Oftentimes, I wonder exactly who I am.
That question was easy to answer when I was younger, but today my identity is not so easily determined. It used to be simply about how I viewed myself, but now it’s also determined by how well I meet my responsibilities to my family.
Do I do enough as a parent? Am I living up to the oaths I made to my significant other? Can I, with confidence, call myself a role model to those who look up to me?
These aren’t easy questions to answer in the shared-role, dual-income society we now live in. In days past we had our roles, and for the most part, performed our duties mutually exclusive of our significant other. But now the lines have been blurred and fatherly duties overlap motherly duties and vice versa. In fact, such classifications as those have become so foreign to conventional wisdom that it felt weird simply to type the words.
Today, dads are changing diapers just as much as women are cutting lawns. So how can I determine who I am when so much of what I do is shared? What is it exactly that I do that helps define who I am?
I do dishes.
Yup, dishes. When I was single I would have never imagined dishes could pile up at the rate they currently do. Little plastic sippy cups (BPA free of course), small bowls and plates, tiny spoons and forks, baby bottles, baby bottle nipples, etc… all in addition to the normal fare of adult plates, forks, knives, cutting boards, pots, pans, and more. Even the high chair tray, bibs, and toys that hit the floor and roll under the fridge technically count towards sink cluttering items. I’ll tell you one thing, if the sink is ever empty, I’m sometimes scared to blink for fear it will be full again once I open my eyes.
I do laundry.
Take the above paragraph about dishes and insert clothing items in place of kitchenware. Then add in a picky 4-year-old who pitches a fit because his Lighting McQueen socks are not clean, or a 1-year-old who is on his third outfit of the day because he decided to wear his applesauce instead of eat it, and you start to get the picture.
I take care of sick kids.
This one might take the cake. Not only do I feel like I would jump into oncoming traffic if I thought it might help make my sick child feel better, it’s almost worse not being able to explain to them what is happening to their bodies.
When the 4-year-old threw up for the first time and had that horrified look in his eyes like, “What is happening to me?” or the baby got pneumonia and didn’t smile or play with a toy for 3+ days, I just didn’t know what to tell them. “I’m here and everything is going to be OK,” is about the best I could come up with without actually being sure everything would, in fact, be OK.
The hard part about this role is, I have to be there for them at 3 p.m. just as much as I have to be there for them at 3 a.m. I even have to be there for them when I am sick myself. Sickness doesn’t sleep, it only rests.
I clean the house.
It took me until the second kid to realize that if I actually wanted to, I could scan any room I’m currently in and
find something to pick up or clean. There is always a toy under the couch, a book on the floor, a ball in a corner, or a random spit-up stain on the carpet. I religiously make an attempt to return our house to “adult status” after the kids are tucked away soundly in their beds, but to truly achieve this, one needs to remember the first rule of skydiving – don’t look down.
I’m on duty 24/7.
This one is self-explanatory, but what you might not realize is that this even applies to those few occasions when I’m actually away from my children. Maybe on a vacation, or weekend get-away, or something as simple as a night out for dinner while the grandparents watch the kids. No matter what the occasion, they are still in the back of my mind.
I still worry about them, I still talk about them, and I still have to check in from time to time to make sure everything is OK back home. I might be off duty physically, but I am never off duty mentally. Never.
I make lunches, kiss boo-boos, prepare dinner, rub backs, feed the dog, read bedtime stories, give baths, find missing toys, distribute hugs, make beds, listen, discipline, and love all while going to work five days a week.
So who am I? I’m not Brad the Dad…
I’m his wife. I’m a mom, daughter, cousin, co-worker, and friend.
She is all those things and more.
My wife is the strongest person I know and what I wrote above barely scratches the surface of how I feel about her, what she accomplishes on a daily basis, and how thankful I am to have her in my life.
To every mother in the world, even though us guys may not say it all the time, or even know how to say it, we appreciate you more than words can explain and bow to your infinite patience and wisdom.
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 1/21/12.
Photography provided for by Brienna McWade. Follow her work on Facebook: Bricks Pics.