My wife works full-time and is going to grad school part time. I’m proud of her for this and fully support her efforts. This weekend she has to work on a big paper, so I’m on extra duty (normally the weekends are her province). No problem.
Peanut wanted to go to the park, so she and I went. She ran around in the cold while I stood by and watched. I don’t like the park, I really don’t like doing things outdoors either. Today it’s cold, and I’m tired and cranky (from events unrelated to Peanut of the wife). The last thing I want to do is stand around in the fucking park, trying to wrangle an over-tired toddler who really really wants to taste the leaves and run headlong onto the basketball court where some older kids are playing.
In this cold, grey, experience I had a thought. I’ve probably had the same thought before, only to forget it. Parenting is not magical, it’s not full of joy and fun. It’s a grind. Every minute of every day you’re responsible for the well-being and happiness of a child who doesn’t know from one minute to the next what the hell she’ll want to do. You don’t do it because you love it. You do it because you have to, because no one else will, and because (deep down, under all of the weariness and shit filled diapers) you do love this child.
If you’re a parent who’s involved in their kid’s life at all, this is not news. I’m here to say that it’s okay to hate the experience sometimes. It’s okay to resent the obligation. Just because shit needs to get done, doesn’t mean you have to love every minute of doing it.
After spending a few days in the online world of parenting (especially fathering) I’m tired of seeing it described as magical or special or important. I’m sure that it can be those things sometimes, but most of the time it’s not. Most of the time it’s a job that you don’t really like, but can’t quit.
If you want to get fathers to be more involved, don’t encourage us to make memories, or be role models. Don’t tell us that involved daddies are like super heroes. Don’t tell us that anyone can be a father, but only a real man can be a daddy. Don’t pretend that it’s anything other than work.
We can do the work. We should do the work. If some of us don’t want to, lying about what it is won’t change that. Neither will empty platitudes or inflated praise.
And if you’re a father who should be more involved, but isn’t: man the fuck up and do your job. Sometimes you’ll like it, sometimes you won’t. Parenting is about being there for all it.