A few weeks ago we were at a birthday party for a friend where dinner was served. Because it was a 3-year-old’s birthday party, there was the extra bedlam that accompanies any atmosphere where more than 1 toddler is gathered.
I won’t lie: they were serving yogurt-covered raisins, which distracted me from my primary duty of watching Simon. (Yogurt-covered raisins? Here, watch my child while I put my face directly into the dish and lap them up with my tongue.) When I came to and realized I had no idea where Simon was, I went looking for him with that nauseating mix of panic, shame and sugar-rush.
It was a false alarm. Both kids were playing one room away with other children under Jeff’s benevolent and watchful gaze.
Two parents saw my face when I realized that Simon safely enjoying the evening and that I was not going to be smote down by the gods for enjoying a little dessert disguised as a fruit. (Query: If raisins are nature’s candy, are yogurt-covered raisins nature’s crack?) I confessed that I had lost track of Simon for a few minutes and horrible visions, which were making it hard to breathe, had raced through my head.
One of the mothers laughed and told a story about how her husband had lost track of her younger son in the very same house we were sitting in, and she eventually found her son wandering in the front yard. At night. In the snow. Then she told the group gathered (2 fathers, 1 mother, 1 grandmother, and 5 toddlers) about an old adage:
“When a mother watches a child, a mother takes care of the child. When a father watches a child, God takes care of the child.”
One of the fathers standing next to me whispered under his breath: “I so wish I had not heard that.” I don’t remember seeing Jeff react at the time.
A few days later, however, Jeff mentioned that it was one of the most offensive things he had heard in a long time. Understandably so. Jeff does an amazing job of parenting, and there’s plenty that he does better than I do. I love that Jeff and I are true co-parents. I confess that there is a part of me (say, 1.8%) that would love to be the domestic expert– the ONLY parent who knows where the band-aids are or how to comfort Sadie when it’s time to put away her lipstick and go to bed. But I only like that vision in theory because all my fantasies involve a level of power and control that borders on fascism (the good kind, not the bad kind). Our reality is much better than my visions of total domination and control: Jeff and I share almost all the labor of being parents, except I don’t trim the kids’ finger nails and he doesn’t usually breast feed. Hey, no couple is perfect; stop judging.
Actually, most of the dads we know are extremely hands-on. They experience the bliss and the mind-numbing boredom just like my mother friends and I do. I have heard my father friends complain about the bias in favor of mothers and how pernicious and persistent it is. I am sure it sucks and it must be so unfamiliar since, let’s face it, usually it’s women who have to overcome the stereotype/bias.
Each family has to find its own way with gender roles and balance and the division of labor. We are lucky to have a good groove here.