What I originally thought was just a minor sniffle turned out to be a case of the full-blown flu.
I do not handle being sick well. While I am mostly better now, I’d spent the last few days either in bed or under a blanket on the couch. The effort of getting marginally presentable each day was exhausting. I wanted my mommy to magically appear and make it all better, but my mommy is busy taking care of her mommy right now. I coughed, and sneezed, and resigned myself to be miserable.
One of those days, as I lay there envying the liveliness of extras on the Walking Dead, my door opened and in walked my eldest son. In his hand was a yellow flower, the first of our daffodils of the season. “Here mom, this is to make you feel better.” It was lovely, except my sinuses, thoroughly blocked, would not allow me to breathe in its scent, and its bright color caused my eyes to water.
“Do you like it?”
“I love it, baby.” Although it probably sounded more like I wuv get, baby. Achoo! Snort. Snort. Ack! I hate being sick!
“Dad asked me to help him more in the garage, but I’ll be back to check on you.”
“Dad did?” Bless him. “Okay honey, have fun.” I pulled the blanket back over my shoulders as Kiddo returned to play in a great outside world I couldn’t currently enjoy, thankful that my hubby was on point. I assumed LT was out there somewhere too, but I couldn’t dreg up the energy to be sure.
It could be worse. I could still be traveling for work or I could be doing this all alone.
A few days earlier, I had been trapped on a plane, forced to make small talk for hours when it should have been a mere forty minute flight. One the poor unfortunate souls stuck in that tin can with me had asked innocently enough, “so who’s watching your kids while you are gone?”
“Oh,” the older man responded as his face became the picture of sympathy, “and are you okay with that?”
“Of course.” Um….Why shouldn’t I be?
The comment still bothered me, days later buried under blankets on the couch, even though I could barely remember what it was like to breathe.
Tuesday was International Women’s Day and the internet was full of images and writings of strong woman. It was a day to celebrate how very far we’ve come in terms of empowerment, but I believe there are still a few gaps in the modern-day feminist narrative, keeping true gender equality just out of reach. One is our perception of what makes a good father.
What does fatherhood have to do with feminism? I am able to pursue my dreams, my own sense of self, and be all I can be because I know someone else has my back at home.
When I travel as part of my day job, I don’t typically worry that I’ll return to find my backyard now serves as an arena for an underground cock-fighting ring, or that I’ll trip over a stack of random Polaroids detailing a night that will never be remembered or evidence of a hundred other bad decisions. Nor do I worry that homework will be excused, bedtimes avoided, or that ice cream and candy will be served exclusively for breakfast. I don’t worry because my other half is a parent and not a babysitter.
And yet, this simple fact may read like praise, as if my husband keeping the household from descending into chaos while I am otherwise indisposed is somehow above and beyond what all fathers and husbands should do for their families. I understand that not every father is as engaged with their children or as willing to pick up mom’s slack (especially after several days of solo-parenting before mom started to complain about feeling like death warmed over), but I’d like to think that the default assumption about the role should be slightly higher than the slacker / man-boy / comic-relief dad so favored on sitcoms.
When someone tells me my husband is a good father, I want them to say that because they saw the half-dozen kids use him like a swing-set during a school field trip, or because they overheard one of the hundreds of super-secret one-on-one talks he and one of the boys share about an individual child’s worries. I want them to say it because he is a great father and not because he simply shows up when there isn’t any other option.
Continuing to accept that men are somehow less capable of caring for a family is much the same as continuing to accept that women are any less capable of running a business or more and can be just as damaging to the next generation.
And so, during this Women’s History Month, I will rejoice in the accomplishments of brave women who fought for my right to vote, celebrate those who broke through the glass ceiling, invented Kevlar, fire escapes, and computer compilers. I will drink to those ancient women who created beer and to those more modern women who redefined math and physics.
But at the same time, while I am proud to be a STEM woman by day and a writer mom by night, I am so very grateful to be partnered with a man who isn’t afraid to make breakfast, who isn’t too manly to fold laundry, and whose very machoness isn’t threatened by agreeing to play with colored blocks. I may hold his parenting skills to a higher standard than the sitcoms, but then again, I don’t find the alternative very funny.