Two years ago, I lost my job. Over that summer, my wife got one. Suddenly, I was home alone with my kids every day.
I was a stay-at-home dad again, a role I didn’t love the first time when I had one two-year-old, and one I wasn’t looking forward to this time around, with two sons.
My fears were realized when it took just two days for me to lose my patience, and I wrote an Instagram post about how ill-suited I was to be at home.
And then a funny thing happened: my wife told me I was doing a great job.
Dads don’t always get a fair shake.
We tend to be undervalued, or only valued for our fun side, and our role as actual, capable parents is often dismissed. (On the other hand, we often get too much credit!)
I don’t really care about that stuff. When sitcoms and commercials make dads out to be doofuses, I shrug it off. (It’s only when companies and politicians don’t acknowledge our role and fail to provide paternity leave that my hackles get raised!)
So long as my wife appreciates the work I do and the responsibilities I take on, so long as my kids know I’m there for them and that they can count on me, the bad rap dads get doesn’t bug me.
That said, society’s perception of dads – as babysitters, or as what the French call “les incompetents” – aside, I’m always questioning myself. I think all parents have insecurities – certainly all conscientious parents worry they could be doing better – but I’m a pretty good judge of myself, and I know that staying at home with my kids doesn’t bring out the best in me.
So my wife’s support meant a lot. I’m pretty sure she was lying to make me feel better, but it worked!
Screw Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the condescending playground moms who laughed at me when I forgot to bring wipes. Her trust was all I needed to get through the summer.
I’ve since landed a new job that affords me the flexibility to occasionally work from home and snuggle my toddler down for his nap. This is more my speed.
But who knows what the future will bring? Another pandemic (bite your tongue!) or another round of layoffs or something else unforeseen.
I may find myself home again someday, forced to do my best as the primary parent 5 days a week. It’s not ideal, but knowing that the people who matter most trust me to do it makes the possibility a lot less frightening.