Last weekend, I left my kids home with their dad for girls' weekend in Las Vegas with my former boss (relax you guys, she's 70). We had a total blast. We gambled, shopped, ate very, very well, and even took in a female impersonator show. By all accounts we did Vegas right.
When I scheduled the trip a month ago, I didn't ask for my husband's permission to go, nor did I spend the days leading up to the trip preparing things like meals, schedules to follow, or instructions of what to do in the event of disaster. I just packed my suitcase, kissed my family, and headed out without guilt, sadness, or fear. I knew my boys would do more than simply "survive" for a weekend in my absence - they'd have a blast!
And why wouldn't they? I knew it would be good for my family to have a boys' weekend of fun without the ever-present demands and limitations of proper, mom-induced parenting law.
So while I was Instagraming my Vegas adventures, my husband was Facebooking his - complete with pictures of two happy children doing very fun things. But then something sociological happened - both male and female friends began commenting on his pictures with things like, "You're SUCH a great dad!"
Why was my husband "such a great dad"? Because he was taking care of his kids? Because they were out having fun? I wondered.
Now listen, my husband is and has always been a really great dad, but for other, better reasons than taking care of his own kids when his wife's away. My husband is a great dad because he's patient and kind. He's strict when it matters and easy when it doesn't. Balancing fatherhood with that perfect tough to tender ratio, my husband serves as an example of character and integrity for his kids, which is what makes him a great father. Caring for his children is his responsibility and I don't happen to think he's special for doing it - even if society disagrees.
I, like many mothers, take care of my kids every day while my husband is away at work. You think I'm getting showered with "OMG, you're SUCH a good mom" compliments? Of course not, because society believes caring for children is our job - and it is. What it is not, is a job that mothers should be expected to perform alone. No mother cares for her kids with the expectation of a parade, and yet we seem to want to give as much to dads. If you ask me, the compliments we seem so quick to offer fathers are unintentionally patronizing.
I don't think good fathers who care for their kids are the exception. Dads don't need our pats on the back, hand-holding, or even our displaced compliments. Dads have this parenting thing down far better than anyone is choosing to recognize.
Instead of singling out dads with well-intentioned compliments, perhaps we ought to cheer on our fellow mothers and fathers equally and collectively. Look around you, moms and dads are out there performing greatness today and every day. Raising good kids isn't a mom or dad thing - it's a parenting thing.
-By Lori Garcia
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