I am a woman and I am a parent. This means that, according to the English language, I am a “mother,” right? Well…I’m not so sure. In my family, I am clearly the “father”. Here’s why…
My wife is the “mother.”
Almost immediately upon bringing “The Squirrel” home, she favored Allison. She turns to Allison more often for hugs, hair braiding, and lap sitting. When she is sad or tired or overwhelmed or that lovely combination of the three, she seeks out Allison for comfort. Allison is the one that hasn’t gotten a private moment in the shower for 4 months.I must tell you that, since Allison has the whole “mom” role all shored up, I have, “naturally” (I guess) taken on the role of “dad.” Well, I shouldn’t say I have “taken it on.” More appropriately, it has been thrust upon me. I know, it’s weird. And unexpected. And I know that I am dangerously treading in that incredibly homophobic “who’s the man” territory when analyzing lesbian relationships. But our social worker has told us that this kind of thing actually is natural. When kids are adopted into new homes – especially ones with same-sex parents – the child subconsciously assigns one parent to be, what she calls, “the breast parent.” The parent who is the main source of comfort and tenderness. The parent who can’t leave the house without a fit being thrown. Allison is this parent. I am not.
I understand what it feels like to “babysit” my own kid.
When I told my sister-in-law, a stay-at-home mama of 4 kids, that I was the “dad” in our family, her response was “Lucky!” I get it. Unlike Allison, I get plenty of private showers. At the same time, I get far less hugs and way more attitude. I get lots of “aw”s in protest of the idea that Mommy has to go out and I have to be the one to put her to bed. Like SO MANY things that I didn’t understand or even blatantly judged before I became a parent (which is a blog post in and of itself, right), I never understood heterosexual mamas who would talk about their husbands being at home and “watching the kids.” I was like, “what? They are the parents too! Why are you treating them like they are babysitters?!?” But, my fellow and sister dads, I get it now. We are the babysitters when mom is gone. I know what it feels like to be both politely and not-so-politely tolerated until the parent they really want comes home. So yes, I get a bit more time to myself, but sometimes it feels like it’s because I am not a completely valued member of this family. And that sucks.
I am celebrated as “provider”…and not much else.
The funny thing about me being the “dad” is that I lack so many of those stereotypical dad skills and interests. I do own a set of tools because I am supposed to but I have no idea how to use them. I pay people to hang pictures on the walls. No exaggeration. I neither watch nor play any sport. And I am the absolute worst on the grill. I overcook every piece of meat I touch.
And yet, the stereotypical “dad” traits that I do possess have totally risen to the surface and are engaged on a daily basis. I am a master of “the dad joke” (so was my own dad so I learned from the best). I drink beer and whiskey…proudly. And, I have definitely embraced by role as the “provider.” I will run to the store for anything at any time when anyone needs it. I make sure Allison has her morning cup of coffee, her evening cocktail, back rubs, foot massages and anything else she needs to survive being a mom (duh, of course I am a modern dad). I am the one that gets to take “The Squirrel” to Target or the library or, god forbid, a classmate’s birthday party – pretty much any place that Allison just doesn’t want go. Basically, I do my best to stay out of the way until someone needs something. Then, I know I can fly in and do what I do best.
I fully expect that I will be a total superhero in a couple of years
Right now, being the one who makes sure that my family’s Target needs are met is my main superpower. However, I fully expect this to change. I remember when I started to actually like my own dad as a kid. When I about 7 or 8 and I actually started to understand his stupid jokes and think they were kinda funny. I started to understand my dad’s job and how freakin’ cool it was that he got to go to work at a television station everyday and work with those same people that I saw on tv every night on the 6 o’clock news. When I was starting to feel a bit more independent and no longer wanted my mommy in the same ways, I could turn to my dad, not for comfort so much, but for something else. For…adventure, maybe? To explore new sides of myself? Beyond wishful thinking, I fully expect that “The Squirrel”(now just a very young 6) will wake up one day having had a major epiphany that she has been living with one of the coolest people ever this whole time and never noticed it. She is gonna bonk herself in the head in that shoulda-had-a-V8 style and say “Wow! My other mom is amazing too! What have I been thinking rejecting her this whole time?!?” When that time comes, things will shift. Our family will feel more in balance. She will get my stupid jokes and I will be celebrated for the rock star that I am.
But, when that time comes, I will still insist that my showers remain private.