The Father’s Day I was pregnant I ditched my husband, Charles, to spend the day with my father and grandfather in New York City. I left him a green construction paper card I’d drawn with a cartoon sperm on front. The text read “Happy Inseminator’s Day!” and I wrote inside about what a fabulous dad I thought he would be if, ya know, the fetus made it out alive. I’m a cheery one.
One year later, my son will be eight months old on Father’s Day, and it is clear that—no offense to your husband, partner, father, or self—my husband actually is the world’s best dad. Anything I may have written on that card is totally dwarfed by the reality and intensity of my husband’s love for the baby, and the number of bags of diapers he takes down to the trash room and loads of spit-up covered laundry that he runs, and hours he spends rocking the baby.
When other people tell me about what their partner’s do to raise their babies, I want to suggest they look into a rebate program, as Charles is so clearly kicking their butts. At our birth class reunion parents were talking about how the fathers sometimes “help out” or “let the moms sleep in.” The frames people were using were that childrearing was this thing moms did, and sometimes the dads heroically stepped in to do a small amount for their wives’ projects. The dads might change a diaper! (Charles, looking at this, would likely point out that I massively shirked diaper changing duty and all other baby-related duties that were in any way shirkable in the first few weeks of his life, but I would argue that I pushed a person out of my body after growing him inside of me for nine months, and a little extra diaper changing didn’t kill him.)
Charles has always aspired to fatherhood greatness, which at first, I found rather alarming. On our first date, we went out for vegetarian Korean food and took an extremely long and meandering walk during which we discussed what we wanted to do with our lives. “My main goal is to be an amazing father,” he said. “Wow.” I said. “I am not really going to address that—women can’t really say things like that on first dates.” I spoke carefully, not wanting to cause an apparition of my mother to appear and start yelling at me and brandishing a copy of The Rules. “That’s really…that’s really just not in the social script for right now. But dinner was lovely.”
In addition to his desire to be a father, he kept voicing that he wasn’t all that interested in babies, which I found troubling as I had heard that most children begin in that form. He woke me up in the middle of a sweltering night to tell me how glad he was that we didn’t have a baby, because they weren’t that interactive. The first few weeks of our son William’s life he kept saying how much he was looking forward to when he was between the ages of four to ten.
Fortunately, after a few weeks the baby became more exciting—cheering for books, smiling, laughing, and—his most recent trick—scooting so quickly that he can chase down and bite a standard poodle. Not exactly my top aspiration for William, but definitely interactive. “He can stay like this forever, as far as I am concerned,” Charles said to me, last night. “Nope, definitely not. This bit is fun because we’re building towards something. If he was never going to talk, I would not try and teach him colors all day long. And it’s not fair to the poodles.”
This Father’s day, I am definitely not ditching Charles to spend the day with my dad and grandfather—although they are welcome to visit us should they happen to come across this invitation in the Jewish Women’s Archive blog. My card will have a drawing of the baby on it, sleeping on Charles’ shoulder. It will talk about how great it is that he takes the baby until 3 AM when he cries, that he was able to use the Family and Medical Leave Act to stay home with the baby for 12 weeks so they could hang out and we could put off the day of The Baby Going Into Non-Parental Care, (thank you, President Clinton), and how generally awesome it is to see him and the baby hang out. I am filled with gratitude that the world has changed such that my husband’s style of fatherhood—while totally awesome and worthy of public praise—is no longer a crazy anomaly.
Here’s to more normal Father’s Day cards, and the feminist movement which made this mostly-equal parenting venture something to strive for. Who knows, if I step up my game, we might even achieve it.