Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2004 / 4 Kislev, 5765
Issac J. Bailey
'Good dad' role isn't superhuman
I had Lyric, my 4-month-old daughter, strapped to my chest in a baby carrier while leading Kyle, my 3-year-old son, by the hand through the mall when a woman looked my way and paid me a compliment.
"You're such a good dad," she said.
I thanked her and kept heading toward the bookstore. I think we were there to give my wife, Tracy - a former professional turned stay-at-home mom - a much-needed break.
I didn't think much about the compliment until a while later, when another woman in another mall essentially told me the same thing. And another in the park and another at the gas station and another in the neighborhood ...
But I didn't figure out what they were really saying until recently. The three of us, Kyle in a high chair and Lyric in a car seat, were in a restaurant when a waitress asked: "Did something happen to their mother?"
It's almost as though they all think it strange, the sight of a man with his kids when Mom's not around, as though we're alien to the human race.
I get that for too long and for too many women, child rearing has been and is a solo or almost-solo operation and that the more common sight is a woman carrying a child on her hip or pushing one in a stroller. I get that too many men have walked away from responsibilities or failed to live up to them even when they are present.
I get that.
But I'm a father. A dad. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing to stare at or wildly compliment or wonder aloud about. Not superman. I'm just a man who feels torn about our decision to have Tracy stay at home full time - and the accompanying sacrifices of salary, retirement savings and my wife's professional attainment - and the desire to spend more time with the woman I vowed to be with the rest of my life and the kids I brought into this world to enjoy.
I'm just a man who wonders whether he gets too frustrated when Kyle wets the bed or Lyric cries at 3 a.m. or when I feel compelled to do the dishes before heading to the office or when my wife seems worn out from a long week made longer because I've called home on multiple days to say I'm going to be late because my job demands it. Just a man who feels a twinge of guilt when his son says, "Daddy, please don't go to work today."
I'm just struggling to juggle the responsibilities of life, hoping and praying my chosen sacrifices are the correct ones.
In other words, I'm just like you.
Issac J. Bailey is a columnist for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News. Comment by clicking here.
Vote, but don't fool yourself
11/02/04: Have faith in having faith
09/29/04: Conditioning doesn't equal racism
09/22/04: My brother belonged in jail
09/15/04: Tiny miracles remind us of life's choices
05/04/04: What about the rights of dads-to-be?
© The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.).
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.