Monday, February 17, 2014

Parenthood: Week 38 – The Guy On The Golf Course

My dad is a member of a country club and now that he’s retired he plays golf almost every single day. A couple months ago he noticed a younger member being around the club much more than usual and my dad asked him why. “Oh, it’s because my wife just had a baby, so I have paternity leave from work, so I get more time out here on the course.”

We all have choices when it come to being a parent but it seems like that men have more choices than woman. The vast majority of single parents are in fact woman, not men. Maybe it’s biology or maybe it’s society but men have a lot easier time walking away from fatherhood. Yes, abandoning your family as a dad is pretty shameful but the idea of a woman walking out on her children is much worse.

Women spend their time on maternity leave recovering from a major medical event. It’s different for every woman the amount of time that they need to recover physically and mentally. The only thing a man really has to recover from is a couple sleepless nights.

I feel incredibly blessed to have had a paternity leave. It angers and frustrates me that other men take advantage of this time to slack off. We say as a society that men are important in their children’s’ lives so there has been a movement for more paternity leave, but if guys keep abusing it like the idiot talking to my dad, then it’ll all be for naught.

Woman often end up being the default child-care specialist in the house. The woman is the one who knows what sized diapers the baby is wearing, what the nap schedule is and which clothes fit. Some of this is woman not letting men play a bigger role and some of this is guys not stepping up.  Many woman, instead of making a stand about it by letting the kid suffer, just makes things happen letting the man off the hook.

Diana’s around the house more and the fact that Ollie is breast-fed means that she has in some ways better knowledge of how to take care of Ollie. Sometimes this is hard because I don’t want to be the secondary parent but I feel that Diana makes an effort so that I don’t feel that way. It’s in the little things like letting me pick out his outfit or asking my opinion on the color of a baby carrier.

There’s so much inequality built into parenting. We aren’t only dealing with biological reasons but the reality of our society. How can we ask a culture which isn’t making a concerted effort for woman to play active roles in their children’s lives to truly value men as active parents? Three months maternity leave is ridiculous and there is more economic disincentive to have children more than ever.

All of these issues damage men as well and the place them further back into gender roles of the past that are detrimental to our own potential as fathers and leave us with less choice.

We all deserve choice when it comes to being a parent. Part of me needs to be okay with the fact that a guy wasted his paternity leave playing golf in the same way that a mom needs to be okay with another mom having a live-in nanny.

Another part of me doesn’t think that being involved should be a choice. No one forces people to be parents. The choice is having a kid, anything beyond that isn’t a choice you get to make. Taking care of your kid, actually helping during your paternity leave, these aren't choices; these are consequences of the choice you made to have a kid in the first place. You can’t dodge them and if you do, the consequences should be dire.

Man up. Take care of your wife and your kid. If you don’t want to deal with that responsibility, be enough of a man to have that difficult conversation and make choices to make sure that you don’t have a child. If we don’t think about our choices and take responsibility for our actions we are hurting the choices and opportunities that future generations of men will have.

To that guy who spent his time on the golf course instead of at home after your baby was born:  There’s no way to describe what you missed out on. Someday your child is going to do something incredibly selfish and you will get frustrated and you will have no idea why he is acting that way. I just hope by that point you will realize why, but you probably won't as you escape to the golf course and continue to search for some meaning in struggling to get a ball into a hole, only to lift it out and try again.  

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