My husband, son and I have recently rediscovered the public library. Our 2.5 year old is book obsessed and we have come to realize that taking books out for a couple weeks and cycling them through is a much better way to keep him, and us, from always reading the same books.
One recent book we took out was about a girl with two dads who is asked by a friend what each of her dads does for her. While not a very well written or drawn book, it did bring up memories of when we becoming two dads upon adopting our son.
In those first few weeks and months, many people, mostly women and mothers, wanted to know who was going to do each of the things they felt were key to rearing an infant. Who was going to change diapers? Who was doing the night feedings? Who was going to hug and nurture him? We understood that we were an anomaly, much like a puppy in a window of the pet-store, and they were genuinely curious – they wanted to watch and understand how this whole thing would play out.
However, on more than one occasion, the really bold and shameless people asked us directly who was going to “be the mom” in the relationship. In retrospect, I probably should have been offended or pissed off at such a comment – but at that time was too tired (we shared night feedings) and too elated to be a dad, that I let it slide. It does amaze me how so many people still cling to the rigid idea of strict gender roles in child rearing.
What I knew as a trained social worker and from a career working with kids for 15 years is that there are no roles, tasks or duties that are or should be exclusively assigned to me because of my gender. And, this belief has been confirmed for me now by being a dad. Good parents do everything!
Two dads, different roles
There are things that I am better at than my partner. I’m better at doing bath time (my partner dislikes being wet) and he is better at reading bedtime books (I fall asleep – very Pavlovian I know!). My partner is in charge of our son’s religious education (he has an alter boy’s knowledge and passion), and I get to expose him to foreign cultures (I am Canadian). But neither of us is “the mother” in our house – our son has two dads.
We have been deliberate about making sure that there are caring females in his life too. He has two amazing godmothers, all of his teachers at school have been female, there is no shortage of fun and engaging aunts and grandmothers, and we have a very strong relationship with his birth mother.
I am not sure anymore what the term primary caregiver means. Great parents are those that are fully engaged and involved in their child’s life, amazing parents have a personal and unique relationship with their child, and they could do anything their child needed done. My husband and I are in a state of constant negotiation and deliberation about all the things we need to do for and with our son, and from what I have seen – we will be doing this until he graduates college and moves out, and maybe longer.
I feel now, and I know my husband agrees, the most important role for both of us in our son’s life is to make sure he is safe and happy, and to role model what it means to be good man, a caring member of the community … and to return library books on time.
About the Author
Marty Forth is a Canadian living on the Upper West Side of New York City with his husband Patrick and their two and half year old son Grayson. Marty is a licensed Social Worker who specializes in youth, teens and families and has worked for the YMCA for more than 15 years. Photo on Foter.com