Just the other day a man, one I hardly knew, in the course of conversation, which had absolutely nothing to do with this topic, posed the question to me: “Why do they call women ‘working mothers,’ but they don’t call men ‘working fathers?'”
At the time of his inquiry I was working in a professional capacity (I do that sometimes) so the timing wasn’t entirely right for me to tell this guy how I really felt. And, while he seemed to be asking earnestly, I couldn’t be certain he would appreciate my setting him straight.
Well, the time is right now. So since you asked, sir, I’ll tell you why there’s no such thing as “working fathers.”
Let me preface my answer by saying, the question came on the heels of an endless mothering marathon, one in which I wasn’t particularly thrilled to be participating in the first place. The 11-year stretch for which I have been the primary parent has been fraught with obstacles and challenges most of which I was left to deal with on my own. Although another parent existed – even within the same household – I was the one who devised solutions to every parenting problem and implemented them without much help from the other responsible party.
I have done this everyday without sick leave or holidays off for over a decade while my partner who I consider to be at least 50% responsible for the situation has continued his normal routine without much disruption.
I’m not saying my husband doesn’t work hard or handle other responsibilities, but his life didn’t change while mine did. And, I realized if I was to work outside the home it was going to be in addition to raising our kids. So when you ask me why men don’t get the acknowledgement or credit they deserve as put-upon “working Fathers,” this is what I have to say:
When you do the wash on a regular basis so the kids have something clean to wear; and when you brush their teeth every night before bed; and when you get them off to school everyday and race back home or otherwise arrange for the care of your kids after school lets out, which happens to be in the middle of the afternoon (2:30 for me), which might I point out is a full 2 1/2 hours before the end of a normal work day not counting the commute (although at my former job the hours were 9 to 6 and with the commute, school dismissal comes a full five hours before I would arrive home); and when you make them every God damn meal; and when you do the weekly food shopping; and when you actually sit down with them every night to help them with their homework; and when you arrange for tutors and after school activities and then shuffle them back and forth to every one; and when you arrange and escort them to every single doctor’s, dentist’s and specialist’s appointment; and when you attend every parent-teacher conference for each kid; and when you go to every rinky-dink, half-assed school concert, which is scheduled without fail for neither the start nor the end of the school day but rather a random time in the middle like, say, 11:15 on a Tuesday (because although the show was produced and staged specifically for the parents, why make it at a reasonable time for them?) and sit through yet another out-of-tune Jingle Bell Rock; and when you stay home from work because your kid is sick; and when you arrange for child care for every single school holiday, vacation and summer break, which let me point out amounts to a little over four months of the year; and when you arrange and maintain their social calendar along with your own; and when you buy every single gift for every single holiday for every single person the pair of you (wife and husband) know jointly; and when you invent and enforce every household rule in the rearing of the children, then I will call you a “working father.”
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