Dads Can Handle it, Thanks

Daddyderek Feb 12
COURTESY
Derek James at a recent class party with his 8-year-old son Tyler.

My wife and I love family sitcoms, and not just the most popular ones like “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Cosby Show” and “Modern Family.” That last show is often heralded as the reason the FamCom is currently making a comeback. Our DVR is filled with episodes of “Kevin Can Wait,” “Blackish” and “American Housewife.”

Every one of these shows has a dopey dad who loves his wife and kids more than anything, but is one rung above moose on the “big dumb animal” scale. A lot of guys are offended by these portrayals, but I can take a joke. Most dads I know are pretty good at making fun of themselves. Most days, of course, real fatherhood isn’t nearly as hilarious as it is on television. I don’t think anyone would be interested in watching me work on math homework with one of my boys. At the same time, I should say that most dads aren’t as useless as TV shows would lead to you to believe.

My wife and I do a pretty good job of setting up schedules so we both get a good bit of time with the kids. My morning television work schedule (2:30-11 a.m.) over the years has meant I’m often one of the only dads at school pick-up, class parties, church and extracurricular activities.

When volunteering to help, I am constantly amazed at the sheer number of times that I hear from the moms of the group, “Really?” or are “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m pretty sure I can handle inserting a straw into a juice box (even those crazy Capri Sun pouches) or cutting a star shape out of a piece of paper. I’m not there to sit in the corner with a newspaper and a pipe. Stay-at-home dads know exactly what I’m talking about.

I remember a playground conversation a few years back when my wife was out of town for a couple of days. One of the moms at preschool assumed my boys must have been staying with their grandparents while she was gone. Huh? Dads can handle parenting solo for days at time without outside assistance. I don’t need a five-page list of instructions on how to take care of my own kids by myself. Am I messier, less structured and a little more freewheeling than I should be sometimes? Sure. Am I exhausted, irritable and a little more forgetful? Sure. But the everything-falls-apart-when-mom’s-gone stereotype isn’t reality in our house.

I’m amazed when I hear a mom say something like, “My husband would never be able to handle the kids for a whole day or weekend.” Of course he could. The fact is you don't want to be away from them, he doesn't want to be left with them, or some combination of the two, but trust me … he can do it.

I didn’t write this article looking for an “atta-boy” for being an involved dad. Every day, moms and dads everywhere do a phenomenal job of raising their kids without any help at all. I do think that it’s time we admit most dads are hands-on whether they work full-time or not, and make themselves present in the house. It’s also time we realize Dad is no less capable of parenting than Mom simply because he’s a man. Now where did I put my sons?