BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
Dad’s count as real help! Parenting is very complex and encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities which are split differently depending on the family structure and what simply works best for everyone. However, it was made evident to me that there are people (I hope a small group) that assume that dads just cannot/will not/should not complete certain tasks. I understand that men are not typically seen as nurturing, and may cringe at the idea of completing domestic tasks like cleaning and laundry. But honestly, gender aside, who really enjoys doing these things anyway?(Except your mom, she gets an inexplicable satisfaction from cleaning). However, this is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”. This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family. That may include bringing a mastodon back to the cave for food or just changing a diaper. Simply put, a new breed of modern men exist and are thriving.
Mom, you need HELP!
It all started around Mami’s 36 week pregnancy check-up with Deuce. The appointment started off very routine with the doctor asking how things were progressing, checking Deuces heart beat and the usual “look under the hood”. The mood of the check-up changed when the doctor used the dreaded “B” word, BEDREST. Honestly, after understanding it was strictly precautionary to get as close to the 40 week mark as possible and that Deuce was healthy and thriving, my next emotion was jealousy. Imagine not going to work, chilling in bed with a bell to ring for someone to address your every need, and endless hours of Netflix and DVR binge watching. It sounded like a mini vacation to me; except for the whole human growing inside of you thing.
I quickly snapped out of my haze as the doctor began listing activities Mami should avoid while on bedrest. As the list grew longer with orders like “do not pick up/carry your toddler, no vacuuming and no bending over”, I started a mental list of tasks I would need to take over. Then came the slap in the face…the doctor finished the list and asked Mami, (as if I wasn’t in the room), “do you have any real help close by, like your mom?” After glancing over to me with a puzzled look, Mami stated “no, my mom is not close by…”
In my opinion, I was expecting the doctor to turn to me and say “Ok dad, your time to shine!” It didn’t. She started to explain how Mami could do modified tasks while on bedrest. The modified task that insulted me the most was cooking. She highlighted that Mami could season and prepare the food on the counter and cook on the stove top, but I would need to hand her any pots and place the food in the oven because she shouldn’t bend over. While annoyed, I tried not to take it personal assuming she was under the pretense that women do all the cooking in the home, and this may be a valid concern for some pregnant moms.
Not Another One
Let’s fast forward to the delivery room the morning after Deuce’s birth. As usual, the nurse arrived to check on Mami and Deuce, and after going over a few documents and ensuring that feeding and bowel movements were occurring regularly (for Deuce not Mami), the nurse asked Mami if anyone was in town or close by to help her. Mami stated that ‘Abuela’ was in town, which prompted the nurse to respond “glad you’ve got some help here”…again…as if I wasn’t in the room.
Obviously every helping hand is welcome when bringing a new baby home, especially when this is the second one and we, as a family, could use all the help we can get from whoever is willing. It takes a village. But, dads count as help too! Maybe I’m reading into the nurse’s comments too much given the encounter with the doctor. And it’s possible that I read too much into the doctor’s comments as well, but either way a dad is part of the family team and not a liability when it comes to domestic responsibilities.
“You ‘gon Learn Today”
As a self-proclaimed SSM, “Self-Sustained Man”, I cannot stress the importance of learning how to complete domestic tasks. As your father, I never want you to be in a situation where you can’t be of help to your family or to yourself for that matter. So as my parents taught me, I will transfer that knowledge to you. Let the record show I am doing this in the spirit of caring, but at times, I know it may seem like punishment when I am making you do chores. Just remember that one of the best ways to learn is to do. The following is a list of tasks that will serve you well throughout your life and you can “help” with when you have your own family.
Cooking: I learned the basics of cooking from watching your grandparents when I was young, but my love of food is what really got me into cooking. During the holidays, I would spend time trying to help in the kitchen while asking a lot of questions to your great aunts/uncles and great-grandma as they cooked my favorite dishes. Whether it was Aunt P’s macaroni and cheese, Aunt L’s dumplings or Grandma’s honey ham, I wanted to recreate those dishes because once a year was not enough. I didn’t realize until I was older that what I learned growing up can save money, make me feel like I am back home or in a particular place/time, and can even impress the ladies (like Mami and your grandma of course).
Laundry: This is a big one! For me, I do laundry for a few reasons, first I don’t want Mami touching my gym clothes. They are usually soaked from sweat and have a smell of…. progress to them. I personally feel that if she was subject to that encounter every week she would begin to resent me. Secondly, one time she washed my clothes and she didn’t empty my pockets and there went my wallet…so yea, I just do it. Doing my own laundry served me well, especially when puberty hit, but that subject is for another day. Just know, it’s probably better for all involved for you to wash your on clothes and bedding yourself than to subject one of us to it. Laundry is quite simple, the daunting part is separating everything and putting it away after it’s done in a timely matter.
Ironing: There is nothing like a fresh pressed shirt, even if it’s a t-shirt, but it does take a little effort. While putting it in the dryer and taking it out right after works to get out wrinkles, a method I’ve used since middle school, it just doesn’t give it the clean professional look you get with an iron. What I have learned though, is that ironing men and kids clothes is a lot easier than Mami’s. Be thankful that you won’t have those problems because I still don’t know how to iron a dress with all those creases.
Dishes: I’m going to pull the “you have it easy because back in my day” card. Growing up your grandpa used to say “I don’t need a (machine) dishwasher, I have 6 of them right here”. If you don’t get the reference he is referring to me and your uncles. We got to the point where we used an assembly line with one person washing, another rinsing and the last person drying and putting the dishes away. It wasn’t until college that I learned how to use a dishwasher. However, you’ll still have to rinse off the food and give it a quick wash with the sponge and soap before running the dishwasher to sanitize the dishes.
Cleaning: Cleaning is a broad term, and depending on the room, the tasks change. In the bathroom you’ll have to scrub the tub/shower, sink, toilet, and don’t forget to wipe the toothpaste splatter off the mirror. In the bedroom you’ll need to just keep the floor clear of toys and other objects that will cause me pain when walking in the dark. Also, make sure your clothes are put away because you can’t have a “chair closet” until you’re grown. Don’t forget to make your bed and don’t worry, hospital corners are only for show and not practical. Just keep the Living room in order and you’re done. The dining room and den, well those rooms are just for show per your mom, so just keep them dust free. Speaking of dusting, all furniture in the rooms will need to be wiped down and the floors will need to be swept and mopped or just vacuumed pending on the floor type.
There are levels to cleaning, but understand if company is coming over, Mami goes into sanitation inspection manager mode and will expect a deep clean. Honestly, my standard for what is considered clean is not to your Mami’s standards. I don’t think anyone meets her standards, but she will try and teach you, I can assure you of that. Clean to her standard and you’ll be fine.
Sewing: When I say sewing I am not referring to operating a sewing machine because I don’t have one nor do I know how to use one. However, your great grandma had one and created awesome patch quilts, but her impact on me is for a different time. In short, you will need to learn how to use a needle and thread to sew holes, put on buttons, fix a broken zipper or hem pants if you’re feeling adventurous. As a parent this skill can be used to conduct eye surgery to give sight back to toys or to ensure they don’t lose their internal organs. To me, sewing is a lost art, but the trick is always being able to thread the needle.
In college, I witnessed firsthand, other kids that couldn’t do for themselves. Some were unable to do laundry and literally going home every other weekend just so their mom could do it. During ROTC training, some couldn’t iron their uniform or make their bed to save their life. While I learned all these tasks for different reasons, whether it was because I liked cooking or because I was forced to scrub a tub, they have all served me well once I was out on my own. Again, this is not to be seen as “chores” or “punishment”, this is us (no pun intended, but also the name of one of the best shows ever! Find it. Watch it. See your life change) fully equipping you with the ability to be self-sustaining men and “Real Help” to your families.
Love you both to “Infinity…and Beyond”