"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Happy Father's Day

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

To my husband and all the terrific fathers I know who are not only reinventing the role for themselves but for future generations: good on ya. Today the New York Times has an article about couples practicing "equally shared parenting." Simply put, that means mom and dad share, more or less equally, the responsibilities for tending the kids, making money, keeping the house, and "recreation."

Feminist pipedream? Liberal menace? Admirable ideal? From a website devoted to the topic:
Imagine a life without having to choose between a meaningful career and enough time with your children. Envision that while you are at work, your wonderful children are safe, happy, healthy and growing in the care of someone who loves them just as much as you do. At home, you spend many hours with them each week to connect with and nurture them. There is plenty of time for yourself and your favorite hobbies as well, and you never have to do more than half of the housework. The burden of earning the family’s income no longer falls on just one of you. You are fully competent as a parent rather than an understudy or manager to your spouse, and you have an energized marriage with a fun and happy partner . . . Equal sharing doesn’t just happen. It can be hard earned and hard kept. Our society does little to encourage it, and many workplaces are not yet well prepared to honor it. It usually means living more simply, establishing yourself in your career before children arrive, and having the utmost respect for your partner.

I think most families, whether they consider themselves "progressive" or not, are tending toward this model. Even Laestadians. Certainly in my own extended family I have seen a notable increase in the amount of time dads are spending with their children. I don't know if the more moms are contributing to family income and enjoying more time away from house and children, but I would guess this is also true. (Certainly it is in my case.)

My daughter's first grade teacher told me that in recent years, fathers ("even doctors!") are taking time to volunteer in the classroom. After 40 years of teaching, she finds this remarkable.

In my experience, refining one's ideas about what it means to be a good father or mother is surprisingly difficult, especially in times of stress, when we tend to revert to type. I have to continually question my reactions and remind myself of my values. Balance can be elusive.

Case in point, our daughter just came up and asked me to play dolls with her. Her daddy is out riding bikes with her brother, and she wants company.

Well, I don't wanna. I don't remember MY parents ever playing dolls (or riding bikes) with us. The lawn needs mowing and the oven is dirty and the dog could use a bath, and of course there is more newspaper to read on this fine sunny morning.

But conscience demands that I sit on the floor and talk in a high squeaky voice for a few minutes. The rest will still be there when our baby is grown.

How are the changing roles of parents experienced in your life?


  1. This is a wonderful development which is more and more common among younger parents especially. Kids love when both of their parents are involved in their lives, and it's good for everyone!

  2. I've seen a big difference between Dad's when I was a kid, and Dad's now. My father would play with us, but he would never do any of the "work" like change diapers, bath us, cook, do laundry. My husband will bath our baby, he changes her diaper, and tries to settle her down when she's crying. He'll even cook or do laundry if I don't get time for it. It's a good change for everyone!

  3. I have had the pleasure of visiting with an elderly women in our church and getting close to her. We were recently discussing parenting through the generations and it was truly fascinating to hear the differences through 4 generations! The different theories and priorities are amazing.

    For example, her mother and father were rarely kind to each other or the children. Her mother believed that to touch a baby/child more frequently than neccessary for taking care of it, could actually harm the baby -I cant even imagine! Then her husband never played with the kids or helped around the house; he was the providor and when he came it was time to relax. The family was just there. It never crossed his mind to actually talk to them and get to know them. My father (the next generation in line, but not the same family) was slightly more involved with the fun stuff, but rarely any of the work. Yet I am now married and we both do just about everything... seperated only by what we enjoy or are best at, rather than by roles. We have the attitude that it all needs done and since we all live together, its everyones job. We are truly blessed.

    Yet I really believe many of the changes over the past few generations is because there has been such a push for public awareness on the importance of both parents, and working as a team, and trying to define this. I believe that God intentionally made men and women different, because both our natures are needed to balance each other out. Also, the pendulum always has to swing to extremes while everyone figures stuff out and it finally settles in the middle.

    Everyone was for the man, then everyone was for the woman and I think it needs to swing back to the middle. No one person can do everything... yet marriage as a team is also a fairly new concept. I think its definately a reality, but only when more people start thinking of and being aware of, everyones happiness and wellbeing, as a big picture, the whole family, and not just themselves.

    I was also recently discussing with my brother our children's transition from the "why?" stage into the "when?" stage. I have to remind myself daily, sometimes hourly or by the minute, that I will have the perfect house, or the shorter 'to-do' list, when they are gone, and cleanliness is not next to Godliness after all :p

    I try to focus on the quote: People will not remember everything you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.