It was a question I was
asked often during my first pregnancy. Would I go back to work? Full-time? Part-time? Would I find a new job? Would I stay home with my baby for the first year
or two? Maybe more? Would I work from home?
The choice was mine to
make—how I would achieve my version of “having it all.” Entering the world of
motherhood gave me the freedom to pick a new path, while everyone around me
rooted from the sidelines.
Fatherhood, on the other
hand, did not come with such liberation.
My husband was never once
asked, “What will you do?” because everyone assumed they knew the answer. He
would work, perhaps take on extra shifts or longer hours. He would sacrifice. He
would have less time for himself, less time for his family. He would do what
needed to be done.
There was no talk of
choices or balance, no talk of fulfillment or joy. There was certainly no talk
of “having it all.” That realm of options is reserved for mothers.
Men are completely left
out of the conversation when we talk about “having it all.” A career is
expected, and flexibility is out of the question, even when children become part
of the equation. Paternity leave is a foreign concept. Crossing
the gender divide to become a stay-at-home dad is practically unheard of.
I see men who wish they had the chance to experience fatherhood more fully and a society that robs them of that dream.
While motherhood becomes
a defining trait for a woman, fatherhood is a mere afterthought when defining
men. Even as an increasing number of dads immerse themselves fully in the
duties of parenthood—changing their fair share of diapers, waking for late-night feedings, dressing flailing infant limbs—society still seems to cling
to the notion that dads are the “lesser” parent.
In a recent Pew Research
Study, 76 percent of participants believed children were just as well off if their
father worked compared to a mere 8 percent who said children were better off with
stay-at-home dads. Regardless of the obvious shift in dads becoming more
involved parents and partners, our societal opinion of dads is still entrenched
in old gender stereotypes that men are less nurturing and capable parents.
In my experience,
however, the careless and incompetent dad is more myth than reality. Most often
I see men who crave to be around their children, and who are full of love, nurturing and affection. I see men who wish they had the chance to experience
fatherhood more fully and a society that robs them of that dream.
I think it’s time we
shift the conversation of “having it all” to include men, as fathers and
husbands and individuals. If we really want it all, not just for ourselves but
for our families, we need a society that values men as parents, too. We need to
fight for dads to have the opportunities we have, as well as the opportunities
we’re still striving for.