I mean, society tells us moms are superior. TV commercials depict bumbling fathers being bailed out by all-knowing mothers. When a father does anything more than play catch with his kid, he’s called “Mr. Mom.” Truth be told, for all the talk about a so-called man’s world, boys and men spend most of their time looking for the attention and approval of women.
Why am I so bitter? How should I feel since, no matter how much I drive car pool, coach T-ball and read picture books, my children see Mommy as King … er, Queen. Nine times out of 10, my children run to Mommy first. I could be standing right in front of Benjamin with a first-aid kit and he’ll say, “I scraped my knee really badly! Where’s Mommy?” I could make all of Jacob’s favorite foods and he won’t eat until almighty Mama picks up the spoon.
Even when I gallantly parent solo, I toil under the pressure of trying to do things as well as she does. When Wendy took a recent weekend away, chaos played to the strains of a Tchaikovsky symphony as Jacob (16 months) turned the bathroom upside down while I speed-showered in the morning. At mealtimes, he broke dishes and chucked food like Barry Bonds. Pitifully shorthanded, I left Benjamin (almost 5) to dress himself (mismatching his clothes like a geriatric in
Somehow, though, I was proud to get through two days without major injuries. My sons lavished me with praise. “Daddy, you’re the bestest,” Benjamin said.
But when my wife returned, all the brownie points I had accrued disappeared. I was no longer No. 1. Benjamin ratted me out: “Daddy fell asleep in the middle of the day and wouldn’t play with me.” And Jacob jumped into her arms like some kind of traitorous double-agent.
Credit for Mom
Does Wendy really deserve so much credit? Sure, she has a General-Electric smile that tells the kids, “Mommy’s thrilled to have you here!” For my part, I maintain a perplexed look that seems to communicate, “How did you get in my house?”
She can feed Jacob breakfast while making a pediatrician’s appointment and tying Benjamin’s shoes. At the same time, I’m still trying to puzzle out the water-cereal ratio for the instant oatmeal.
And, yes, she packs a lunch for Benjamin, fills out kindergarten applications and does a load of laundry while I sit like a lobotomy experiment in front of SportsCenter.
Then there’s the fact that she’s the one her friends and family call with questions. One time, her sister called to ask, “When you Ferberize a baby, do you just stop going in to check on him the first night?” I decided to try my hand at an answer: “You could start by checking in with a crying baby every five minutes and gradually stretch it to 10 minutes or 20. But if he’s got a cold, that’s a whole different thing.”
Long, long pause. “Will you have Wendy call me when she gets back?” my sister-in-law responded politely. Once again, I’d been trumped by my wife, who assesses a situation and speaks with a benevolent authority that I could never even dream of having.
But taking a step back from my jealousy, I realize that I really am the winner here. Actually, Mother’s Day is my day because I’m the one who picked her from all the other lionesses in the pride (that’s a pack of lions for all you who don’t watch
Yeah, when I think about it, I love Mother’s Day! It’s that special time when I gloat about the choice I made in a partner. It’s also the day when I congratulate myself for having a wonderful mom and maintaining a marvelous collection of maternal influences, including my step-mom, grandmas and sister.
So, it is with self-congratulatory glee that I proclaim Mother’s Day safe for fathers. And if we’re not so sure of this, just ask the happy kids who tug at the apron strings and briefcases of those amazing women at the head and heart of our families.
Read more in our Family Man Archive.
Read more in our Family Man Archive.