Dear Working Father,
We stay-at-home mothers often think you are lucky. After all, you get to leave the house to work, you can take a coffee break when you want, your boss is taller than two feet, you have a wide social circle, you don't have a second shift when you come home from work and you probably sleep better at night. But the grass is often greener on the other side, and there are many things we sometimes forget.
We forget that when your wife got pregnant, you were also over the moon and shared every step of the way with her: feeling the baby kick, watching him on ultrasound and panicking if something was wrong. You were just as emotional and happy as your partner; you probably even gained as much weight as she did!
Yet, when your child was born, all the focus turned to the baby and mother: "How does it feel to be a mom, is mommy getting enough sleep, is she eating well, how does she feel emotionally, is she having the baby blues, does she need help around the house?", and on and on.
We forget that because you are the man, no one worried about how the birth of a child could affect you. You were expected to pick up and carry on like before, even though you were likely affected emotionally by the changes of fatherhood. Your identity changed, your responsibilities increased, you were no longer the most important person to your partner and your needs and feelings took a back seat. You and your life were entirely changed, yet all this was overlooked.
We forget that even though mommy was waking up every few hours at night to comfort a crying baby, you often did not fall asleep for hours thinking about how to take care of your growing family and how to ensure they would be safe and secure, no matter what life brought your way.
When it came time to decide if mommy would go back to work, a simple Google search spewed forth thousands of articles about corporate life not catering to mothers, suggesting changes to be made to accommodate women reaching the top, proponents defending both staying at home or working, and others lamenting the plights of both.
We forget that you may have also loved to stay home and spend your time with your child if you could. But you knew that the baby needed her mother more at first, and you both needed your job for financial support. So, you stayed on even though you felt just as much, and possibly even higher levels of conflict about going to work.
Sometimes, we also forget that you are working the same long hours as before, yet still helping out with what you can at home. You are helping much more than prior generations ever did while hearing constant complaints about why it's not fair that you get to leave the house, that you don't have second shift when you get back, that you don't understand and that whatever you do it's still not enough.
Yet, when mommy or baby are sick, you often pick up the slack because in your heart, your family is your priority, and you stress about their physical, emotional and financial well-being. That is why you may stay in a job you don't love to ensure your family gets what it needs.
We often overlook the fact that you would have loved to ask for paternity leave, but you knew you were more likely to be harassed, receive worse evaluations and get paid less, if you did -- you knew you would be more penalized than a mother in the same situation. You did not want to subject your family to these consequences, so you took the expected route. You worked. But it wasn't always fun or easy:
It broke your heart when, with tears in his eyes, your baby reluctantly waved goodbye as you left for work.
You skipped Friday afternoon drinks with your colleagues to make it home in time for your daughter's bath.
It frustrated you when after several attempts at doing something your son said, "Mama do better."
When you heard the rain against your office window, you thought of your kids cuddled under the covers or a makeshift tent and wished you could play in their "fort."
It tugged at your heartstrings when after a week-long business trip, your baby cried at seeing you and wouldn't leave your lap.
But these weren't isolated events. Just as it is with mothers, there are also multiple demands from many directions on your time. Modern working-parenthood is laced with the "putting everyone else first" challenges. Even though you have not been exempt, the world has been slow at recognizing you as caregiver. Yet, time and time again, research has proven just how influential a father is to a child's development and well-being.
Evolutionarily, you were expected to be the breadwinner. So, no one wondered if you might prefer something else. Yet, when we women decided we wanted to be something other than nurturers, the world conspired to help us achieve it. Achieve it we have, but we sometimes forget that you have also stood on the sidelines cheering us on.