It’s a familiar routine all across the country for the average family—Mom and Dad roll out of bed just before sunrise and guzzle a quick cup of coffee. Then they go wake up the kids. Everyone rushes to get ready for work or school on time, tripping over and running into one another as they get dressed, brush their teeth, and find all the necessary items needed for their day.
Then off they head, usually with little time to spare, to their designated place of business or learning institution.
By the day’s end, everyone has reconvened under the same roof again. Both parents are available to share in the responsibilities of dinner, homework, extracurricular activities, housework, and bedtime. Partners in crime, they have the old good cop/bad cop routine nailed to a tee and each is well rehearsed in their role. There is a tag team effect in place to assure optimum child rearing potential.
The 9-5 life depicted above is a glorified representation of the American Dream.
It is the idealism that comes to mind when people think in terms of family. Everywhere I turn, I am bombarded by depictions of this presumptuously stereotypical family dynamic. Examples are displayed all across media and entertainment venues – from mainstream films in movie theatres to television sitcoms, from popular works of literature to song lyrics and major advertisement campaigns – they all seemingly paint the picture perfect image of how a family should function; with a Mom and a Dad raising their kids hand in hand who work while they attend school.
Even social media influences this perception with the many blogs capturing snippets of cliched family life and the countless memes making light of the trials and tribulations of such. It is the basis for every popular family/parenting-based website, as well. Society has been conditioned by all of this to assume that anytime we see a parent doing it all on their own, they must be single.
That is not always the case, however. I know this firsthand, because I’m living it. Time and time again, people have made the presumption that, because I am the only parent they ever see at doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, girl scout events, band concerts, and school fundraiser nights, I must be a divorced mom raising my children on my own and my children have a deadbeat dad living up the bachelor life somewhere unknown.
The truth is, I AM single-handedly raising my brood, but I am NOT a single mom.
Far from it, actually. I have been happily married to the love of my life and father of my babies for going on ten years now. Yet, we do not fit into the cliched mold of what a family should be—and so do many others.
It’s not that my husband refuses to take part in the upbringing of his children. He wants to more than anything in this world. But he can’t. The world doesn’t stop when the day ends. People don’t stop living. Production must go on through the wee hours of the night to keep pace with the ever growing supply and demand needs of a rapidly increasing population. For that, there must be a late shift and somebody has to work it. That somebody happens to be my other half.
My husband has had to sacrifice his role as a father in order to provide for his family. He crawls into bed an hour before my day begins and leaves for work again before I come home with the kids from school. His schedule doesn’t allow him family time during his six day workweek; he doesn’t get to see his kids for even a minute.
All of the things most families take for granted, like eating dinner together, attending school performances and awards ceremonies, splitting up the chauffeuring duties, and having family game nights are coveted by him. By us. My husband has missed out on seeing our babies hit their developmental milestones and witnessing the older kids mastering new skills or discovering hidden talents.
There is no helping with homework or holding his child while they cry over boo-boos or hurt feelings.
No listening to them read aloud or disciplining them when they have broken the rules.
No playing catch in the yard or fixing broken toys.
They are growing up without their father around.
While my husband is out busting ass to bring home the bacon, keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clean clothes on our bodies, it is up to me to tackle the child rearing duties for the both of us. Alone. It isn’t easy for either of us, but it is the hardest on my husband. I wouldn’t be able to walk a week in his shoes without losing my mind. I couldn’t imagine not being able to take an active role in my children’s lives in order to provide well for them financially. It truly hurts him to know all that he is missing out on to give them the best life he can.
We are not the only couple who has had to make this difficult choice, either. There are many more late-shift families out there just like my husband and I. Not to mention the countless military families who don’t have the luxury of looking forward to those Sunday’s with dad (or mom) being home during the daytime. I salute them with utmost respect as a parent, because I truly understand some of the struggles they experience when their loved ones are deployed.
Our situation is far removed from the picture perfect ideal of a family living the 9-5 dream, but it is the life we have made for ourselves, nevertheless. The bills still have to be paid regardless of the fantasy image of a family we have been conditioned to believe is the only way to attain the great American Dream.
I may be single-handedly bringing up our children while my husband provides for us, but I am not a single mom. My husband and I are a team, regardless of how we split the roles and responsibilities parenthood brings to the table. We are in it together, doing what is necessary to raise our young’uns to be hard-working, respectful individuals despite the challenges of a difficult life. To us, that is more important than fitting in with some stereotyped imagery of what a family should look like.
The great American Dream is simply a theatrical farce.
To all the hard-working family men out there working the late-shift alongside my loving man: Your painstaking sacrifice is one only a good man and great father could make for his family. The weight of handling the children single-handedly on a daily basis may not give way for many opportunities to express this, but you are truly appreciated and respected for what you do. Without your dedicated devotion, we wouldn’t even be a family at all.
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