Tomorrow we celebrate my dad’s 67th birthday. He’s still going to the same building he’s gone to since July of 1964, getting paid to do the same job he went through a journeymen apprenticeship to do. He complains about it, sure. But regardless of how lousy the folks are that he reports to, or the folks he works with, he still goes in and does the job. Even at retirement age he still works weekends, off-shifts, through holidays and family get-togethers. He does it not because he’s what you call a “company man”. No, he does it out of a sense of responsibility. That was his role. To make money in order to support a wife and two sons. Did he play this role at times too well? So as to maybe not help out enough with housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, and all those little things like consoling a sick kid or maybe step in when the other kid may be doing things he shouldn’t do? Maybe, but I can’t hold those things against him. He was and is a loving dad, and would do anything for his family. Those are the attributes that really matter.
I can’t compare the kind of dad my dad was with me to what sort of dad I am to my own kids. It just can’t be done, as its different times. Roles have decidedly changed in that unique bond of marriage. Things aren’t so black and white anymore. It used to be the dad would work, come home, have a drink, smoke in his chair while reading the paper, eat dinner, then go to bed; while the mom cooked the dinner, helped the kids with homework, cleaned up dinner, etc….those were the parental roles. Now, if you have two people that are married and love and respect each other they share those roles. For most families, having one spouse stay at home and take care of the kids these days just isn’t financially feasible. Fortunately for us(my wife and I), we were able to do that. We both had great jobs when my wife had gotten pregnant. After going through a miscarriage the year before we were extremely cautious this time around. She left the supervisory job she was working in for a job in the office where she could sit and not be on her feet all day; where as I left my auditing position in the same company, where I traveled -often to the west coast- every couple of weeks. I took a job as a receiving clerk so I could be home during the pregnancy in case something happened to my wife or the baby. Our daughter was born and when it was time for my wife to return to work she just couldn’t do it. So we sold some stocks and paid off our cars and got rid of our debt and started a new life raising a beautiful baby girl. We chose raising our baby ourselves over being financially comfortable. That was the kind of home we wanted our child raised in. In a lot of ways, it was the influence my parents had on me that made me want to be that kind of parent. I’d never judge any couple that would choose the financial route over the nurturing route. It’s a hell of a lot easier when you have a nice chunk of change in the bank. But that was secondary to knowing our baby was safe at home with one of us. After having two more kids my wife went back to semi-employment; though she worked afternoons to evenings so I could be home from work in time so the kids would always have a parent at home.
It’s still this way to this day.
My dad was in a generation between the Cleavers and the Mr. Moms. Sure, he worked and came home and read the paper while my mom took care of the home we lived in. She made sure there was a hot meal every night, clean clothes in the dresser, and a hug before bed. But dad had a hug for us, too. He also helped with homework. He taught me the value of taking care of the things that bring you happiness. For him(besides his family, I’m sure) it was his cars. For me it was my toys. He showed me how to properly wash a car, how to change the oil, and how to throw a football. He taught me to stand up for myself. Think my own thoughts and not let anyone think for me. He taught me how to grill and enjoy a beer. He also gave me the love of music, keeping my childhood filled with ample vinyl. So, did my dad do laundry and clean the house? Not really. But he taught me to respect and care for those around me, which helped steer me to where I am now.
I might’ve gotten off point. I guess what I’m saying is that I may do more with the kids and housework and grocery shopping and nurturing than my dad may have done, but he still played a huge part in the dad I am. I too work for and with lousy folks, yet I still report to work everyday. Not because I’m a dedicated “company man”, but because I’m a dedicated family man. I owe it to my wife and kids to go to work and make a living. My dad taught me that.
Now I gotta go. There’s laundry to do.