Most if not all of my readers probably know that I just got back from a 9-day trip to Italy. It was without a doubt one of the most amazing and spiritual experiences of my life, right up there with the birth of my children. But I missed my children with intensity so great I had to force myself not to think about it for fear of completely falling to pieces. Leaving them was not easy. I missed them and I missed my husband and I gather that I was missed quite a bit as well. But I knew they were in capable hands.
Now that I’ve been home a couple days I’ve started getting caught up on the things I missed while I was gone.
“I got a free oil change.”
“Really? Cool! How did you manage that?”
“Oh they took a little longer than usual and when they saw that I was by myself with two kids they gave me the oil change and car wash for free. Oh yeah and I also got a voucher for a free oil change next time, too.”
“Wow, okay that’s great!”
It got better.
“So apparently I was the first parent to turn in preschool registration for next year.”
“Good! Glad that’s taken care of!”
“Yeah they were so impressed that I did it by myself that they gave me a giant sticker. It says ‘Great Job!’”
“Wow what did they think you are three or something? Sheesh!”
The stories kept coming. One day that Hubby was late picking Andrew up from school because of a long line of traffic behind a fatal traffic accident. But instead of being annoyed at having to wait for him, the teachers at the school assumed it was because of the stress he was under from being by himself with the kids.
“Oh you poor thing! Don’t worry about being late at all. We understand.”
Wow, that’s not the response I get when I’m late to pick Andrew up.
I was starting to get annoyed, not at A but at the other people whose actions and tone suggested they were astonished he could be alone with two children without accidently forgetting to feed them or throwing himself off a bridge.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad he had people who were willing to step in. I’m glad he had people practically lined up to babysit while I was gone. I’m glad that the manager at Chic-Fil-A personally delivered his food to the table, checked back 4 times to make sure he was doing okay and offered to hold Allison while he ate.
No wait, I’m not. Because the double standard is so glaring that I can’t help but wonder if I slipped through a time warp back into 1950.
Add this on top of the scathing looks and judgmental criticism I took for going on the trip in the first place and I find myself downright shocked. We’ve come so far we’ve started going backwards.
Do you know how old Andrew was the first time A left us to go to weekend unit training with the National Guard? Five days. That’s right, DAYS. His first over night trip was before Andrew hit the one-month mark. And I spent the entire first trimester of my pregnancy with Allison with a 2 year old who was not fully potty trained, debilitating nausea, a full time a job and a husband who was only home on weekends. Too bad no one offered me any free oil changes. Must be because I’m a mom. No one expects a man to be able to do the job but a woman? Well why should she need any help. That’s what she does. And if she can’t she must be inferior and weak. If she asks for help she must not be able to handle the job. It’s a secret world of judgment when you’re a mom and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m over it.
Turns out A didn’t need much help at all. He accepted a babysitter for 45 minutes while he went to get his hair cut. Other than that he did it on his own. Both kids were clean, dressed, fed, entertained, happy and healthy while I was gone. He also worked to earn a living for our family, kept the house clean, the laundry washed and oh in his spare time he re-tiled the shower.
But I wasn’t surprised by any of this. I wouldn’t have married him if I thought he would make a crappy father. I wouldn’t have fathomed leaving my kids to go across the ocean to another country if I thought there was the slightest chance he couldn’t handle it. We believe in an equal partnership. We have always shared the task of raising our kids. Why should now be any different? I’m offended by the insinuation that I should have expected any less of him just as I would be appalled if anyone would have expected less of me. What an insult to his character to suggest he couldn’t do the job and do it well. Why do we as a culture think men can’t handle it? Maybe it’s because we spend so much time expecting them not to that they figure they can’t, or shouldn’t even try. Well enough of that. This is 2012 people! Time to move past the double standard and raise our expectations. Time to put an end to the sexist rhetoric that suggests dads can’t be just as good at parenting as moms or at the very least realize that gender has no impact on whether or not someone might like an extra hand when they are raising children alone.
All in all it was good for both of us. I learned how hard it is to be away traveling when you miss your kids back home and he realized just how exhausting it is when you are on alert at all times, knowing you are solely responsible for the safety and well being of those entrusted to your care. But the greater lesson to be learned is this: women have broken through gender barriers to be CEOs, doctors, judges, astronauts, all manner of careers. It’s time to believe that men can make perfectly wonderful fathers as well and stop accepting any less.