Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. It seems to me that there once was a time — now, this was decades ago, mind you — when, if a father did anything out of the ordinary, he was commended and praised for going above and beyond.
I’ve heard stories from my own parents and grandparents about how, in “the old days,” society just universally accepted the fact that dads worked and moms took care of the house and children. It wasn’t that men in the first half of the 20th century were lazy or uninterested in their families, they simply were not expected to cook meals, wash dishes, bathe children or do laundry. Dads were breadwinners. They made ends meet.
Boy, am I glad 2014 is a far cry from 1950. The shift in society’s expectations of fathers, although gradual, couldn’t be more different now. Even my own grandfather, a World War II veteran born in 1915, eventually embraced our culture’s changing attitudes. Although he provided for his family for decades while his wife attended to their home and children, my grandparents actually ended up being a bit ahead of their time. My grandma earned a college degree, worked outside the home as a registered nurse and, as far as I know, was regarded by my grandpa as his equal partner, not his maid.
Although they’ve both passed away, I have fond memories of my grandpa teaching my sister and I how to make simple dishes, such as
Jell-O salad and chocolate pudding. He helped with some meals and tidied up the house. As a little girl, it never occurred to me that his behavior was innovative or “modern.” It was simply what he needed to do to help my grandma, who was diagnosed with cancer in her early 70s and couldn’t always keep up with household tasks.
My own father set the bar even higher. He’s retired now, but, for about 30 years, worked as a high-school science teacher. Because he got home from work several hours earlier than my mom, he prepared dinner most evenings. My dad served after-school snacks, made sure homework was finished, restricted TV access and usually squeezed in a load of laundry each afternoon.
Every summer, when school was out, my dad was home with us. He dropped us off at sports practices, friends’ houses and, when my sister and I really pleaded, the mall. Dad fixed lunch every day, encouraged us to go outside and run around or swim instead of playing video games, required us to participate in our local library’s summer reading program and expected my siblings and I to help with chores, such as caring for our pets and organizing our rooms.
I’m so grateful for having grown up in an equal-partnership household. Because of the impressions my grandfather and father’s behavior left on me, I’ve come to expect the same cooperation and support from my own husband. And, most of the time, he doesn’t let me down.
Although I typically handle meal preparation, grocery shopping, bill paying and cleaning our house, my husband takes our daughter to and from day care every day, splits the laundry and dishwashing with me, takes out the trash, handles all the yard work, bathes and cares for our daughter just as often as I do, feeds our pets and, thankfully, keeps our cat’s litter box clean — the one task I simply cannot bring myself to deal with.
Best of all, my husband is setting a great example for our little girl by chipping in and helping out on a daily basis. Hopefully, if she does choose to get married, she’ll one day settle on a partner who is just as eager to share the load.
My husband more than deserves today’s long-awaited Father’s Day trip to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, where, I’ve already promised him, he will not be made to share his fries. I’ll get my own, even though I’m of the opinion a single order of the eatery’s deep-fried, thick-cut spuds easily could feed three people. He disagrees with me on this.
So dads, whether it’s an indulgent meal, an afternoon nap or a day free of errands and obligations, I hope you get to enjoy the treat of your choice today.