When my husband walks in the door after working late, his first words to me are "Thank you." He's thanking me for taking care of the kids and the usual tasks of the day -- dinner, baths, bedtime routines, clean up.
He usually follows it up with "I'm sorry" for having worked late, even though it was not his choice. An apology isn't necessary. The sentiment behind the apology is what matters most to me.
Those four words embody his respect and admiration for the work I am doing at home with our two children. I'm sure he is tired from a long day at work, but he knows I am physically and emotionally exhausted from a long day at home. He knows I have had to draw from my reservoir of patience more times than I could count. He knows because he does it too. He may not spend as much time caretaking as I do, but he's done enough to know what I am going through every day.
When our children were babies, he would do late night and early morning feedings whenever possible. He never looked for a pat on the back for "stepping up" as a dad; he just did it. His response to a "thank you" was always, "I want to do it." He wanted to help me and spend time with our children, even though I am sure he was exhausted too. Now that our kids are a little older (2 and 5 years), he's still very hands-on. He does not shy away from the most difficult tasks of parenting -- getting the kids ready and out of the house, putting them to bed each night, and responding to the constant testing of boundaries that is characteristic of children at this age.
He's lucky to have a job that's allowed him to marry his passion for art and sports with earning enough money to support a family. His job allowed me to be home for a total of almost three years when our children were young, something for which I am incredibly thankful. Money is necessary and important -- I can not deny that fact. But his attitude reflects that raising our children is the most important job.
At home we are creating lives -- for two human beings, who will live out their own life's journey, of which their childhood will be a very significant part.
Now that I am also working full-time, we share childcare and household duties pretty equally. He takes care of the kids in the morning because I am out the door by 7. I take care of the kids in the afternoon and evenings. We share the bedtime and cleanup duties. Having both parents working full-time outside the home definitely has it's challenges, but at least one benefit is that my children will see both parents stepping up to take care of childcare and household responsibilities.
Having a son and a daughter, they can see that both Mom and Dad work and help at home. I know my husband's attitude and actions will stay with my kids, because it stayed with my husband from his own childhood.
Growing up, his parents had traditional roles -- with dad running a business and mom raising the kids and running the household. His dad always respected and valued his mother's contribution, so my husband viewed childcare as an important job in itself. One of the most important jobs there is, really!
Seeing the respect and appreciation modeled within a traditional family led my husband to be the person he is today. His dad was probably radically counter-cultural in valuing the work his mom was doing raising three children. Society has come a long way in recognizing parenting as a paramount and demanding task.
My husband is certainly not perfect, but he's pretty extraordinary in his recognition of the value of parenting. He lives out this value every day in his interactions with our children. He gives everything he has to them -- every ounce of energy, attention, patience and love that he has within. I know I am blessed to be on the other side of this partnership, and so are my children.