Do dads do enough?

Today was ‘Daddy Day,’ a term reserved for the days when Mom works, the kids aren’t in school, and I’m in charge.

It was a good Daddy Day. We got in lots of park time – exercise! I monitored the jungle gym carefully – safety! We had a meltdown-free trip to the barber — good grooming! (I called the barber the ‘Handsome Shop’ to limit the anxiety – ingenuity!) As a reward for successful hair-cutting, we got Slurpees from 7-Eleven – purple tongues! (And easy Daddy points!)

While I look forward to Daddy Days a little, I also shudder a little as they approach. It means I’m flying solo, and while I’m a decent parent, I’d say, and have flown solo by now too many times to count, these days always still retain some characteristics of a maiden voyage. I don’t have enough practice being a solo parent to feel otherwise.

We don’t use a special term for when it’s just Mom and the kids. Every day is basically ‘Mommy Day.’ When I’m with my wife, there is no doubt that she is the captain of the parenting ship. I express opinions (occasionally, even superior ones) and we make shared decisions, but she is the one who always keeps parenting top-of-mind.

She is the one who remembers the clothes that need to be ironed, remembers to bring cash to pre-school for pizza day, works ahead of schedule on the week’s homework to prevent cramming. Just this morning, I was pleasantly surprised — I shouldn’t have been surprised — to find a set of 5-year-old’s clothes and a set of 2-year-old’s clothes draped over the crib for me when it came time to get them dressed after Jen had already left for the office.

Me? I take care of the dinners, mostly. And the teaching of baseball technique. And most of the Lego-building and the train track-building. But the relatively thankless, mundane mechanics of parenting? That is, most of the absolute essentials? That’s Mom.

I get that dads, traditionally, bring in more money (though not always). Sometimes all of it (though sometimes none of it). Jen and I are roughly equivalent, income-wise. And I get that dads (very often, though not always) do the dirty work — the yard maintenance, the spiders, the broken toilets, the hanging of shelving, the things involving a toolbox — all of which are very necessary.

But the stuff involving the kids’ daily livelihoods — getting out the door in time, the lunch-making, the activities, parties and playdates — those are, at least in our house, mostly Mom’s terrain.

Put simply: If one of us were to meet an untimely end, there’s little doubt that it would be better for the kids if it were me.

Part of me wonders whether this is okay. Shouldn’t dads feel 100% at ease with swooping in and taking over for a day, a week, a month? Is biology and tradition an excuse? Wouldn’t dads be better parents if we were just as vital for the running of the household, for the well-being of the children, as the moms? It seems to me that yeah, we would be.

In the end, though, I guess — I hope — that as long as we’re worthy, non-idiot substitutes, it’s a system that works. Most of the dads I know aren’t lazy, but we have our comfort zones. What’s wrong with focusing on our strengths? If we’re at least aware of the stuff that we’re not doing that Mom does, and take the helm semi-capably when needed, it’ll all be fine.

But I can’t say I’m in any rush for ‘Daddy Day’ to become ‘Daddy Week.’

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