I gotta be me.

In the past, I have occasionally gotten strange looks from other men when they hear that I do laundry, or that I will occasionally wash dishes, or vacuum. Most of these men are from the generation before mine, so I chalk it up to “traditional gender roles” and brush it off with a shrug.

The nurses in the NICU, when we were getting ready to leave, explained to us that Sage needed some formula mixed with breastmilk in order to get enough calories to keep growing, and they suggested that if a bottle was made up ahead of time, “maybe Daddy could handle one of the feedings during the night.” Ann told them that I’ve gotten up with her every time she was waking in the middle of the night to pump, so that I could handle our dogs (who don’t like to sleep through anything) and wash up some pump parts and get her a drink of water or whatever else she needed. They stared at her like she had just announced that our baby was going to be named “Harbinger of Doom to All Mankind aka Stankbutt.” (Side note: I was tempted to tell them that anyway.) One nurse said they needed to rent me out.

I’ve occasionally gotten that sort of reaction when women learn that I make cheesecake and that I like my in-laws.

While I appreciate that I get complimented on these things by the ladies and not too much open hostility from the men, there are three things that bother me about it.

First, why the gender roles still? It’s 2012. I like football and baking. I like kung fu movies and I cry when Sarah McLachlan tells me to save the animals. I’ll be first in line for Sage’s tea parties and I hope she can learn to change her own oil. And frankly, my oil too, because I haven’t got a clue there.

Second, why do I still have some of these gender roles still ingrained in me? I like to think that I’m pretty socially liberal. I’m in favor of gay rights and I think it’s ridiculous that Olympic sports are always divided by gender (unless I’m unaware of a sport in there somewhere). In fact, I even wince at this: sometimes parents of a little boy will have friends who are parents of a little girl, and they’ll all talk about how maybe someday their kids will fall in love and we’ll all be related YAY! …and every single time, I think, “How come you only say that to parents of a child of the opposite gender? What if your kids are both gay?” And yet it bothers me that when anything breaks in our house, we have to turn to Ann’s dad and brother who know how to fix stuff. I’m not sure what to offer them in return. Neither of them have a real need for a carefully researched theory paper on Kierkegaard’s views about Cartesian dualism, or the lyrics to Weird Al Yankovic songs. I can’t fix much of anything, and those who can don’t seem to know how to teach me. It does make me feel emasculated at times. What’s that about?

And third: Why does this make me so seemingly unique? This is my wife and my daughter we’re talking about here: the woman I have dedicated my life to and the child I have prayed for since I was twenty-four. Why are people so shocked that I want to do things for them? It’s not like it strips away who I am — I still do things I want to do for myself as well. It’s PART of who I am. THEY’RE part of who I am. Why on earth WOULDN’T other guys do these things? I’m not asking this from a soapbox, but from a search engine. I’m not suggesting that other people are bad husbands or fathers if they don’t do these things, I’m just saying that I don’t understand why they wouldn’t do these things given the opportunity.

Maybe I’ll get it someday… but if I do, I hope that it doesn’t make me feel like I have to change my ways to meet society’s expectations. Society isn’t family. Ann and Sage are family.

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7 Responses to I gotta be me.

  1. Gigi says:

    Your last lines sum it all up. You do it for family. Not for how you think society wants you to be. Do what’s right for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. And never feel emasculated for not knowing how to do some “masculine” thing.

  2. sinwi says:

    Thankfully you are not alone. Often people at work will look at me oddly when I’ll mention something about Aaron, because of his job. They have an image of a gun totin, sports loving, deer hunting, beer drinking “guy”. So when I mention how the first time that Charlotte had heard of the Packers it was at pre-school when the had a party before the super bowl, or his not drinking beer, it seems to throw them.

    It is a shame, because what a limited and narrow scope that view leaves for men! I personally don’t know anyone that fits in that stereotype (of course I have a different social circle and family than some…). Aaron is the one that has attended all the school programs, he has been the pre-school face of our adult household (I always feel odd the few times I drop off and pick up standing w/ the usuals all chatting away), he had sole care of the girls while I was at work since they were 6 weeks. And it has been fabulous for our family. Having an involved and loving dad has been great for the girls, and Aaron wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think it is pretty special too!

    May be one reason that Katherine will wear a dress, crown, and be charging after the neighbor boys w/ nerf swords…

    With every dad like you and Aaron that step out of the old “father” role, another daughter and son will grow up with a wider view of who they can be.

    (And if Sage and Katherine become an item, I will be so excited to welcome you to the family! ;P)

  3. For the record: the equestrian events are mixed-gender, as are (I think) some sailing events. Shooting used to be for certain events as well.

    • Katie says:

      You are rare, because you love so deeply. First of all we were raised in a house where gender roles did not often exsist. Mom and dad both worked, both cooked, and dad brushed my hair more often than mom did. On the flip side, dad still is the one to fix the toilet and kill the spiders (or any crawling thing with more than 2 legs for that matter. NO I am not saying mom kills the 2 legged ones, work with me here) Gender division was not as clearly marked in our house. There is blessing one. Blessing two, and more importantly, you adore Ann. (as you should) When you love someone so completely you will do anything to see that smile, to know they are comforted and taken care of. You may not know how to “fix” things, but I’m pretty sure Ann has caught on to that, and I’m pretty sure she loves you not inspite of that, but for that. Perhaps if you were busy re-shingling the roof, you would not be cleaning the pump parts and bringing her water. People who have kids unexpectedly or have an easier time of producing them love their kids. I should know. But when you yearn for something, work for something, pray and beg and plead for something, you have a whole new repsect for it. And that does not apply just to beautiful Sage. It applies to beautiful Ann as well. You have always loved her from your core. You worked so hard those summers in between college to get back to her. You yearned, worked, prayed begged and pleaded to get back to her. You are truely blessed in the fact that you know what it is to want, as now you can cherish what it is to have. Without taking it for granted as so many of us often do. What seemed like struggle may have perhaps been a way for you to undoubtedly love completely and wholey what you have. You’ve never been half way, not with your emotions. This way you will never have to be. And the beautiful thing about this whole situation? Ann feels the same way towards you. You two are the most blessed people I have seen. The love between you two is palpable, and add in Sage, and your house must be bursting with love and joy and beauty. So go cook your cheesecake, watch your football, and be you. Ann has loved and adored you for it for a very long time, and that little baby girl is going to grow up with the best daddy who teaches her to ride a bike, combs her hair, and pays her to change his oil.

  4. Hop Dad says:

    I was raised by parents who acted in the stereotypical gender roles. Dad went to work, Mom cooked, cleaned, and wiped our noses. Then in the mid 70’s my mother caught the “women’s lib” bug and I became a latch key kid after she went to work. But during that time she also taught me to cook, do laundry, and clean just about anything. In her words she did it “so you won’t force your wife to do it”. Ouch.

    I discovered later, though, that knowing how to do laundry, cook, clean, sew, etc. went a long way toward preventing me from being in serious relationships with women. A lot of the women I dated didn’t know how to resolve being in a relationship with a man that had a cleaner house and was a better cook than them.

    I now have a daughter. During the 2.5 years of her life I’ve changed diapers, fixed meals, bathed and dressed her. We share temporary tattoos that range from glitter fairies to dragons to flaming skulls. I paint her toenails, then paint mine. She has been to minor league baseball games, and watched kung-fu movies. As she gets older, I will show her how to pound nails, use a cordless drill, and build a bench. What she does with those skills is up to her.

    My coworkers at my office job first laughed at me when they saw my forearms covered with at least a dozen, glittery, butterfly and unicorn tattoos. Now when they see a fresh batch on Monday morning they smile and think it’s pretty cool. I really don’t care what the other guys think in the gym locker room as they see my tattoos, toenail polish, and tie-dyed underwear (from the wife). This is what it means to be a Dad to a daughter and I’m proud of it.

    Oh – and I’m 48.

  5. Helloheather says:

    I can’t say it any better than others have already said, but I think you’re in good company. 🙂

    When Nathan was born, Rob got up with me for every feeding. He’d do the things you’re doing: get me water, arrange the pillows for me to support the tiny baby, etc. When Nathan was really young (and floppy) I was so glad to have his assistance for changing sides when nursing. I’d pick Nate up, and Rob would stack the pillows just so over on the other side. It was wonderful to have him help that way.

    If people are shocked that you want to be involved and do things for your beloved wife and long-anticipated child, then I think that reflects sadly on those people’s interpersonal relationships.

  6. i hate that i’m made to feel bad because i don’t cook but my husband does.

    i think you’re the better for this, so that you can teach sage how to be a great person.

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