One father of three on how he and his wife split the primary caregiver role and why that means the world to him.
Our family is in many ways a traditional one in the modern sense. Our extended families are large; thanks to our parents’ generation we have plenty of aunts and uncles and cousins. But I have just one sister, as does Jenn, and between them they have one child. So while I have nearly twenty cousins, our three kids have just one, which is a little bit sad. Family gatherings when I was a boy were large raucous events. My kids will never have that.
Our families are also spread out all over Canada, except for here in Toronto, and so we have been forced to learn how to rely on each other and on our little community in the east end. We both work but Jenn is an oncology nurse at Sick Kids and that means shift work. When it was just the two of us it didn’t really matter, but once we started having kids it became a challenge.
I had always planned on being a fully hands-on dad. When we talked about how we would parent, I emphasized to Jenn that she had to let me be me, just as I had to do with her. We would have common goals and strategies as parents but we would recognize that we were two different people and how we parented would be different. Whenever I give advice to first-time parents-to-be (and I’m a wonderful one for this, you should be warned) I always tell them to trust their partner and to let them be. And I always tell the new dad to take it all on. Get up in the night, change the diapers, do everything that you can because it goes fast and you don’t want to miss out. It’s exhausting but it’s the best thing in the world.
It’s a funny routine we have now. Two or three days a week we look a lot like the old-school traditional family. I go off to work while Jenn is at home. The remainder of the week, and every second or third weekend, I am on my own. She is gone before dawn and home after 8 p.m. at the earliest. It’s not easy, especially on those days where the kids have activities, but I am lucky that I’m able to work from home. It makes for some pretty tiring days but we have always given the kids responsibilities and so they help out a lot—partially because we need them to do so.
The end result is we have a family where Jenn and I split the role of primary caregiver. This is partially out of necessity but also out of choice. By throwing myself into that role from the beginning, I’ve always been engaged in everything to do with my family, as I should be. I hope my son will follow in my footsteps because I’d have it no other way.
This is #1000families post number 61. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.