It’s obscene that as dads, we are seen as saints when we walk down the street with our children. As if we are doing the world justice by giving just that little amount of time to our youngsters. We are told by strangers, “you’re such a good dad!”, or, “nice of you to give mama a break.” But what about the dads who do this full-time? Full-time as in actually show up for their kids. The dads who spend their days working from home and being the main source of childcare. The dads who actually enjoy being with their children. The dads who see no lines between maternal and paternal and don’t let the age old generalizations control them. You see, I am one of those dads. My stroller sits by the door of my house, always waiting to be used. The lifeline of a day spent with my daughter, “Should we go to the park?”.
So when did we as fathers become part-time parents? Why are we deemed as saints when we go to a grocery store with our kids strapped to our chest?
This truth hit me like a ton of bricks when I moved my family to Paris this past summer. The first day we were there, jetlagged and exhausted, I found a park right next to our flat in the 2nd arrondissement. I walked my daughter down there in her stroller. I took her out and I sat on a bench, waiting for her to start playing with the other kids or do whatever it is two year olds can think of doing in a park. In my broken French, I tried to introduce her to the other kids and encourage play. The park was packed and I didn’t really notice that I was the only man in there. I slowly started to realize that the nannies and mothers at the park were staring at me. It was as if I were some sort of alien. My daughter and I look very alike so I knew that they knew she was mine. So what was the issue here? I didn’t steal her, I am certainly not her uncle, and it’s not the weekend. We’re simply getting some energy out before nap time, as one does… The nanny to my left then said something to me that I could not understand for the life of me. So I asked her to repeat herself. Again, I couldn’t understand her heavy Parisian accent but I knew she was talking about me and my kid. Ever the protective father, I finally proclaimed in English, “I’m sorry but what are you saying to me?”. “You’re a good dad!”, she said. “Why am I a good dad?”, I thought to myself. I didn’t even show up with any snacks. I don’t believe I even have a diaper bag with me, I simply just needed this little girl to get some air so then I could also take a nap that day. I’m dealing with a nine hour time difference and a toddler here people!
So day in and day out, we would go to the park. Day in and day out, I would get stared at by grandmothers and nannies and moms until eventually, they realized that I wasn’t going anywhere. It felt as if I was proving myself on the playground just like a new kid at school has to do. By constantly being there, I was constantly reassuring these women that I, in fact, was a good dad.
As I pick my daughter up to put her in her stroller and go to the park for what feels like the hundredth time this week, as I clean the snacks out of my pocket and look at my truck that is littered with diapers, I realize that as men, we need to change the narrative around fatherhood. We’re not good dads because we show up, we’re not even good dads for just being dads. We have to tell ourselves and the world around us that were good parents. Because parents show up for their kids. Parents are exhausted every day as they keep it all together. We strive and push ourselves to give our children the best life they can possibly have. We choose jobs and careers that will benefit them. Sometimes even strangling our own dreams so they can dream as big as possible. This is the main part of parenting, loving your kids more than you love yourself.
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