The See-Saw Effect: Balancing the Daddy and Hubby Roles

I have to be love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success and I have to be the example of those things as well. If I am setting the wrong example, I am probably being the wrong husband. If I am being the wrong husband, I am probably being the wrong example. So the see-saw tips back and forth, but with a little more ease. I’m never going to be the perfect of either, but I can keep the rocking to a minimum. Those relationships are too important to let slip, and too intertwined to let go.

There are many things I was never told about, when it comes to parenting, before I had to experience them for myself. Perhaps it was intended this way because, honestly, the subject I am trying to tackle today is not an easy one. It is probably one of those things I am better off experiencing before the advice rolls in because it is not really something that someone outside can help with.

There are two definitive arguments that surround the topic of balancing being a dad and balancing being a husband. There is the side that says “Children don’t change your relationships, they only make them stronger” and “Children change your entire life and nothing is ever the same again”. Me, I’m with the latter of the two arguments. When you have children, it’s like signing a new job contract. The terms, conditions, and privacy clauses all change, and life starts all over again. Children are not just little beings that grow up in our house. Taking care of them is a full time job of itself. One, that you will never get paid for.

My wife and I had been married almost a year when our first child was born. We were still kind of riding that high of the “we just got married, life has never been better, and things couldn’t be more perfect” when that little pregnancy test told us that it would all change. Of course, times were a little harder for us then, so there was just as much stress as there was joy, but no matter, we were starting to add to our family and start a new life by creating life. Two years and 6 days later, we would have our second child and life would once again start over for us. Now, we would no longer be a family of three. We would be a family of four, with new challenges, and new routines. We would have new responsibilities and new stresses.

At that point, the see-saw tipped, and the back and forth motion began to get stronger. The balance of trying to be the best dad and best husband at the same time was upset, and so was I. To a great extent, I still am, which is why I write this today. It’s a difficult question to answer, there are a strong two-sides to it, and I have even asked many dads in the past to answer it. And this is where I ponder today. Which is more important: being a husband or being a dad? Please feel free to share your thoughts and answer in the comments below.

To me, the answer becomes clearer a little bit at a time. It is of great importance that I strive, strain, and try my best to be the best damn dad I an be for my children. It doesn’t matter if I am the greatest dad in the world, just that my children think so. It is of great importance that I strive, strain, and try my best to be the best damn husband I can be for my wife. It doesn’t matter if I am the greatest husband in the world, just that my wife thinks so. But is it possible to be good at one and not at the other?

My children look to me as the male who will influence them the most on things like love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success. My wife will look to me to be the best of all of these for her as she will need me to be. I look to my wife for the same, as I will need her to be. Being the influence of such strong topics to such strong willed and minded children is a daunting task, and never easy. And when things get rough, they get rough for everyone. When we are hurting, my children are hurting with us.

So the answer, I have to be both. I have to be love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success and I have to be the example of those things as well. If I am setting the wrong example, I am probably being the wrong husband. If I am being the wrong husband, I am probably being the wrong example. So the see-saw tips back and forth, but with a little more ease. I’m never going to be the perfect of either, but I can keep the rocking to a minimum. Those relationships are too important to let slip, and too intertwined to let go.

Doing The Right Thing

This family is bigger than just me, and my desires have to be prioritized against everything else. When the scales tip away from me, it’s time to make sacrifices. There will be other days to do what I want. The books aren’t going anywhere and our DVD collection will stay put. I might be able to lie on the floor with the kids tomorrow, but tonight calls for me to sit on the couch with the wife instead. To me, that’s what doing the right thing means.

One of the central concepts behind the Dad Revolution website is doing the right thing as a father. Let me tell you about a fairly common scenario that helps demonstrate what this means to me.

On my desk at work, I have an electronic picture frame that continuously cycles through family photos. Every snapshot features my wife, daughter, son, or some combination of the three. I normally eat my lunch at my desk, and I’ll spend that time watching the pictures slide by.

A lot of the pictures have specific memories attached to them. There’s a picture where I’m running through a sprinkler in our back yard with our daughter when we lived in Monterey. In the picture, it looks like we’re having a great time, but my memory says, “Wow, she really hated that.” There’s another where my son had fallen asleep in my lap while I was working on my thesis one day. The picture shows a perfect example of a father working while holding his son. In reality, I had to pee so bad that I was in physical pain.

There are even more pictures, however, where there are no memories whatsoever attached to them. These are all a few years old, involve our daughter, and took place at my wife’s parents’ house. They were taken during my third deployment. I’ve deployed twice since my daughter was born, but there weren’t many pictures from the first one. My wife stayed in Virginia, worked full time, and took care of her at night. There just wasn’t much time for photography. That was tough enough that during the next deployment (they were only separated by a couple months), she decided to quit her job and move back to Kansas City with her parents in order to have more support around her. It was a terrific decision, and it allowed her to concentrate more on one of her true loves: photography.

As a result, there are a ton of pictures from that time, and they feature pretty heavily on my electronic frame’s rotation. Every time I see one of the pictures, it’s bitter sweet. My thoughts usually go along the same lines. “My daughter is so beautiful…I wish I would have been there.” Then I immediately start looking at the clock to see how long it is until I can go home. I start imagining all the things that I’m going to do with the kids because I need to enjoy my time with them now. “I’ll walk through the door, change out of my uniform, and then read them a book. After that, I’ll just lie on the floor for awhile and let them crawl on me. Maybe after dinner, we’ll snuggle down on the couch and watch The Emperor’s New Groove. I build up the ideal evening in my head and hurry through the rest of my day. I’ll fight the famous San Diego traffic on the way home anticipating those awesome hugs when I walk through the door. I’ll pull into the driveway, unlock
the door, and…

I can hear our son crying from his bedroom, our daughter is sound asleep, and my wife is sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. As soon as I walk through the door, I get the “Your children…” look. Both kids are terrific by themselves, but they haven’t quite figured out how to play together yet. These sessions almost always end in screams and tears. When that happens, naps, timeouts, and early bedtimes are the normal prescription. I’ll get the story of events, and it will become pretty obvious that the evening I had envisioned is in definite jeopardy.

What’s the right thing to do here? I know what I want to do. I want to go to their bedrooms, pick them both up, give them both hugs, and then play the night away. Maybe I could convince my wife that the punishment is excessive, and get her to relent. I could tell her, “Come on, it’ll be ok, let’s just watch a movie with them.” There are a number of things I could do that would preserve the evening that I had been envisioning all day.

The problem is that absolutely none of those things are fair to my wife or to the kids in the long run. If I go in and start playing with the kids, I’m immediately undermining my wife. I’m teaching the kids that they can do whatever they want during the day because everything will be fine once daddy gets home. That’s immensely unfair to my wife not good for the kids’ future development.

Therefore, I do the right thing. I swallow my disappointment, help my wife enforce the punishment, and sit down beside her on the couch to let her know that I support her. It’s not the easy thing to do, and it’s not what I want to do, but the right thing rarely is. This family is bigger than just me, and my desires have to be prioritized against everything else. When the scales tip away from me, it’s time to make sacrifices. There will be other days to do what I want. The books aren’t going anywhere and our DVD collection will stay put. I might be able to lie on the floor with the kids tomorrow, but tonight calls for me to sit on the couch with the wife instead. To me, that’s what doing the right thing means.

Military Dad

Twitter: @militarydadblog
Website: http://militarydadblog.com

Bio: Military Dad is the proud parent of 2 and husband of 1. He’s spent the last 13 years in the Navy where they keep promoting him despite his best efforts. He is currently enjoying a terrific shore duty with his family. In his free time, he likes tormenting his wife and kids. He loves sharing his experiences as a father and a sailor on his blog: http://militarydadblog.com. Feel free to stop by and take a look.

 

**We are proud to welcome Military Dad as a new contributor to DadRevolution as the site seeks to grow once again. Please take a moment to welcome him to the revolution!**

Greater than the Sum of our Parts

I recently had a guys’ night out. I went to a sports bar with a good friend and watched college football while our wives hung out with the kids. I had a very good time, and while I was sitting there drinking a beer, I tried to remember the last time that I just hung out with the dudes. Apparently, it was a long time ago because I couldn’t recall it. I used to play golf fairly often with another guy, but that was over 2 years ago. With the exception of that, I can’t remember any instances over the past few years where I’ve left the family at home to go enjoy a little testosterone.

Why is that? My wife certainly doesn’t mind. If I were to set up a weekly bowling night or something along those lines, she would be perfectly fine with it (I’m not sure I would be since I’m an awful bowler). I don’t really feel guilty about it. I’ve spent way too much time away from my family to feel bad about missing a couple hours here or there. I have friends in the area that are more than willing to hang out, so what was holding me back? Then, it hit me. The reason that I don’t have more guys’ nights out is that I don’t want to. I honestly prefer the company of my family.

When I first got married, I stopped thinking about myself as an individual (my military background may have helped with this). We were a couple. If I was invited to a party, I assumed that my wife was as well. We became a package deal. To be honest, my wife is absolutely my best friend. A small part of this is due to the fact that we move around so often that it’s hard to maintain solid friendships, but we are always together. The much bigger part, however, is that I absolutely adore my wife and everything about her. We are able to talk about anything, and I trust her implicitly. Given the choice between going to a pub or staying home and watching reruns of Firefly with my wife, she’s going to get the nod pretty much every time. We’ve been married for almost 8 years now, and I still love being around her at all times.

Then, the kids came along and things changed again. We were no longer a couple. We had become a family. If someone invited us to a social gathering, the first words out of our mouth were, “is it ok to bring the kids?” If it wasn’t ok, we simply didn’t go. A lot of people didn’t understand this. We would always hear, “why don’t you just get a babysitter, so you can go out and have some fun?” My answer was always that they are my family and a part of me. If I have to choose between a Super Bowl party without the kids or watching Phineas and Ferb at home with them, I’m probably going to pick the cartoons (unless the Dolphins miraculously made the Super Bowl, in which case, all bets are off).

I realize that this isn’t necessarily the healthiest option. Everyone needs a little downtime, and a nice romantic dinner for two is always appreciated. With that being said, do you know what my wife and I talk about during those dinners? The kids. Do you know what I talked about with my buddy while we were watching football? My wife. They are a part of me. They’re actually the best part of me. Technically, we are 4 different people, but when you put us together we are a family, and that’s much greater than the sum of the parts.

By: Military Dad

Twitter: @militarydadblog
Website: http://militarydadblog.com

Bio: Military Dad is the proud parent of 2 and husband of 1. He’s spent the last 13 years in the Navy where they keep promoting him despite his best efforts. He is currently enjoying a terrific shore duty with his family. In his free time, he likes torment his wife and kids. He loves sharing his experiences as a father and a sailor on his blog: http://militarydadblog.com. Feel free to stop by and take a look.

Romancing the stone

Sure its the title of a movie directed by Robert Zemeckis starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner,  and Danny DeVito. It is also a similar feeling to how romance goes once you have kids. I’m real in the fact that once we had a child it was a nose dive – we didnt sleep (heck, we still dont sleep) and sometimes we have different viewpoints on how we’re raising our son. None the less the the action/adventure that made the heat, is slowly turning into drool.

Of course it doesnt help that we’re now sharing our bed with our child.  I dont really talk to much about this topic mainly because I still havent found the balance or a working solution.  Sure I highly suggest Date Night because you need to dress up and wipe off the drool from your shoulder try to act like adults and get out for a moment.  I also highly recommend doing a short vacation without the kids – even if its a stay-cation and you take a local hotel room its great to connect, if you could swing the few days away in paradise it’ll really help you drift away (just make sure whoever is watching the kids know that you’re not to be disturbed unless there is an ER visit!).

I hear couple talk about just wanting to spend time alone – which I do understand too but many people dont… my reasoning is sound in the fact that you need to take care of yourself first then you can take care of others… if you need a moment you need a moment before you can share moments together and really appreciate them.

Romancing the stone is just a funny topic because after such long periods of time you both forget what true passion and romance is to each other… so its almost like we’re both stone.  Sure as a guy we’re almost turned on by any shiny object but to reconnect with your partner/wife is never as simple.  You’re almost required to go to great lengths to make them forget about the day to day with kids, to make them feel special (where usually its about making your children feel special), and most importantly feel connected.

I know how to do awesome dates (it also helps to be in NYC where romance is just a little bit more expensive then a regular meal out) its also easy to toss some romance in to a simple evening at home with the right wine, cheese, and some flowers but to keep that romance there everyday is much harder and goes way beyond telling my wife how beautiful she looks.

Recently the topic of how did our parents and grandparents make this all work – I still wonder that even on romance front (forgetting how did they make it in the car for hours on end without a PSP or a pocket DVD player or an iPod).  Maybe that’s the culture shift and why so many marriages are ending these days – because we’re forgetting to take care of each other and putting so much focus on our children.  Who knows… its a long standing discussion.

My only advice is this – tell your wife/partner how much you care about them, tell them how much they mean to you and inspire passion into you and your life.