Of Average Mums and Superdads

One of the more robust conversations that happens in our household is this – every time I look after Lexie a little bit more or cook or bathe her or clean or iron clothes while working almost full time, I want a gold star.

Not to be Father of the Year, for that is for men with ambition. Just a Father of The Day, In This Current Neighbourhood, perhaps, would be nice. I would like my efforts to be acknowledged, that I have Done More Than Most Working Fathers Would – so erhem; gold star, please.

Imagine my disdain and utter disappointment when my wife, the love of my life, stares at me with those dead (loving) eyes and asks ‘What about me? I work full time too, and I have to cook and…’

That’s when the disagreements begin, and sometimes I can’t hear her point of view so well, given that I am so far up in the atmosphere on my High Horse atop my Father of the Day (In This Current Neighbourhood)’s pedestal.

But I do more than most men, I point out. I bathe Lexie, occasionally wash her clothes, iron ours and… my list dwindles down to silent nothingness because it is at this point that my wife can no longer see me (on account of how far her eyes have rolled into the back of her head).

I sound like Bambi’s Father if he were the one who had been shot – I imagine rolling around dramatically crying out about how much pain I was in, bidding goodbye to this cruel world, looking Lexie in the eye and telling her to remember how much Daddy loves her and has done for her, and to remember to erect a Deer Daddy of the Day statue when I have passed on.

One of the liberations Karen has found at work is the support of like-minded working mothers who she has posed this conundrum to. Should Dads be celebrated more even when doing the basic minimum a parent should be doing? They collectively roll their eyes (it’s contagious in the workplace, apparently) and then lean in with their own stories about how much persuasion their partners have needed in order to share the child-raising and housework at home.

There is a pretty amazing quote that I came across the other day which encapsulates this sentiment – ‘The burden of working mothers is that you are expected to look after your children as if you didn’t have a job, and then to work as if you didn’t have children.’

While we pride ourselves in being a modern progressive nation in 2018, the echoes of a patriarchal society remain. Our childcares are expensive and do not support mothers going back into full-time work. Parental leave is at least 18 weeks (or a little more depending on where you work) for working mothers while partners/fathers get 2 weeks’ paid leave.

How are working mothers meant to thrive in such an environment, and how are fathers meant to view parenting as a shared effort?

Already there is so much grappling with guilt once you choose to become a working mother. Of all the hobs burning simultaneously – which one do you turn down? Your working life, by working reduced hours or in a lesser capacity? Your family life, where you can’t be at home on time every night to cook or put the kids to bed on time? Or do you give up your personal health and wellbeing, falling ill and spiralling with your guilt due to the lack of self-care and attention to your own wellbeing?

Often personal health is the ball that gets dropped, which unfortunately impacts both work and family life.

Karen once said this – there is very little recognition of the super Mums – you are either just a mother or a bad one. But how fast does society jump in to praise the Superdads out there – all those who do just a little bit more than most Dads would for their kids?

Maybe the answer is this – that Dads need to get off their high horses (careful, Daddies, it’s a long way down) and mutually acknowledge that child-raising and working full time is always going to be a juggle, no matter what.

As fathers we do not really have the birthright to a fulfilling career while being involved at the sidelines when it comes to our families. We need to pull our weight, raise our expectations about what it is a man should do in the household, and as a colleague of Karen’s said, ‘put on our big boy pants’.

The only way to successfully juggle all the balls in the air is to have two pairs of hands. We need to thank and acknowledge each other’s sacrifices and work in tandem in order to keep our work going and our families thriving.