It irks me when people assume that motherhood is more important to me as a woman than fatherhood is to Josh as a man. I don’t call myself a feminist, but I do get discouraged at the thought that women are just “baby-makers” and men are just “providers.” There’s a lot more to both of us than that.
When I returned to work after having Malachi, I faced a large amount of guilt. Not from myself, but imposed from other people. Mostly strangers. “Don’t you miss him?” “Don’t you wish you were home right now?”
Nope and nope. I thrive in a busy work environment. I love having Josh and my mother pitch in so I can do something productive with my hands other than hold a baby. I only work part-time, so I don’t get much of a chance to miss my kiddos other than the good kind of missing that makes me happy to see them.
Why did so many people expect me to quit my job when I had my first child? Was I a bad mother because I didn’t want to quit my job? Should I want to be a stay-at-home mom? What’s wrong with me?
Another thing people who don’t really know us ask: “How does your husband feel about being home with the kids right now?”
Um, he feels the same way I feel when I’m home with the kids and he’s at work. Why should he feel different? Why is this a question? Do people ask this to him at his job? “How does your wife feel about being home with two kids right now?”
I didn’t come up with this phrase, but I like it a lot. “It’s not called babysitting if it’s your family.” A father isn’t babysitting while his wife is out. He’s fathering. When I’m with them I’m mothering. We’re both parenting. We’re a team. No, we’re not the same. We relate to the kids differently and we each have our own parenting style. Josh wakes up early and takes them for walks in the mornings. I’m the one they come upstairs and snuggle in bed. I take more pictures. Josh reads more books. But we’re on the same page, we’re on the same team, and neither of us is “babysitting.”
It makes me sad whenever anyone is stereotyped. Josh is sensitive and soft-spoken, but he’s wise, strong, and I trust him more than anyone else on the planet. I like cooking, cleaning, and baking but I also get a thrill out of home repairs and power tools. You really can’t put either of us in a box.
When a baby first enters a family, it’s easy for the husband to feel a little like an outsider. The mother just grew the child, and is probably the main source of food for a while. It’s new and intimidating for some men. Josh and I went through this phase briefly with Malachi when he took care of me so I could take care of the baby. That was mostly the extent of his involvement, but it was important nonetheless.
But something happens as the baby grows and starts to disconnect slightly from the mother. Maybe when the bottle is introduced. Maybe when the mother returns to work. Maybe when the child becomes more curious about the outside world. The father has a chance to step in and get involved. Some fathers are still intimidated. Others embrace the change with open arms. Confidence comes from experience and before long a capable and hands-on father is born. He isn’t acting as “Mr. Mom.” He brings his own unique skills and abilities to the duty.
Side-note to mothers at this point: It is very, very, very, very, very, very, very important that we don’t become over-critical and over-analytical when our husbands step in to help with our children. No matter the age of the child – unless their safety and wellbeing is at stake, do not criticize your husband when he helps with the kids. If you do, he will get burnt out and resent helping. Not because he’s an unwilling, unhelpful father but because you made it impossible for him. If you don’t like the outfit he picked out, don’t say anything. Just relax and get over it. Don’t demean him as a man and as a father because small things he does aren’t your exact preference. You can’t beat him down with your words and then complain that he never wants to help. Over time you can slowly and gently give him pointers. But choose your battles, and don’t nag him or you’ll miss out on working as a team and he’ll miss out on feeling trusted and empowered.
Some women aren’t like me. Some women really feel called to have a bunch of babies and stay home full-time. I think that’s wonderful! It’s probably the hardest job on the planet, and I admire those who do it and enjoy doing it! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling the call to stay home and raise a family. The things that bother me are:
1) The assumption that all women are called to be mothers
2) The assumption that all mothers want to stay home full-time
3) The assumption that parenthood is a one-person job
Some might say: “What about Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3? Isn’t the husband supposed to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church?!” We might not all agree on this, but I personally agree that in the context of marriage my husband is my spiritual head. However, if he’s the head does that mean he’s somehow released from the responsibilities of rearing our children? I think not! I think raising our children not as a secondary responsibility but as a primary responsibility worthy of the attention of both parents, especially the spiritual leader of the household! Ephesians 6:4 specifically instructs fathers to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
It makes me so very happy to see more and more fathers in our generation taking a leading rather than supporting role in raising their kids. My heart smiles every time I see a baby-wearing dad, a father pushing a stroller down the street, or a guy carrying a diaper bag. I love it when my son imitates us by taking care of his stuffed animals like babies. The same things that annoy me when done wrong – like when the Men’s Room doesn’t have a diaper changing table – are thrilling when done right! Way to go, dads!