I’m big on Mother’s Day. As a stay-at-home mother who devotes an incomprehensible amount of my time fostering my children’s development and well-being, who does not receive a paycheck or a year-end bonus, who doesn’t get vacation time or sick days or many other perks outside of the highly prized hugs and kisses of my children, I see Mother’s Day as the one chance I get each year to receive some props for all I do for my family.
I thoroughly appreciate the handmade cards my husband urges our kids to make for me, the breakfast that gets cooked for me and any small gift or bouquet of flowers I might receive on that day. For the other 364 days that are filled with laundry, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, wiping snot, making crafts, reading “Good Night Moon” and listening to Raffi, I am grateful for Mother’s Day. I realize it might sound arrogant or immodest, but I feel having a day to recognize and celebrate mothers is the least the world could do for me.
And so when Mother’s Day is over and I can no longer plead with my children to make my life easier just for today because it’s Mother’s Day for crying out loud, and we all go back to our status quo lives—Daddy at the office earning money, daughter refusing to eat the food I prepare for her, son swallowing play dough, Mommy single-handedly keeping the four of us alive and relatively clean while working hard to boost everyone’s IQ and motor skills—I always get a little annoyed to see the card store shelves quickly sweep away Mom’s one celebratory moment to start making way for Father’s Day. I sometimes feel that if all the year can offer me for everything I do within the jurisdiction of motherhood is one measly day, then giving fathers the exact same sized slice of the calendar for what they do within the realm of fatherhood is simply not fair.
I know I shouldn’t begrudge fathers their day. But, sometimes I wonder if they really are as deserving of an entire day as some other people, say Martin Luther King or Christopher Columbus or, you know, mothers. For men that are full-time dads or those that equally share child-rearing responsibilities or those that are single parents, you definitely deserve your own version of Mother’s Day. But for those men that are partners of stay-at-home mothers, I’m not sure you’ve earned it. I mean, you can have a day, I guess. But I don’t know about a whole entire Sunday. Maybe a lesser-value day, like a Tuesday. Banks should definitely be open on your day. I’m thinking a day more along the lines of Secretary’s Day or Arbor Day. What it comes down to is proportionate celebration. I’m not really advocating we take away Father’s Day as much as I’m suggesting we give some more time to
me full-time parents.
But from my throne up here atop this pile of freshly laundered cloth diapers, as I grow more and more sick and tired of repeating myself, stepping on toys and washing crayon off of places it doesn’t belong, rearranging my calendar in the name of fairly celebrating what parents do for their families, I started to think maybe I’m being a wee bit spiteful. It could be possible that managing the daily tedium of the lives of little people is not a nobler duty than the jobs working fathers do.
And so, with the goal of becoming a more loving and supportive wife and mother, and perhaps chipping away at the weight of the world which I’m pretty sure rests upon my shoulders, I decided to stop and really think about fathers. Could it be possible they are in fact entitled to a day of recognition?
I started by thinking about my own husband, the father of my children. My husband is a wonderful person. I love him dearly. And I appreciate him. But does he deserve breakfast in bed one day out of the year?
It’s true he has never shied away from changing a blown-out poopy diaper or sending an impertinent kid to a time-out. He gives the baths and serves the meals, dresses the kids and reads them books. He plays with them and does activities with them and is an all-around good dad. But he still only has to be “on” as a father for a couple of hours in the morning, a couple more in the evening and—except for those occasional middle-of-the-night episodes—on weekends. For that basic stuff, he does about a tenth of what I do as a full-time mom. I’d say he’s earned a Father’s Morning.
But how effectively does he utilize that time he is present with the kids? At the end of most days, he walks in through the door, sending my children in joyous fits of screaming his name, conveniently removing them from my exhausted body to which they have spent the majority of the day clinging. He has enough distance from the day’s CandyLand debacle that he can offer a fresh perspective and help me laugh over the disproportionate rage I unleashed on our children earlier. His servings of ice cream are so much more generous than mine. He earns the majority of our family’s money, thereby allowing us to indulge in a trip to a museum or a new pack of Legos. He texts me back with words of encouragement when I send a maniacal plea to be rescued from the chaos of our tantruming children.
He is the only person in my household who ever utters the words, “What can I do to help?” He rubs my feet sometimes and lets me lie in his lap while watching a video on the couch. He thanks me for the dinners I cook. He takes out the trash and kills the bugs and pulls the weeds. He can carry a kid a full mile on his shoulders, and gives the best horsey rides on his back. He is the only other person in the entire world who loves my children as completely as I do, who is willing to be firm when it’s needed and indulgent when it’s appropriate. He is the only person whom I trust as much as myself to be a parent to my children.
My husband may not clean up as much vomit as I do or apply stain remover quite as soon as is necessary, nor might he know just how long to steam the broccoli to get it to the right softness, nor which playground has the best twisty slide. But our family could not function without his contributions. I could not be a good mother if he didn’t relieve me sometimes, and stand up for me in the daily battles against our children. I would be more like a dictator than a mother if he didn’t talk through some decisions with me and urge me to see some things differently. We need the father in our family to enjoy a break from our daily routine, to learn about architecture and plants, to help us achieve full belly-laughs. Our children need his stubbly kisses and the warm place he makes in the bed for them. They need him to see how a man shaves, and to be able to traipse around in really, really big shoes.
I need my kids’ father to remind me I’m not alone in this parenting venture. I don’t have all the answers, nor do I bear all the responsibility. I need him for the reality check he provides, the occasional times he lets me be the good cop and those times he smiles at me and tells me how wonderful our kids really are.
Okay, fine. Perhaps he does a thing or two that are kind of important. So, my darling husband, I take back what I said about the worthlessness of Father’s Day. You are as integral in the raising of these children as I am. They are your creation as much as they are mine. I no longer begrudge you your day. I hope you and all the other dads out there truly enjoy it. And if I could just have one more day right after you get yours, say, with a trip to the spa and maybe a margarita, that would be really great.
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