No Thanks, Hallmark

Sunday marked the 20th time that I was fortunate enough to celebrate Father’s Day as a father. It also marked the lamest Father’s Day that I can recall. But that’s okay. I’ve come to accept that reality. All day long my Facebook newsfeed was filled with dozens, if not hundreds, of friends writing beautiful posts that honored the men in their lives as wonderful and amazing fathers and husbands. Many of my friends in the blogging community wrote marvelous pieces about their own dads in the weeks leading up to this Hallmark holiday. If you’ve read my blog you know that I’m not much of a fan of these contrived holidays that try to guilt people into buying Mom or Dad expensive stuff or cards as the way to express their love. Instead, I’m all about actually telling your loved ones how you feel and spending time with them. Gifts are not necessary if you’re showing your loved ones how much you care more than just one day a year!

That said, I think it’s nice to recognize moms and dads and to make them feel extra special and extra appreciated for all that they do for us. Again, it’s not about the commercialization of it, but rather about meaningful and purposeful interactions. The commercial lead-up to Mother’s Day is all about giving Mom a break, pampering her with a trip to a spa, showing her how much she means to her family. By contrast, it seems as though Father’s Day is all about Dad spending time with his family. Grilling. Going to a ball game or the beach. Hanging out at the pool. Doing “manly” stuff with the family. What’s interesting to note, though, is how we Stay At Home Dads are treated on Father’s Day. For many of us, Father’s Day is just another day. We still do our regular day-to-day things. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Childcare. Same old same old. My wife remembered that it was Father’s Day shortly after we woke up and wished me a happy Father’s Day while waving our one year old’s hand at me. My other kids each verbally told me the same when they saw me the first time that morning. But that was pretty much the extent of any “celebration” at home. Lots of people at church wished me a happy Father’s Day and said some very nice things about me as a person and as a father. And then it was back home, where I fed the kids lunch, changed more diapers, unloaded the dishwasher and finally sat on the sofa, holding my baby in my arms as she fell asleep for her afternoon nap. My wife arrived home from work mid-nap so we chatted for a little bit, which was nice, considering it’s not often that all the kids are quiet at the same time and we’re awake and able to converse. Once my baby awoke I loaded and started the second load of dishes in the dishwasher. Then I made a spectacular dinner of cedar plank grilled Alaskan salmon and noodles to go with freshly-picked sugar snap peas from our garden. As we were eating our dinner the kids were discussing the tasty salmon.

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This is really good. Almost as good as a restaurant. Don’t you agree?

My wife actually indicated that it might have been even better than any salmon she’s ever had from a restaurant. It was as close to a compliment that I was going to get, and it made me feel so much better. Of course, running through my head moments later was the long list of stuff that still needed to get done before I went to bed. Among them was unloading and reloading (for the third time in 24 hours) the dishwasher. Putting away the dinner leftovers. Doing the hand-wash dishes. Tidying up the rest of the clutter on the main floor. Oh, and helping my daughter put the finishing touches on her World War I diorama. And, I really wanted to find some time to write since it had been a week since my last post. I was actually starting to resent the fact that no one was making a big deal about me today. I working up some seriously (self-) righteous indignation about my “perceived” injustice of this lame Father’s Day. It was after helping with the diorama that I showered my baby and then snuggled her to sleep on the sofa (again). Since I was immobile then, I checked in on Facebook. I read a thread to a group of SAHDs, some of whom were also having to cook and clean and take care of their kids on this Special Day. Then I read a post from Chris Routly of Daddy Doctrines blog, a fellow SAHD and blogger, a guy I’m fortunate enough to call a friend. Here are his words, used with his permission.

Just want to wish all of you, my stay-at-home-brothers, a huge Happy Father’s Day. I hope you’ve been spoiled and showered with encouragement and recognition for the important role you play.

That said, I know that for many of us, today is a bittersweet day, where what we contribute EVERY day of the year is mostly overlooked while we see dads get honored for being breadwinners and providers, not for their ability and willingness to put the needs of their child before their own. For some of us the only difference today was we maybe got a card, but not a lot of specific thanks of recognition. Somehow many of us still ended up cooking and cleaning and minding the kids.

And so I just want to let you know that WE all see what you do. WE appreciate your hard work and sacrifice and the often thankless nature of this role you’ve taken on.

The truth is, we’re a lucky bunch. Many, many working dads look forward to Father’s Day not so much for a gift or a steak or maybe a little action between the sheets, but because it means he gets to unabashedly delight in his kids for a day.

Us? We get to do that every day.

Happy Father’s Day, brothers.

There is was. TRUTH. PERSPECTIVE. I needed the reminder that I don’t do what I do for the recognition from others. Not even my own family. Yet, I do it for my family. It’s the role that I chose 14 years ago and choose to continue to choose now and for the foreseeable future. I am blessed with a hard-working wife who has a great job which allows me the opportunity to be home with our children. I get to be active and involved in the lives of my kids. I am exponentially closer to them because I’m a SAHD than I would be if were going off to work every day outside of the house. And the reality is, I do delight in my kids every single day. We laugh and love all the time. I am constantly entertained by them and their silly senses of humor. So, Hallmark can keep its cards. I don’t need any card or t-shirt to tell me that I’m the “World’s Greatest Dad” or “#1 Dad”. Nope. All I needed was right in front of me the whole time. I just wasn’t seeing it properly. Snuggling with my baby like that while she napped was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. Truly, I’m blessed beyond belief to be called “Daddy” by my six wonderful children.

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Good Bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Holding Dad's Hand

My dad passed away seven years ago today. It’s hard to put into words how much I miss him or how often I think of him. Like all of us, he was not a perfect person. He was flawed. Yet, I knew without a doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. How did I know that? Because he got pancreatic cancer that ultimately took his life. But, in the six weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his passing I was able to spend a lot of time with him. At that time I lived two hours away, so I was able to make frequent day trips with my two year old son (pictured) to visit him. y dad was about 10 days from his death, and his body was being ravaged by the effects of the cancer. His skin was turning orange. He lost so much weight that he looked like a concentration camp survivor. And his once-sharp mind was failing, leaving only fleeting moments of lucidity. It was so hard to watch this man I loved all my life suffer while there was nothing I could do to help him. It was during one of those visits at the Hospice facility that my dad had a brief but oh-so-meaningful conversation with me.

He awoke from his sleep and smiled upon seeing me at his bedside, not remembering that I had been there for several hours already that day. I didn’t know if he was going to talk or go back to sleep, but he spoke, asking about how my family was doing. After my reply he proceeded to tell me that he was very proud the man I had become; of my choice to become a Stay At Home Dad six years before. He continued to tell me that he thought I was a good husband and father and that he was pleased with me. This was new to me, as he had not been very verbally supportive of either my college major (Elementary Education) or my career change (teacher to SAHD). He finished by looking me in the eyes, pulling me in for an embrace, and whispering faintly into my ear, “I love you, Carl.” It was the last meaningful conversation I would have with my dad.

Nine days later, on the evening of May 12, my mom called to tell me that the Hospice staff had called her to let her know that they didn’t think my dad would live much longer. Since the next day was Mother’s Day, I was already planning on driving up to see my mom (and dad). But, after her phone call, I left a bit sooner, arriving at the Hospice center around 11 pm. I entered my dad’s room to find my mom and younger brother (and his wife and young son) already there by his bed. We exchanged hugs and kisses and chatted for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes of silence, we decided to sing a few hymns that were among my dad’s favorites, as music had always been a big part of his life. Once the songs were sung, my brother left to take his family back to my parents’ house so they could sleep (my brother would return). My mom and I sat quietly on either side of my dad’s bed, each of us holding one of his hands as he lay in an unresponsive slumber, the silence only broken by each of his labored breaths. We knew that his time was near. As it was already well past midnight by this time, I quietly noted “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom.

A little after t 1 am that night I noticed that my dad’s breathing had slowed considerably. I held my mom’s hand while we both held my dad’s hands and said a quick prayer, asking God to take my dad home soon so that he wouldn’t suffer any longer. Minutes later, while we were singing a solemn “Amazing Grace” between tears and deep breaths, my dad breathed his last breaths and entered his new home. It was the most sacred and solemn moment of my entire life, to be with a loved one, praying him into the Kingdom. I take great comfort in my faith, believing that I will see my dad again, only this time it will be in Heaven and he won’t be suffering. Later that day, while talking with my kids on the phone about what had happened during the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, one of my kids said something that changed my perspective about the sadness of him dying on Mother’s Day. “It’s okay, Daddy. Now Papa gets to spend Mother’s Day with his mommy in Heaven.”

Good bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Thank you, Mom

Dear Mom,

Today is Mother’s Day and I didn’t get you anything. Not even a card. And I’m not sorry. It was suggested that I order some flowers for you but I couldn’t do that after what I wrote just a few days ago without being a complete hypocrite. Mother’s Day isn’t about giving your mom flowers or jewelry any more than Father’s Day is about giving your dad a new tie or tool. I’ve come to realize it’s about showing genuine appreciation in honoring someone who has loved me since before I was born and continues to love and support me to this day.

As a child I don’t think I ever really appreciated the hard work and sacrifices you made in order to make my childhood so enjoyable and positive. As the stay at home parent these last 13 years I’ve really grown to understand the enormity of what you did for us. I know it wasn’t always easy or enjoyable for you but I loved having you as my mom. I know that you sacrificed your career to be at home. Thank you for providing the loving environment which allowed us kids to grow and thrive. I can’t speak for my siblings, but I’m glad that you were home with us. While I’m pretty sure you weren’t perfect, I can’t remember a time where you ever lost your patience with us or even yelled at us. And I’m certain that we were angels pretty challenging at times. Remember that time I got Dave and Liz to race around the house but had them crash into each other on purpose? Or when you were in the kitchen and we kids were in the living room slapping our own legs and chests so loudly that you came in ready to punish us for fighting only to find us laughing? Yeah. Sorry. But thanks for being patient with us.

Because of you I have a treasure trove of amazing childhood stories to tell my own kids. Possibly my favorite childhood memory is coming home from school to find the aroma of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through the air the moment I opened the front door. I’d set my backpack down and hurry into the kitchen to give you a hug before scarfing down a dozen, give or take. To this day I think of you every time I make cookies with and for my kids. I hope that they will have positive cookie memories like I do. Even if sometimes I recount the time that my 4 year old brother put some of his chewed gum inside a cookie dough ball and I ate the baked result. Good times.

I always knew that you loved me and were proud of me. I have a distinct memory of you telling me in church one Sunday when I was maybe 10-11 that you liked my singing. Ever since that day, no matter what anyone else might say about my voice, I feel the confidence of your words. Thank you for that boost of confidence, Mom. You were so encouraging in whatever I wanted to do. When Dad didn’t see the merit in my desire to become a teacher you encouraged me to follow my heart, saying that you could see how I’d make a great teacher, citing the example of how I taught my younger sister how to throw a football with a tight spiral. A few years later you were one of my biggest supporters in my decision to quit teaching and become a Stay At Home Dad. Thank you for believing in me when most others doubted.

Finally, thank you, Mom, for being my friend. As a child I never really appreciated you as a person other than “mom”. As an adult and parent myself I have a different perspective. Yes, you’re (obviously) still my mother, but that’s not all. You’re my friend. I love doing stuff with you. I’m glad that we were able to go to a couple of incredible Wisconsin Badgers football games together. Remember that win against #1 ranked Ohio State and how we got to go on the field after the win? UW OSU in stands

Or watching Russell Wilson lead a 4th quarter comeback as Wisconsin won the first Big Ten Championship in 2011? Those big games and wonderful memories associated with them pale in comparison to the many phone calls and in person visits we’ve shared over the years. Going to games and other places or events are nice, but a true relationship and friendship is so much more valuable. Thank you for all of your advice, encouragement, love and support over the years. Even though we’re separated by almost 2,000 miles I don’t know if I’ve ever felt closer to you, Mom. Thanks for all you’ve done for me. I love you. I hope you’re not upset about a lack of card.

Carl

Don’t Wish Me a “Happy Mother’s Day”

Over each of the past 13 years that I’ve been a Stay At Home Dad there’s been at least one person every year who thinks it’s funny to wish me “Happy Mother’s Day, Mr. Mom”. Here’s the scoop. It’s. Not. Funny. The first few times I heard that I laughed at it, in the same way that I laughed at being called a “Mr. Mom”. More cringing than laughing. Then, after it happened a few times I began to think about why it was insulting to moms and dads for me, a dad, to be wished a “Happy Mother’s Day”. This day celebrates moms. All moms. Those who choose to work at home as full time moms and those who choose to work full time outside of the home. And any combination in between. Retired moms. Expecting moms. You get the picture. Just because I have chosen to work in a role that has been traditionally filled by women doesn’t make me a mom. I’m still a dad. And my wife is still a mom.

My friend that I met at the National At Home Dad Network annual convention last October, Mike Andrews, Jr., blogger at Geek Daddio of 4, put into words very nicely what I wanted to say. Check out his full blog entry, Mother’s Day: A day for moms. Not dads. Here’s a quote from that piece.

We handle every aspect of the house while our amazing wives do what needs to be done to ensure there is food in our mouths and clothes on our backs. But I ask this one simple question, Since when does Mother’s Day mean Homemakers Day?

Exactly…It doesn’t

To me, it seems that by giving an at home dad a Mother’s Day gift you are just slapping both, moms and dads, in the face. You are saying, “Dads, you are not man enough and working moms you are not womanly enough because you don’t stay at home.” And that is just wrong. Moms deserve Mother’s Day. It is their day to relax and forget about their problems while the kids serve them. It is a day to honor our mothers and just our mothers. At home dads have their own day, would you give a working mom a Father’s Day card because she is doing a mans job?

In essence, I’m asking you to help end the tired and worn out stereotyping of us SAHDs. It’s 2014. Not 1950. Mr. Mom is dead. Besides, this holiday is all about celebrating and honoring mothers. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Boycott Mother’s Day?

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It’s that time of year again where we’re all reminded to pay homage to moms. There’s even a whole day set aside in one week to recognize how fantastic and wonderful and perfect and amazing moms are and how lucky we are to have them in our lives. While it’s true that none of us would be here if not for our mothers, I find the whole idea of “Mother’s Day” to be quite ridiculous and contrived. Sure, the idea of stopping and showing appreciation for the countless hours and unconditional love is nice. Maybe it’s even something moms look forward to. I know for sure that Hallmark and Kay Jewelers are among the many businesses that pressure us to show our moms (or wives) how much they are appreciated by showering them with cards and expensive gifts and maybe even a special dinner that mom doesn’t have to prepare. But, why? Why only one day in May? I’m not suggesting that we have “Mother’s Day” multiple times each year. What I’m suggesting is that we show our appreciation and love more than one time each year.

How about instead of buying into the commercial aspect of the day we show true appreciation? Write her a letter. (Email doesn’t count.) Take mom for a walk in a park to look at the flowers while you engage in conversation. Make a photo collage or book and give it to her. Don’t buy her flowers or jewelry now (stores jack the prices now for suckers like us). Wait until some other random time (or times) and surprise her with flowers and a note of thanks. Do make her a nice dinner at home. Don’t overpay at some crowded restaurant. Take her out for dinner some other time. If you must eat out, maybe get it to go and make it a picnic at a park. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your mom but you do need to spend your time with her. Celebrate her and help her to know how much you appreciate her. But don’t just do it next Sunday and then wait a whole year to do it again. I assure you that it won’t get old if you do it over and over and over…as long as you mean it. Thank you, moms, for all you do. You are loved and appreciated by this guy.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone actually boycott celebrating Mother’s Day. Like most holidays (Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.) it is the over-the-top commercialization in our culture that I’m railing against. Mothers deserve our highest honor and respect all year long and they don’t need a necklace to prove it…just like I don’t need a tie or some other kitchy thing to prove my worth on Father’s Day.

 

Moms-What do YOU think? Did I get it right or am I way off base? Please let me know. I genuinely am interested in your comments.