Parenting and mothering
"When I’m taking care of Liko, I don’t feel like I’m “fathering” him. In my mind – and this is just the thought I was raised with, not the one I want to have – a father goes to work and comes home in the evening. "Fathering" is playing ball, patting on the back, putting food on the table. An honorable role."
"A mother, meanwhile, is home changing diapers and cleaning baby food off the floor and kissing skinned knees. That’s also honorable and often honored. That’s what I do. So I feel like by staying home with him, I’m “mothering” Liko. I’m a mom, or at least, that’s my role. In many respects, a man out in the middle of the afternoon with his toddler, who is known to neighbors and neighborhood shop clerks and waitresses as a “Mr. Mom,” is a man in drag, and queer in the most political sense of the term. Why shouldn’t I be proud to be a Mr. Mom?"
I commented that I worry that this definition implies that working mothers aren’t real mothers, and there’s been some interesting back and forth on Jeremy’s blog.
But maybe Jeremy’s right in some ways. I write here a fair amount about what I call "reverse traditional families" — families with working mothers and at-home fathers. One of the strains on women in these families is that we rarely give ourselves mothering credit for being breadwinners. We often beat ourselves up for the things that we don’t do, without giving ourselves corresponding brownie points for the things we do. Maybe we should stop worrying about whether we’re good enough mothers, and decide that we’re damned good fathers.
I can’t remember if I posted here about the "daddies and donuts" event at D’s preschool last month. This was a chance to have a snack and do a craft with the kids, at the relatively working-parent friendly hour of 9 am (vs. the 11 am time for "family snack" and most other events to which parents are invited). When I got the flyer, I asked T if he thought in this context, "daddy" meant "male parent" (e.g. him) or "the parent who never gets to do things at preschool" (e.g. me). [The flyer did say that if a father couldn’t come, a mother or "other Very Important Person" could attend.] Ultimately, since I was taking off a day the week before to go on a field trip with the class (to the Planetarium), I decided not to fight T for the chance to go. As it turns out, the "craft" was that the kids decorated paper ties.
On another note, RebelDad is having an online chat with Leslie Morgan Steiner at WashingtonPost.com tomorrow (Thursday) at 1 pm. If you can’t be online at the time, you can submit questions in advance and read the transcript later. I got Steiner’s book out of the library — look for a review in the next week or two.