When I asked my mom how she maintained “work-life balance” with three kids – she had no idea what I was talking about. Clearly – it must be a concept conjured up by one of my fellow millennials! Mom never thought about “work-life balance” because to her – it was just a part of getting through the day by making sure we were fed, bathed, and ready to do it all over again. She didn’t “put her career on hold” because it wasn’t a choice – it was necessity. She didn’t have a career. She had jobs. Jobs that became increasingly more important as a second source of income to support a family in an increasingly expensive world, but ultimately, nothing more defining than her career as mom.
My dad, on the other hand, did have a career and while he worked, mom worked, too, sometimes outside, but always inside of the home. She was the nurturer, the disciplinarian, the one who went to teacher’s conferences, the cook, the medic and the maid. When it came to parenting – he was the spectator rather than the partner.
So it’s been hard for me, but because of that – I never grew up looking up to her. Not that I didn’t respect her, but because we were on the edges of two very different worlds. The fact that I do talk about “work-life balance” means I have different opportunities in both the workplace and at home than she ever did, but what I’ve started to realize is that though motherhood has changed, fatherhood has DRASTICALLY changed. When talking about balance, it’s not just a balance between work, life, and everything in between. It’s the balance of the roles parents share.
I didn’t think anything of it at first – the dads who drop off and pick up their kids from school, take them on their doctor’s visits or pack their lunches. Parenting roles amongst most of my peers seemed pretty interchangeable between moms and dads, but then one day it hit me. I’ve been able to pursue a different kind of motherhood than the one my mom had because of how equally involved Khoi is in parenting and I’ve been doing it with one major advantage – in terms of being a mommy, I had a role model. My mom may not be able to give me career advice, but she sure knows how to “mom”. I don’t feel entirely lost on how to be a mommy because I have her. Khoi – on the other hand – like many other of today’s “working dads” are taking on roles dads of the prior generation didn’t necessarily have… and they seem to be playing it all by ear. Now that must be terrifying.
Although life with baby has been crazy and by the end of the day – I barely make it to bed and so the last thing on my mind is how Khoi is doing – this past Father’s day, I thought about the role my dad had in my life versus the role Khoi is playing in Kara’s and I realized not only did parenthood change a lot, but understand that because Khoi’s taken on the role of “male mommy” – he’s not only helping me re-define my role as mommy, but he’s also showing Kara that she can grow up to be any kind of mom she wants to be.
I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day – and even if it’s not Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, or whatever day – take a moment to let whoever helps you on your parenting journey you appreciate them.