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Parental Indiscretion

Go Ask Dad


Published:

Illustration by Kristina Micotti

Rachel Laing

t’s Father’s Day this month, so obviously the best way to honor San Diego dads is to tell you guys to step up and do more.

You’re probably thinking: “Rachel, you shouldn’t have!” Or maybe, “Honey, cancel our subscription.” But bear with me.

My dad was highly competent in the traditional manstuff. He fixed the toilet, got under the hood of a car, repaired the garbage disposal, mowed the lawn. Like many dads of that era, he taught his three daughters to ride a bike by pushing us down a hill (worked!) and to swim by throwing us in the deep end and letting nature take over (didn’t work).

But he also cooked dinner every night. He mopped the floors, did the laundry, and helped us with our school projects. He did all the grocery shopping, including putting tampons in the cart without embarrassment. He was the parent whose intuition saved me from dying of meningitis as a baby and who, for several months, performed nightly rescues from the parade of vampires passing through my bedroom.

This was in the 1970s and ’80s, when the notion of a man in charge of the household was fodder for hilariously awkward scenes in movies. Who could forget the pitiful Ted Kramer flubbing the making of French toast in Kramer vs. Kramer, or the entire 1983 comedy Mr. Mom, which was predicated on a Detroit dad’s attempt to—can you imagine?—care for his own children and keep house.

There was no divorce or layoff spurring my dad to take on the traditional mom role. He had a good job as an engineer—one that paid his brilliant wife’s way through law school when I was a toddler. My mom wasn’t just striving for her own career success; she knew she was also blazing a trail. She felt obligated to work twice as hard as the men in her office, and she did. Somebody had to take care of the home and the kids, so my dad did it—without whining or resentment.

With most American households now dual-income, we imagine we’ve come a long way. But the idea that Mom has to be the default parent persists. I see it all the time. One girlfriend, a CEO, recently told me she couldn’t attend a daytime function because she couldn’t possibly leave her husband in charge of the kids without help.
When I’m at evening work events, I’m often asked where my kids are. Sometimes people even ask if my husband is “babysitting.” No, he is being his children’s father. And here’s the thing: He’s great at it. There are so many things he does around the house and with our kids better than I. We are all better for his full participation in housework and childrearing.

He wouldn’t be doing so much if I were like some moms I know who assume their kids’ fathers are incompetent. I could have run myself ragged trying to do it all, and Greg probably would have let me. But I had a great example, and now my kids have one, too.

So moms, step aside and let the fathers show you how it’s done. They’ve got this.

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