We need to develop a dialogue around over-providing.
Full disclosure: I am not a dad. But, I’m married to a really great one, so I consider myself somewhat of a side-line authority on all things papa-related. That said, I think it’s high time we acknowledged the incredible pressure that men, especially fathers, face to provide.
My father-in-law is good. He is kind and patient and incredibly hard-working. So hard-working, in fact, that he instilled in my husband the notion that a man’s worth is primarily wrapped up in how well he provides for his family.
His first son, my husband’s brother, is a television meteorologist. He knew from a very early age what he wanted to be, and he’s chased his dream clear across the country. On the other hand, my husband wasn’t so sure. He majored in business at N.C. State, then came back home to help run the family plumbing business. When our children came along in 2014 and 2016, he transitioned into a full-time job with benefits, selling plumbing supplies rather than using them himself.
All the while, he struggled and always wondered if he was providing enough. If he was enough. All of his life, he’s identified success and fulfillment with holding down a steady job, and when those stars failed to align just so, he felt inadequate and it broke my heart.
Because sure, to an extent, that notion is true. Yet, it’s far from the whole picture.
You see, that places an insane and unhealthy amount of pressure on any man, much less a papa with two kids under the age of three. How can one work in the rat race, climb that corporate ladder, and close those big deals that bring in the big bucks – and still be there for his son’s T-ball tournament at 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday?
The short answer is it’s next to impossible, at least by today’s standards.
My husband works until 6:00 p.m. or later in the evening, then comes home with work still on his mind. When he was self-employed, things were much more carefree. Of course, we were newlyweds then, staying in a free family home, with no kids to care for save our dog Pablo. We could afford to stay up super late on weeknights and stumble through the next day.
Now? Now we are playing the part of Responsible Adults. Along with that comes some pretty hefty responsibility. On my end, I’m feeling the weight of working from home until the wee hours of the morning, then being anything but a total zombie the next day for the kids. Yet, I consider my burden light compared to his.
I’ve told him countless times that we’d adore him if he were a shoe salesman or a plumber, a CEO or an exterminator. That’s honestly 100% true. Yet, we all know that if his income suddenly went away, we’d be more than a little stranded. It almost did last winter, and I’ve never seen that man more demasculinized than the night he came to me and said he was considering selling his truck so we could pay our mortgage for a few more months.
So he works late, and presses onward. He walks through the door and is physically spent and mentally fried. I don’t know how to reverse this trend, but we need to develop a dialogue around “over providing”.
There’s been so much talk lately about women’s rights and equality in the workplace, and I’m so pumped people are finally talking openly about these issues.
Yet, I can’t help but think that men are getting a little bit overlooked here. Work-life balance is critical, and until employers start to acknowledge that the pendulum still isn’t balanced, nothing will change.
As a mother, I salute all dads in general. I especially salute my own, hard-working father and the man my children call to from the stairs above. I’m only a voice among the clatter, but rest assured you’re seen. And even on the days when the work piles up and the phones won’t stop ringing and you wonder if you’re really doing this thing right, you are. When you come home late and the kids are already asleep and your wife hasn’t talked to an adult all day and you wonder if you can fill that heart gap that she has, you can.
I think it begins with prioritizing, and figuring out which tasks can wait and which are urgent. Sometimes, work will take precedence. Other times, a dance recital will. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone all of the time. Trust me, I’m still awake at 4 a.m. after a long day of being an entire universe for two tiny people who trust me more than anything.
It’s a challenge. It’s a stressor. Oh, but what a beautiful blessing it is as well.