad — or even the primary care giver — in a world that still thinks a man’s job is to be the bread winner. The dads I know don’t seem to worry about that, and they don’t spend hours worrying about every little aspect of child rearing.  They aren’t seeking advice from blogs or Pinterest or parenting sites. They do the best they can and know that it’s good enough. Point taken.

Efficient. I entered Trader Joe’s the other day (by myself) at the same time as a Dad and his three young kids. He had his list on his phone and was in and out of that store with his four bags of groceries before I even got out of the meat aisle. And his kids got lollipops for finding the monkey. He didn’t waste time scanning labels, didn’t get distracted by the samples, and barely was phased when his toddler had a breakdown because he wasn’t getting muffins. He moved with laser-like focus. It was inspiring, but then I lost my train of thought while trying to remember if I needed eggs.

+ Guilt-free. Women feel guilt for working too much or not working enough or not doing enough with their file0001508134616kids or not cleaning the house or not cooking organic — and the list goes on and on. The dads I know who are primary caregivers don’t ever seem to wrestle with guilt. They make the most of their time and move on. I need me some of that.

+ Home-making does not define them. I do not want to marginalize dads in any way, but most fathers I know who are primary care givers are not defined by the cleanliness of their house or the complexity of their meals. That’s not to say dads don’t work hard at cleaning and cooking and doing the laundry, but I’ve heard some rousing games of sock football or putting together a paper plane army sometimes gets in the way of polishing the silver. A former male colleague turned freelance writer/primary parent said this: “When my wife went back to work, our deal was to hire a professional cleaner to come in twice a month. I’m pretty good at picking up, but not so good at the details that drive her crazy. I do the cooking, grocery shopping, house management and child schlepping, and she does the dishes. I hate doing the dishes, so it works for us.”

That being said, dads’ hard work in the home should not go unnoticed. One study found that daughters of fathers who don’t subscribe to “traditional” gender roles at home grow up to become women who feel confident to work outside of the house.  And teaching our daughters that their opportunities are not limited should be celebrated.

+ Identity. I once shared a carpool with a dad who left his software sales job to take care of his four kids while his wife completed her residency program. He had the kids listening to The Beatles on the drive (no Kidz Bop for him), took his whole brood ice skating every week (he was a former hockey player) and taught them how to code their own web sites.  Dads have a way of being involved with their kids while keeping their identities, while most women struggle with this. Which kinda is why dads can also be more fun — even when they’re doing the parenting every single day. When they like what they are doing, everyone enjoys it more.

Have you learned anything from a modern dad?

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Five Reasons to Let Your Husband take that Guys Trip

Regardless of what kind of mom you are — work at home, single, full-time career or stay at home — I think the majority of us can agree that being a mother is hard. And even when you are one of the lucky moms to have a partner that is supportive and helps out, let’s be honest…moms today still carry more of the weight when it comes to the kids, which is the way most of us want it.

That’s why I write so much about moms taking some time to re-discover who they were before they had kids — when we didn’t talk about bowel movements or the color of boogers (read my post about signs you need a girls trip here.)

But what about the men in our lives? The fathers of our children? The ones who sometimes pretend not to know how to take a rectal temperature or that the smell of a poopy diaper makes them gag.  The dads who say they are scared to take their three toddler daughters to Costco for fear of losing one (true story.)  The men who seemingly have no problem maintaining their workout routine, errands schedule or happy hours after having kids?

According to the two women I heard at the pool the other day, dads don’t deserve a guys weekend. “Every weekend is a “guys weekend” during the summer,” I heard the woman beside me say. “He golfs on Saturday and Sunday while I take the kids to church and now he wants to go to Arizona with his college buddies. What the heck?”

I get it. I really do. My husband travels for work quite a bit. One time his company rented out the Harry Potter portion of Universal. I felt really bad for him. Another time he got to eat at the famous restaurant Nobu in Vegas while I dealt with a case of pink eye and two book reports.

But truth be told, as much as those experiences were pretty cool for him, it did come with some guilt. And I know there are plenty of times my husband would rather be at my daughter’s first grade play then at a Hilton Garden Inn just outside Little Rock.

I think men — in general — are increasingly struggling with work-life balance. The desire to “be there” for their kids as coaches, cub scout leaders and homework helpers coupled with long commutes and 24/7 work expectations can make dads equally stressed and unhappy as moms.

Additionally, with more moms in the workforce than ever before, dads also now have more responsibilities. Activities such as packing lunches, house work, and after school car pools are no longer just for the woman in the house.

For me, going on a girls weekend is no problem. I see my kids a lot. Sometimes I would say even a little too much. It’s easy for me to justify why I need to get away.

But what about dads? Do men that travel and work long hours deserve time away from their kids and family?

I say yes, and here’s why:

Dads today are stressed. Men today face the same challenges women did in the 1970s and 80s. How can you be a good parent and a good employee? Men often are not given the same leniency as women when requesting time off for their children’s well-being, such as illness or school-related activities. Most men today want to be more than just the provider, but the 24/7 work environment makes that tough. Just like working moms, when a dad is at work, he’s thinking of home and when at home, he’s worried about work. Separating yourself out of that kind of stress-charged environment can be exactly the re-boot a dad needs to get back in the game of life.

Managing mid-life crises. While aging can hit a woman hard, hitting that mid-life milestone for a man can rock his world. Sometimes it just takes a weekend with his buddies to realize how good he has it.

Guys don’t share. Most men don’t call up their bestie after their boss yells at them in the middle of an important meeting. Or they don’t text their buddy to say: “Dude, I just found the most amazing pair of sandals!” It’s just not what they do. But they may share a sentence or two about how it felt to get passed over for that promotion during halftime or their fear for how their son who may be struggling in school while drinking a beer with their oldest friend from high school. And that sharing can get them through an entire year.

My husband, his best friend, and his dad on a guys trip.

My husband, his best friend, and his dad on a guys trip.

Remembering what it was like B.C. (before children). We moms always complain about how we lose our identities after we have children. I have to imagine men feel this a little bit too. Every night my husband walks into a house full of pony tail holders, barbie dolls and stuffed animals. He has sat through hundreds of Disney princess movies, worn rainbow loom bracelets and gets introduced to various American Girl dolls on a regular basis. Even when he started teaching his daughters his beloved sport of soccer, he watched them do it with tutus as uniforms and tiaras on their heads. And while I think he loved every second of it, I can imagine it must feel good for him to get around some testosterone for a few days that is not just at his office.

Quid pro quo. One of the biggest things we have worked on in our marriage this year is trying to stop keeping tabs on who has done more for the family. For a long time, this is how I saw things: I do all the cooking and cleaning and chauffeuring and coordinating and child caring. He spreads fertilizer and picks up our daughter from soccer on Mondays — if and when he is in town. Clearly not even in my mind.

For some reason women do not value their partner’s contribution as much as theirs.  We constantly underestimate what men do such as time spent picking up something at the grocery store on the way home from work, fixing a bike, refinancing the mortgage or even the rare occasion they do the dishes. Thinking your husband doesn’t do enough is something you should work out together…not a reason to tell him you don’t think he deserves some time away.

But let’s face facts. I don’t feel so guilty taking my trip(s) if he takes one himself!

At the end of the day, life is for living. It is healthy for you and your marriage to have some time away to focus on yourself and strengthen your friendships. If trust or his behavior is what is causing you doubts about his going away, then those are issues you need to work on — and fast.

But taking one for the team and letting him have his guy-time. Well, you may just be surprised. He may even do the dishes when he gets back.

Do you encourage your husband to have some guy-time? Do you “let” him go on a boys weekend? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Five Things My Husband Does Better Than Me

The other day my kids delivered a crushing blow. They told me that their dad was funnier than me. In fact, they called him “hilarious.”

What? How is that possible? Do they not read my blog? I am a hoot and a half.

After the initial sting wore off, it got me thinking….how do my kids see their dad? Am I missing something? Yeah, he’s kinda funny, usually more when he drinks, but he can be funny like making me chuckle every once in a while. But hilarious? Was I missing something?

So I decided to do some research. Using a very scientific methodology, I asked my children what else their dad did better than me. Here’s what they came up with:

+ Play soccer/running. Well, duh. He’s only been playing soccer since he was like five. He should be better. And I am sure he is part Kenyan, so no wonder he can run 47 miles without stopping.

Getting up early. Ouch. This one hurt. Apparently my kids have caught on that I’m not a morning person.

Boogie Boarding. OK, I had to give them this one too. He’s got mad skills. And I’m not a fan of getting in unless the water temperature is above 80 degrees, so he actually just wins be default.

Putting movies on in the car. You learn something new every day. Apparently even though they are only driving three miles to Ace Hardware, my husband will put on a movie. Sorry, babe. You’re busted.

Tickle fights. Yeah, mom isn’t into this one that much. I do often hear a lot of giggling right before they go to bed. And sometimes there are epic battles that include launching stuffed animals across three rooms. It’s pretty impressive.

Dad doing one of the things he does better.

Dad doing one of the things he does better.

Well, I guess I can sort of see why they think he might be fun. And in retrospect, there are some other things he does better than me that I don’t always share. He actually could change a diaper faster. And made better airplane noises when feeding the girls pureed squash. And had more patience when teaching them to ride a bike. And grill.  And he slices cheese better (mine are never even.)

And while my ego is still a little hurt, it just fuels my desire to win back my crown of being more funny than Dad.  But for today, I’ll let him have his glory. He’s sort of fantastic, and it is almost Father’s Day after all. Everyone deserves a bone sometimes.

May all the Dad’s out there feel the love this weekend. You are appreciated, even if we don’t tell you because we don’t want your heads to get too big.

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Today’s post was inspired by Mama Kat (makatslosinit.com).

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