Thomas is quite excited about being a father. He loves to cuddle Adam, lets him nap on his chest, changes his diapers and gives him his baths. In the last two weeks, he’s taken on tasks that are usually mine and cooked, shopped for groceries and cleaned so I was free to nurse and cuddle Adam. I am thankful that he is my partner in this new adventure. Am I surprised at Thomas’ involvement? No, not really.
I find people (including our family) are surprised that Thomas is acting as… well, a parent. Mom as Parent/Dad as Babysitter is not a new topic but I thought people who knew us, knew him, would know better. I don’t know how I could do this alone, while my husband played video games or went out with friends or any number of other things that he could choose to do. A nursing mother is crucially tied to caring for her baby, but a father has a choice. I don’t think I would have a baby if the father wasn’t as excited and committed as I am. Doesn’t a child deserve a father’s love and affection just as much as his mother’s? Why don’t we have this expectation for men?
There was an article today in the Toronto Star about the “systematic erosion of the human rights of women and girls in Canada.” According to the World Forum’s gender-gap index, Canada has dropped to 25th place (from 14th in 2006), in terms of wages, education, health and political power. The changes that lead to this drop has a significant impact on single mothers – lack of subsides child care playing a large part. Alone, how can a mother work or go to school? How can any mother excel in any field if she is holding up more than her fair share at home? A father can be admired for his ambition but the same drive in a mother is seen as neglectful.
I’ve always wanted to stay home. I worked for years and worked in challenging and interesting jobs but a quality home life was always more important to me. When I worked, I did the shopping, cooking, laundry and cleaned and Thomas and I shared other duties. We spent more, ate out more, lived in less tidy home and spent less time together. Staying home, I have more time to do the chores so when Thomas is home at the end of the day, we can both relax and enjoy each other and our family. I embrace my new position as a job and put as much effort into saving and stretching Thomas’ paycheck as I would into any 9-to-5 occupation.
So while I’ve appreciate all of Thomas’ help with chores and errands while I recover from childbirth and adjust to motherhood, I’m happy to be back at my stay-at-home job. We have a traditional arrangement but I had the choice. Perhaps our erosion of a women’s rights is that we don’t expect enough from men. Perhaps the issue isn’t can women be more like men, perhaps we need to expect men to be more like women.