"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fatherhood: A Manifesto

Back in my college days, I was fairly liberal-minded. Not that I was attending hemp rallies and staging sit-ins to get Dean Wormer to ban the CIA from campus recruiting. It was BYU, after all. I was a radical just by wearing my hair slightly below the collar. But I also gave back the night several times and even wrote a final grad school paper on how men could benefit from feminist literary theory.

So when my first daughter was born the summer between receiving my BA and commencing grad school, it was my honored duty to be able to spend what I thought was a lot of time with her. Still, I was working two part time jobs and then, in the fall, taking various classes. I would often take my daughter to campus, even to class, which wasn’t uncommon in the Mormon culture of multiply-and-replenish, except I don’t remember a lot of other fathers doing it. I felt more than a little supercilious with my daughter in the crook of my arm like a football as I strode through the halls of the Jesse Knight Humanities Building.

I didn’t get the same opportunity with my second daughter. I was back living in Aurora, working full time, actually just having begun a new teaching job the week she was born. No time off then. It was my first year teaching: sixth graders at a middle school in one of the (how can I put this delicately?) “less respected” school districts in Colorado. My fathering opportunities were severely limited that first year of her life, and to be sure, I arrived home after trying to cajole squirrely tweens into just staying in their chairs for more than three minutes at a time with little energy or excitement to parent my own children.

Eleven years later, my son was born. Having arrived a wee bit early, Xander dormed with the nurses in the NICU for four weeks until he was sent home to reside with his anxious parents. A mere five weeks later, his mother, my wife, May--her name is May--was required to return to work; her FMLA leave had expired. And I had the perfect opportunity to live the family life I had touted back in college.

Before I go any further, I want to make sure no one comes along and calls me Mr. Mom. Sure it was fun to watch Michael Keaton fumble around the house in 1983, and we all cried when they had to burn the woobie, but I really hope we’re beyond assuming that fathers don’t know how to change diapers and do housework. I know we’re not--at parent-teacher conferences the other night, after I informed one student’s mother of my impending leave, she was speechless then said her husband never changed a diaper in his life--really?--in 2011?--but, still, don’t insult me and call me Mr. Mom.

My paternity leave began on January 27, 2011, and I will be full-time Dad for over two months. I have received nothing but support from the administration at school, the other teachers who couldn’t be more jealous, my daughters, my wife. I’m probably overly eager for the opportunity I have here. I thought I spent a lot of time with my first daughter, but I really didn’t, and I know I didn’t get enough time with the second. Now, it’s only been about 48 hours, and I don’t really want to go back to work. Ever. In a few weeks I’ll start to miss coaching Spring soccer, and maybe I’ll even reach a point where I’ll miss the teaching part, but I can’t imagine feeling like this isn’t worth it.

Every father should do this. The world would be a better place. Guaranteed. That’s my manifesto.

4 comments:

  1. B-
    I have had the same opportunity every year that my two have been alive. My wife teaches year round and for about a month and a half each summer I get to be home with the kids whilst my wife works. It is unbelieveably cool. You get to do all kinds of cool things that most dads never get to do. Random trips to the zoo, unplanned stops at Mcdonalds, etc. Most men have no idea how much fun being an "at home" dad really is. It for sure has kept me sane at times. In the summer a couple other teacher friends of mine who are home with their kids all get together and do "Daddy Day" at the zoo or museum, you are always welcome to come along! Welcome back to daddyhood!
    Oh, and not coaching volleyball this year was the hardest, yet most rewarding decision I have ever made. Well, other than the vasectomy.

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  2. Xander is lucky to have a Dad who is so positive about staying home and doing the whole child-care shtick, even in 2011. In fact he is lucky to have a parent, actually he has two, who are so thrilled about taking care of him.

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  3. Hey Mr M...Hemp Rally Hippy. This is one of the reasons I am leaving my job. I don't have any kids on the way, unfortunately, but when we do I do not want to be working 11 hour days, coming home at seven to see them for an hour or so before bed, and missing every weekend. I'm glad you get this opportunity. I'm not big on changing diapers, but the exchange is worth it. Have fun. Enjoy it. Get some writing done. Ü

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  4. You're all good men. What the world needs now.
    Xander isn't going anywhere soon, but, Chris, I'll have to take you up on your Daddy Days this summer.

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