Being the bad cop sucks.
Over the years, Mom and Buried and I have swapped parenting roles a few times.
Right now, she’s at home with the kids. Of course, thanks to the pandemic, we’re both at home with the kids, but she takes on the bulk of the remote schooling for The Hammer, and many of the domestic duties like shopping and doctors appointments and errands, because I have my day job, even though I don’t go to the office at the moment.
I’ve been the at-home parent in the past. Been there, done that, and gotten the spit-up stained t-shirt. It may change – god knows she’s far more accomplished than I am – but at the moment, it makes more sense for me to be the working parent.
One thing that hasn’t changed though, and likely never will, is the way we handle discipline. When one of the kids is in need of some tough love, Mom and Buried is almost always the good cop, and I’m almost always the bad cop.
And I kind of hate it. Always being the bad cop – whether you’re a mom or a dad – sucks.
The good cop/bad cop division of duties makes sense. When you’re the one at home with the kids the bulk of the time, it’s helpful to have a secret weapon, a special threat, a nuclear option you can occasionally mention to keep the inmates subdued.
For the past few years, I’ve mostly been the one who gets to escape the madhouse for the office five times a week, so I’m willing to play the part of Impending Doom when Mom and Buried needs me to, but always being the bad guy definitely takes a toll.
Again, the family dynamic often requires an enforcer, and whether by dint of our circumstances or merely our genders, dads are often forced into the bad cop role. It was a thing when I was growing up – I got “wait ‘til Daddy gets home” or “wait until your father hears about this!” all the time – and in a lot of households, it still is.
Don’t get me wrong, moms deal with a lot, and it’s only fair that dads pick up the slack however we can. So I’m on board with doing what I have to do to correct my kids and teach them how to behave, including punishing them when necessary.
But as any bad cop can tell you, there’s a fair amount of negative mojo that comes with being the thing that comes after Mom gets to THREE!
So just as society is being forced to acknowledge – and reevaluate – the hefty role moms take on and the toll it takes ON THEM, maybe we can try to be aware of some of the stuff dads deal with too.
Because it doesn’t feel great to be treated as a weapon. It doesn’t feel great to be a tool of fear (go watch IRON GIANT). It doesn’t feel great when my wife calls for me in frustration and I hear my son wail in terror at the prospect of big bad Dad coming in to lay down the law.
I don’t want my kids to be scared of me, or to be nervous that I’ll be home soon. I want them to be excited to see me!
Thankfully, so far, despite my occasionally terrifying presence, they still are. Well, my toddler is. My 7yo is usually playing a video game and can barely muster a wave.
Maybe I’m not so scary after all..