How My Husband and I Are Defining Fatherhood

By Tracey Black, REDBOOK

Husband.Father's Day at our house is almost always the same. I let my husband sleep in for a few hours - a rare treat since he's usually up at the crack of dawn with our early risers. When he wakes up, I deliver breakfast in bed to him, and then give him the day off to go surfing or spend the day at the beach.

It might sound like any other Father' Day, but to me it's a special reminder on how lucky my family is to have such a kick-ass dad. When I met my husband nearly 20 years ago, I never imagined he'd be the domesticated guy who would make the kids' favorite cereal-crusted pancakes or take a year off to be a stay-at-home dad, which he did when I went back to work after having our first son. But he did all those things, and so much more. Over the years, our kids have awarded him the titles of boo-boo kisser, origami master, arts and crafts leader, and best grilled-cheese maker.

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My husband seems to innately possess all the things that make a great dad; the very same things neither he nor I experienced as children because we didn't have dads or father figures in our lives. We were both latchkey kids raised by single moms who worked long hours to support us. That was the special connection we had from the beginning. We understood each other in ways that people who had grown up with both parents just couldn't.

It was challenging for us to figure out how to be a couple at the beginning of our relationship. Neither one of us had role models for a good marriage. We stumbled for many years, but when we eventually figured things out our relationship blossomed. That's when we got married, and six months later I was pregnant with our first son.

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Parenthood was thrilling and challenging in so many ways. In the beginning, I thought we were at a disadvantage by not having a father figure as a role model. We didn't have our own dads to ask for advice. We even came up short in our circle of friends because we were among the first to have kids.

But what I found was that it was kind of liberating to start both marriage and parenthood from scratch. Growing up without a father wasn't a loss for us, it was an opportunity to redefine our own ideas of what marriage and parenting should be.

I asked my husband for his thoughts on becoming a father when he himself didn't have one. He said, "My dad was out of the picture when I was a year old. So I never had the experience of having a dad - or even a mom some of the time because she was always working. But no one really knows how to parent until they become a parent. We all just make things up as we go along."

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He's absolutely right. We've made up our own parenting rules. We do what feels right for us, and when we don't succeed we try something else. We support each other in parenting decisions and work together to keep the kids healthy and happy.

So Father's Day is a special time for us to celebrate my husband as father - as well as celebrate the hard work we've put into our relationship and family.

Tracey Black is the author of Don't Mess with Mama, a blog about parenting, work-life balance, healthy eating, and life as a far-from-perfect mom. She has three boys under the age of eight, and lives in San Diego, California.

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