Welcome to Portraits of Fatherhood: We’re telling the story of today’s dads.
There is no better place to witness the changing roles of men and women in the larger culture than through the lens of parenthood. But rather than speculate on what and how contemporary fathers do what they do, we’d like to bring you portraits of the dads themselves. In their own words. Would you like to be interviewed for this feature? See the end of the post for details.
NAME Andrew W.
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Philadelphia, Pa
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Domestic Partnership
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? How have you, or you and your partner (if you’re partnered), arranged your life/schedule to provide the daily care for your kid(s)?
Those are, potentially, three very different questions. I have to separate work and family….except when I work from home. I use my break times when working from home to address the needs of the boys, and my girlfriend, or any downtime I have in-between calls. I arrange my work schedule so that I can take my girlfriend and the kids to school first, come back to the house & get my life together, and then drop the car off to her & take the bus to work. She makes it work for us by making the kids’ lunches in the morning, my lunch at night, and dinner four-six nights a week.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Never before have the fictional Uncle Ben Parker’s words been more relevant in my adult life (Spiderman was my 1st favorite superhero, by the way). We now have a gorgeous, huge, three bedroom house with two porches, backyard, a basement, a driveway….you get the drift. I lived most of my adult life recklessly and self-serving. Now, I am responsible for $1250.00/month in rent, plus utilities. People — this family, MY family — they RELY on me now. They expect me to bring home the bacon every day. They expect me to be there and be faithful to my woman, their mother. The days of running wild and blowing money on self-serving interests…they’re over. Finally, I realize that with great power, there must also come GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.
IF PARTNERED, HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP? How often do you have sex? Is it enough? How do you communicate differently (if at all)?
Parenting makes partnering challenging. The dad is….available when my woman drops the kids off, but I asked my girlfriend not to communicate by phone with him, so getting him to watch their kids means she has to go down there sporadically, drop them off, and we never know when that is going to happen. There aren’t a lot of people willing to watch the boys, usually because of the youngest’s reputation & behavior (he has long shown signs of hyperactivity disorder) and one doesn’t usually get watched without the other. I have the most fun when it is just my girlfriend and I, and of course the cost of going out DOUBLES when the children are involved.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
My biggest weakness is patience. I have a quote “zero-tolerance” for loudness, ignorance, disrespect….behaviors like that which occasionally the boys are prone to display. My strengths as a parent include my love to teach life lessons, usually incorporated with a dash or two of good, childish humor, & my willingness & enjoyment with helping the kids with their homework whenever I get home in time.
IF PARTNERED, WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
I believe my woman’s weaknesses include being too lenient with the boys, not demanding enough respect and setting strict guidelines and sticking to them. That is where I feel a significant part of our difficulty with the childrens’ behavior comes from. Her strengths? She has MANY. She cooks her butt off, cleans, is always working exceptionally hard & passionately no matter where she goes and what she does. In those regards she is a phenomenal person & mother.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN? Do you have unpaid family or friends providing help or do you have paid nannies/babysitters/au pairs?
Many thanks to her mother, who is ALWAYS taking on the burden of at least one of her 9 children’s children, including ours on occasion.
DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOUR PARENTING?
As I mentioned, the hyperactivity disorder symptoms require much need for patience. It is a subject that arose multiple times in preschool for the younger, and the older–having been witness to and having experienced physical and emotional abuse firsthand — is still is shaking off several years worth of retained anger. We have worked with therapists when my woman feels it is necessary, and it has proven beneficial.
IS YOURS AN ADOPTIVE FAMILY? AND IF SO, HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOUR PARENTING?
I have no biological children of my own. Given the circumstances under which we came to live together, and the personality meshing that has had to occur — plus the fact that my girlfriend and I are not married, or engaged, yet — becoming a parent has proven to be quite the challenge. I have been doing a lot of reading up on the rights of all parents involved in a situation like mine in my state to understand what my limits are, and what to expect moving forward.
All in all, becoming a parent is a very challenging process, especially when the children are not biologically yours and come to the table presenting a set of aggressive behavioral issues. But things continue to get better. And for this, I’m very proud & grateful.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
My worst parenting experiences stemmed from a difficulty in coping with children whose background & behavior I did not understand. My girlfriend and I had developed a deep & close friendship in our first 5 months of knowing each other, fell in love, and decided to begin dating; two months later, she was going to lose her house — so I moved all three of them in with me into my one bedroom house. The children came from an unregulated, emotionally & physically abusive environment and brought a lot of their retained emotional trauma and chaotic, irresponsible & destructive behavior with them (they were 2 & 6 & a half at that time).
Their actions often caused me to feel great anger for many months of the 1st two years of our relationship, as all of us were living together. I couldn’t find a healthy way to express my emotions, so I bottled most of it, resulting in angry nightmares in which I would shout or curse at the children, and even hit them sometimes, in my dreams. After many months of arguments, talks with family, talks with a therapist, and slow, gradual improvement on the kids’ behalf as well as my reactionary methods, relations between all of us have improved and I stopped having those nightmares about a year and a few months ago.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
My best parenting moments include being a party to the youngest — whose behavior has long been the most difficult for me to cope with — work through his speech impediment, learn to spell, write his name, write other names, read, get himself dressed, and other developmental milestones — all of which I have been there for and all of for which I have supported him.
We’re looking for a few good dads.
IF you’d like to be interviewed for this feature, please write to Lisa Duggan at: [email protected]
Please write “Portraits of Fatherhood” in the subject line.