The Dad he wants to be

The Dad he wants to be June 20, 2010

Both my husband and I grew up in conservative Christian households, and we are both oldest children. We both grew up within an authoritarian patriarchal mentality. Dads work hard, Moms must stay at home and run the house and care for the children. Dads are the top authority in the home. In my home growing up, this meant that despite any disagreements my parents may have had, my Dad called the shots. Dad decided if and when any of us did anything. In my husband’s home growing up, this meant that his Dad would claim “headship” authority whenever anything wasn’t going the way he wanted.

When we got married, I was determined to be a good, respectful wife to my husband. I wanted to meet his every need and serve him the way he desired to be served. Because that was what a good wife did.

My husband is the only boy and his Mom does absolutely everything (and I do mean everything!) around the house. Coming into marriage I was very willing and able to keep the house and meals running without any help from him, and he was very used to being waited on. I did ask him to change some habits, for example, hanging up his towel after his shower instead of throwing it in the laundry, I didn’t care if it was what his mother did, I wasn’t going to wash the towels every day!

I told him right away (I think before we got married!) that his Mom was a bit intimidating to me in a way, and that I would probably never have my house up to her level of clean, he said that was OK. Through those first 3 years, we had fights about housework sometimes, if he got upset that something wasn’t done and I would get defensive, or when I was really tired and complained to him about the state of the house that day, but nothing really changed. When babies started to arrive, things stayed pretty much the same. I wasn’t always able to keep up with everything, but thankfully he was fine (for the most part) with some things going undone sometimes. He still said that all housework was “woman’s” work and that he wasn’t interested in helping, even if it meant that some things didn’t get done.

Having grown up the oldest of 11 and caring for babies my whole life, it was pretty easy for me to take care of my first baby. The only thing I had never done was breast feed! When our second baby arrived 14 months after our first, things got a little harder, Ms Drama was a pretty cantankerous kid and I was tired. But for the most part, things continued as usual.

My husband was a really sweet father, he loved his babies so much. But he was still plagued by his upbringing. To be a “Man” meant he had to provide, be the disciplinarian, and the authority for the family. Mom’s were the ones in charge of the children. He read books to the babies, and took them for walks in the stroller, but that was about it. The rest was “woman’s work”.

We had a happy marriage. We loved each other so much. But we were crippled by the gender roles/stereotypes we had been brought up in. My husband was limited in his efforts to serve me, he was limited in his ability to father his children. I was crippled too. I questioned every decision I made, leaning on my husband to decide for me, putting unrealistic pressure on him to decide our life’s trajectory all on his own. When my husband’s father joked about how my hubby refused to change diapers and said “I don’t know how you ladies put up with us men” I laughed and let him make fun of my husband. Because even though I expected my hubby to be “the man”, I resented him for not being more involved in caring for our children.

In the last 2 years, so much has changed. We went through a rough time, we lost a lot of money, we moved 1000 miles away, we’ve wrestled with our faith in God. And through it all, the only people there for us, the only support we had, was each other! We’ve learned more and more how to better serve each other in our calling to marriage. We are a partnership, and working together makes us so much stronger than when we were going it alone! There is no “mans work” or “woman’s work”, it is “our work”.

Now my hubby wants me to ask for help when I need it. He loads and unloads the dishwasher, makes his own snack if I can’t get to it, and gets one for the girls. He’ll pick up toys with the babies, or collect the laundry for me. He stopped trying to be “the man” and let himself be the nurturing person that he already was inside. He knows how to change diapers and dress babies now, and he comforts the crying child or walks the fussy baby.

He was brave enough to set himself free from the limitations of gender stereotyping, and be the person he wants to be, the person he is, rather than the person he “should” be. And he encourages me to do the same! He wants me to be the parent I want to be. He wants me to dream and aspire, and all of my ideas and excitement that have been buried under the surface for so long has started to see the light again. When I hesitate, or try to defer to him and avoid thinking for myself, he is patient. And when I try; when I am creative, or thoughtful, or even angry, my hubby is my biggest fan.

I am so thankful for my dream come true! He is the most amazing father and husband!

Happy Father’s Day Hubby.

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