Dad's Role in the Home: Then and Now (Fiance Special Edition)
When Leslie first told me I was to be a guest blogger on this wonderful blog, the first thing I said was the obvious, uncontrolled, and seemingly mandatory “Sure, what about?” (I couldn't stop myself from asking it). She said that it was going to be a 'father's perspective' thing, (she wasn't sure exactly the topic at the time). There is a lot to this fatherhood thing, and I'm happy to chip in my two cents in to the Dad's talk. So now that I know what the scope of this post needs to be, lets go!
So let's start with the 'Then', (what a surprise!). And to talk about the 'Then' we need to talk about my dad and my home from the days of yore. The old country. Amish Country. Okay, not really Amish Country but a stones throw away, nor am I Amish.
Dad had always wanted the best for our family, and I was never really wanting of anything. We weren’t rich by any means, but dad had a good job with good pay and good benefits, so health and well being was never an issue. We lived in two floor four bedroom house with a two car garage and a full dry basement. Not a bad shot, especially for someone who built it himself. That's the kind of man my dad is, he sees something that needs to be done, then he will be the one to do it. And I'll be damned if he didn't do it well. In many ways he is my exact opposite, (the logical to my conceptual). This also made living with him very hard, and our relationship incredibly strained for most of my life.
Dad and Mom both worked, dad always paid the bills and food, mom's job helped with that and put back some money for savings and fun things. When I was born (and my sister there after) Mom left work leaving Dad in charge of the lot. I believe at the point of my sisters birth we were in safe water financially, so the strain of mom being home was felt, but not unbearable.
We had a fairly basic routine in my home, Dad took over several major responsibilities: House work, yard and garden, my activities (like hockey, mom covered my sisters activities like dance), house hold income, and disciplinarian. Dad worked the normal 9-5 job, but because of our home location, his job was an hour away. So he would be out the door around 7am, and home by about 7pm, (rush hour is crazy like that). 12 hour day with the driving. So when he got home he usually changed out of his work clothes, into something more casual, (I always remember him wearing graphic sweat shirts and jeans for some reason). We would then eat dinner, have a “talk” if we did something bad, then we would go into the basement for practice (various work outs and stretches for hockey as well as game theory) which usually took us into the 9-10pm area, sometimes later. Then it was to bed. On weekends Dad would take me to my games or if it was the off season, tend to the garden or relax in the sun, (he likes sun bathing).
As far as things went outside of daily life, I feel like mom and dad really made a team effort of a lot of things, and some things that my sister and I perceived as one parent's work was in reality the effort of both, but presented though one. I think there were many a time that a toy store visit was book checked and discussed before mom took us. Many of the fun things we did in my house hold were because of my dad's work ethic, from getting our boat, to camping trips, to a wonderful time at Disney when I was eleven.
We eventually worked out our issues with each other and have grown to become very close in recent years. Looking back, I won't tell myself that my dad was easy on me. Because he wasn't. I still feel he came down on me way too hard at times. However, I look at the man I became, and the father that I'm becoming and realize that I wouldn't be here without some of ethics and lessons he taught, (and at times drilled) into me. I thank him for those lessons, both the good, and the bad, even if I never have out loud.
So that's the 'Then' lets talk about the 'Now', (Holy crap! What a twist!)
I don't pretend to know everything about being a dad, and really I don't think anyone does. Not from lack of trying but because being a father is a mutable thing. What your child needs can change from day to day. And just so, as can your family's needs change in the same way.
As a professional artist, I don't have the luxury of having a steady job at the moment. So as much as it pains me, I can always be the person that brings home the big bucks and provide everything my family needs at a moments notice. But if there is one lesson my father taught me, it's to push though challenges and come out on top. So while I hunt for a good job in the graphic design field like some kind of large predatory fish in open water, my position in the family and as a father has to change too.
When I was working as a designer at an auto-wrap company, it was Leslie's job to watch after A. A had a few hours with me at night before she went to sleep. Now the roles are reversed, Leslie has the job and I'm watching and teaching A, while she works. I don't mind being the stay at home dad for now, but there is a significant amount of emphasis on the “for now” part. I want to be the bread winner because I know how badly Leslie wants to home school A, and how much she wants to be able to spend days with A. I have always wanted to be the one who provides for the family and hopefully that will come about again.
So, in the mean time I take other responsibilities. As I mentioned I try to teach A things every day. Sometimes it's something as simple as math, other times we draw and we work on shapes and pictures, (the kid was holding a pencil properly after watching me well before the age of two, art is in her blood) we sing, we dance, we play with toys and laugh. We also engage each other in combat which I'm sure is frowned upon by the Geneva Convention when it's time for a nap but isn't every child a terror during their 2's? I've taken it upon my self to encourage her to be free minded and creative. I try my best to nurture that, always trying think of new things to draw with her or to play with her that will strengthen her imagination.
I realize that being a Dad isn't just about raising a kid either. Yeah, you need to be a good example and such but fatherhood is a further step in a partnership. To the point: Fatherhood, Motherhood... one entity in two parts; a Teacher. Your child will learn from every action you do, the good AND the bad. You teach them with your being. Each parent will teach different lessons to the child, most of which are never intended, and some of which are entirely so. It's so important for me, as a father, to be on the same page as Leslie, as a mother. We disagree on some things, and that's fine, differences breed strength. But at the end of the day, it's all about the little one. Is she doing okay? Is she learning? Is she growing? Being a father is trying your best to ensure these things happen.
In my heart, being a father is the greatest achievement I can accomplish. There are other achievements in my life that I still wish to attain, but I have realized that these achievements are solely there to better the livelihood of my daughter and family. And though there may be bumps and detours along the way, as long as my daughter is happy, healthy, and smiling with her big dorky grin, I know I am doing this whole father thing right.