Editor's note: This blog is part of our Father's Day 2013 tribute series, acknowledging the men in our LiveWell Moms' lives. However, we're breaking the rules with our first LiveWell Dad blog post!
This Sunday, my second official Father’s Day as a father, has me wondering exactly where dads fit in the family structure. Fifty years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique and five years after the biggest economic upheaval since — I don’t know when — where does "dad" fit?
The years of woman/caretaker and man/provider as a given are long since passed. A recent Pew Research report says women are the sole or main breadwinners in forty percent of U.S. homes.
While the idea of women in the workforce has beaten through some long-overgrown paths to acceptance, the idea of the man being at home full- or part-time is still far from being accepted. Regardless of its acceptance, dads are taking on more domestic responsibilities—however we are ill prepared for it. Going from a workplace where technical manuals and checklists rule our day to a domestic free-for-all can be traumatic for everyone involved.
Guys are more likely to look at things linearly. Numbered and bulleted lists make sense to us. Intuition is something best left to lotto winners and psychics. Why are the kids never ready to go when mom isn’t there to direct? Because no one told us what to do. We have seen the getting-ready process plenty of times, but no one wrote it down for us.
As a part-time stay at home dad, I wanted to share what I’ve learned from my 18-month-old twin boys and newborn girl. I present you, a bulleted list:
- There’s no secret to keeping a kid happy. Plenty of sleep, a full tummy and a dry butt. Add in some age-appropriate playtime and you’re set.
- Plan ahead. Pop quiz, hot shot: It’s 9am, the kids have had breakfast, they’re happily playing, and you have at least a half hour of free time. What do you do? If you said, “Make it to the next level in Candy Crush,” wrong! The answer is, prep lunch. Time can get away from you, and a hungry kid quickly develops into a pea soup-spouting demon. When lunchtime rolls around, your best bet is to be a half step away from food on the table.
- Plan a strict, detailed schedule, then rip it up and throw it away. A general idea of a daily plan is good, but the little dictators will never let strict adherence happen. They’re a force unto themselves. No amount of planning or Google scheduling will influence their diaper filling or temper tantrums.
- Get outside. Plenty in my generation grew up as latchkey kids. I went to school in the morning, leaving an empty house behind, and when I got home from school, I had at least two hours to entertain myself before the parents got home from work. That meant two hours of TV, video games and dial-up internet.
Now that it’s our turn to raise kids, if you have a chance to, take them outside. The littlest babies can see the changing light as the sun sets. The crawlers can feel grass under their hands and between their toes. And the toddlers can see if they can sprint toward the street faster than Dad can run to catch them.
Rest-assured, dads, you’re indispensable. It’s your job to make sure your sons know how to be a man in a civilized world. It’s your job to make sure your daughters can get a great job while their husbands stay at home with the kids.
But before you make your psychosocial impact on the world, it’s all about naptime, food and diapers. And we’re as well-prepared as any mom to provide what they need.
Happy Father’s Day, guys.
LiveWell Dad Adam Skogen is married to LiveWell Mom Sarah. The two live in Denver, CO, with their three children.
Photo: The author's son, Finn, playing outside