The Awkward Paradox of Gender Roles in Parenting (in a Society Now Less Divided by Gender)

Last week I published Top 10 Masculine Traits of Men (Plus, “I’m a Masculinist, Which is Not the Opposite of a Feminist”), in which presented the theory that a man’s masculinity is subconsciously and collectively judged by society based on what extent he is perceived as being a confident, decisive, funny, healthy, physically active, emotionally intelligent, committed leader who respects women, helps his fellow man, and finds his identity in his skill set.

I had more than one woman respond by agreeing with these masculine traits, but adding that these traits would be good and beneficial for women as well. One told me, “I would say that perhaps we should change our expectations as a society so they are less divided by gender.”

Well said. So true. Very relevant to the conversation.

I feel that out of necessity and by default, our society is becoming less divided by gender. I find it simply irrelevant and outdated when advertising agencies (as well as people) make comments to insinuate that men hate and/or fear changing dirty diapers. Or when people call it “babysitting” when a dad takes care of his own children for the day while his wife goes out running errands.

Sure, I admit there is some personal awkwardness in always understanding my role in the household- to be both “the man” my wife needs me to be and at the same time for me to assume roles that would traditionally have been feminine.

It used to be that if a man was heavily involved in his children’s lives, as well as household chores, that man would be praised by society, and even by his wife, while she would be merely expected to do those things.

But it’s no longer ironic to see the opening sequence of Who’s the Boss?, as the ever-masculine Tony Danza vacuums the drapes.

Men clean toilets. Men do the dishes. Men feed babies. Men sit on the carpet and play with their kids.

None of this is ironic.

In fact, I would be willing to present a theory that a man who is a father and husband, but who is not heavily involved in household chores and the care of his children, is not considered a good dad or a good husband by his wife.

By today’s standards, a good husband is not simply a man who loves his wife, but who also is extremely actively involved in chores and childcare. The two roles are inseparable, now more than ever.

A failure to see that shift in culture is a failure to be relevant as a spouse and a parent.

To me, that’s obvious. To me, it’s not a theory. It’s simply fact.

But then again, this is coming from a happily married man who cleans the toilets and changes those dreaded dirty diapers.

I’ve Got Walls Up, because I’m a Guy

Welcome to the deep, mysterious, likely un-relatable, rarely revealed cavern of the emotionally intelligent male mind.

Back in 2010, when my wife was pregnant with our son, my blog was featured in American Baby magazine; which eventually led to me becoming the official daddy blogger of their sister magazine, Parents; from May 2011 to June 2014.

In the initial write-up in American Baby, they pitched my blog to their readers with this invitation: “Wondering what your hubby’s really thinking?…”

At the time, I remember reading that and thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not that kind of guy. That’s not me. I don’t keep things to myself. My thoughts are no mystery to anyone…”

That was in 2010, before I actually had kids. Plus, I had only been married about 2 years at that point.

One of the great advantages of being married now for 8 and a half years and having 2 kids is that, by default, I have gained emotional intelligence. I grew up on in the inside. I got toughened up.

I became the husband and father I needed to be. The sensitive, and therefore “offendable”, guy I was before wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Essentially, to the outside world, I transcended from “optimistic nice person who everybody likes” to “hopeful yet realistic personable man who doesn’t necessarily measure up to everyone’s expectations anymore.”

Nostalgically put, I evolved from Luke Skywalker into Han Solo.

It was a necessary transformation for me. Perhaps one of the major milestones of this journey was when I published a blog post (and accompanying video) inviting the free world to attempt to offend me.

I had discovered that the only person who has power and authority over my emotions is me. In other words, no one in this entire world can “offend” me or “hurt my feelings” if I don’t first give them permission.

So I simply stopped giving anyone permission to offend me. And up came the walls…

I now live in a reality where I am unoffendable. Since making this conscious decision, the quality of my life has undeniably…

Improved.

Things in life just don’t bother me as much. Life is smoother now.

I am now in control of my emotions instead of them controlling me. For example, I have no shame in admitting I allow myself to cry every time I watch Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I am in touch with, and in control of, my emotions to the point where the cartoonish yet realistic presentation of a parent’s love for their child gets to me.

Needless to say, on the other hand, other people’s Facebook comments claim no effect on my day.

I have simplified my life so that I can enjoy and appreciate it that much more.

Granted, there’s a perceived downside to the lifestyle of male emotional intelligence.

I’ve got those walls up now. I’m more detached from the popular distractions of the world- and I know this.

But this, for me, is safe- and it’s efficient; less complicated.

In other words, I’ve become that guy I couldn’t relate to back in 2010:

I keep a lot of things to myself. Most of my thoughts are now a mystery to everyone.

I’ve adopted a Libertarian approach to the opinions and lifestyles of other people. What they do doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother them. I don’t try to change them. I don’t need to change them.

Because now, I am truly confident in myself and my beliefs, despite being completely aware of my unending faults.

This is not a classic case of bottling up my emotions, only to erupt later on. To me, that would be weak.

Instead, it’s a matter of consciously deciding not to let people or things bother me anymore.

In turn, I have noticed that I am that much more focused on my own family and close friends, in real life. Not on Facebook.

The 2010 version of me simply wouldn’t function in my life today in 2017. I have evolved out of necessity.

I now see life for the tragicomedy it is. Life is both sad and funny. It’s both inspiring and depressing.

By evolving to my emotionally intelligent state, I have made it possible to recognize when to express my emotions, accordingly.

Ultimately, I choose joy. I choose hope.

My hope today is that others can relate to my transformation.

You are no longer dealing with the young and naïve Luke Skywalker.

For better or worse, you’ve got Han Solo now.

Exactly 10 Years after Our First Date

Exactly 10 Years after Our First Date

On February 5, 2007, the 25 year-old version of me was successful in finally escaping “the friend zone” with a girl who I had known exactly 4 months; a 25 year-old girl from California who I had met while waiting in line to be an extra for a taping of CMT’s Crossroads.

It was a week before Valentine’s Day, which I kept in mind. Meanwhile, she wasn’t aware that the John Mayer concert a couple hours away in Huntsville, Alabama wasn’t actually a “just as friends” thing. I was sneakily being very deliberate in my specific plan to get her to see me as more than just “the nice guy” she had been hanging out with at Starbucks most Sunday nights.

I knew that a road trip could provide an environment for her to see me in a different way than before. Knowing that we’d need to eat dinner but wouldn’t have time to since we both were leaving straight from work, I had used my lunch break to pick up some sub sandwiches for us Lenny’s. I also made sure to grab some Twizzlers, as I had remembered her saying she liked them.

Once we arrived in the parking garage next to the concert arena, I presented her with our dinner; while playing the Counting Crows through the stereo of my Honda Element; the car I still drive today.

The date went exactly as I had planned. And by the time we got back to Nashville, sometime after midnight, I asked her a very strategic question:

“Next week is Valentine’s Day, and I would be honored to take you out. Would you like to go out with me for Valentine’s Day?”

That was exactly a 10 years ago today. And we’ve been together ever since.

So glad I got out of the friend zone.

Though I guess you could say that being together and in love with a person for a decade, and being married 8 and a half of those years, and having 2 kids together… it sort of makes you best friends by default.

Exactly 10 Years Ago Today, I Met the Girl I Would Marry

I Married the Right One

Exactly 10 years ago today, on October 5, 2006, I met the girl who I would start dating 4 months later, and marry within 2 years. In a crowded building called The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, I saw who I thought was a beautiful Puerto Rican or maybe even half-Korean girl.

I was wrong in both my assumptions on her ethnicity, but as I introduced myself to her in a line of hundreds waiting to get into the main room where an episode of CMT’s Crossroads was soon to be filmed, I knew right away that this fellow “extra” for the audience of that episode was A) out of my league and B) someone very intriguing and special.

Now flash-forward to this past August. It was close to midnight in the parking lot of the movie theatre in Spring Hill, Tennessee after having just seen the premiere of Suicide Squad. My friend Jarred and I were laughing as we reminisced about the “10 years-ago” versions of ourselves; back when we lived in a house together along with other bachelors.  During that time frame is when we happened to meet and begin dating our future wives.

He then said something that has stuck with me: “We married the right girls.”

It’s weird to think that the more naïve, less mature version of you is responsible for making one of the most serious (and permanent) decisions of your entire life; a decision that will not only affect other people’s lives but also create new life.

I feel like only now do I know enough about life to begin to make a decision like that. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, it’s the opposite:

The reason I am now the mature and experienced person I am now is because of the girl I married 8 years ago.

It turns out, the 25 year-old versions of ourselves knew enough of what they were doing when met nearly 10 years ago, fell in love, and got married.

By “doing life” together for nearly a decade now, we have by default taught ourselves and each other what emotional intelligence is all about; making daily conscious decisions to choose to be victorious, not allow ourselves to be victims.

I see emotional intelligence as the inside-out version of what love is. By choosing to love your spouse, you choose to victorious instead of allowing yourself to become a victim.

A decade ago she and I were 25 year-old kids trying to figure out life. Now were are 35 year-old adults with two beautiful children. For the most part, we’re settled down and along for the ride.

I don’t know which surprises and adventures are ahead, but I do know this: She’s the one I want to spend the rest of my future with.

Victors versus Victims

Victor: compliments others

Victim: criticizes others

Victor: embraces change

Victim: fears change

Victor: forgives others

Victim: holds grudges

Victor: always learning

Victim: thinks they know everything

Victor: accepts responsibility for their failures

Victim: blames others for their failures

Victor: has a sense of gratitude

Victim: has a sense of entitlement

Victor: sets goals and develops plans

Victim: never sets goals

Bissell CleanView Vacuum with OnePass: A Dad’s Review (Including Unboxing Video and Demonstration)

Bissell CleanView Vacuum with OnePass: A Dad’s Review (Including Unboxing Video & Demonstration)

I feel like there was this cliché storyline in 1980s sitcoms where the husband buys his wife a new vacuum cleaner as a gift, only to learn that gesture upsets his wife.

The moral of the story in these sitcoms is this: Men like to receive useful tools as gifts, women do not.

For a husband to get his wife a new vacuum cleaner, it has to be completely unrelated to her birthday, anniversary, or any other expected time to give her a gift.

However, it is my observation that men actually like to receive useful tools during these gift-receiving opportunities.

Maybe it’s not the best example, but with my 35th birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, my wife helped me get a brand-new Canon Powershot G7 X camera. (I pitched in a couple hundred dollars, as the price was beyond the budget of a typical gift.)

As a blogger, I see a camera as a work tool; yet it’s the one thing I really wanted. Men like receiving tools as gifts.

At the same time, our nearly 8 year-old Bissell vacuum cleaner finally saw its final day. So my wife looked online at Target and discovered we could buy the updated model for only $75. So we did.

And boy do we both love it!

I’m referring to the Bissell CleanView Vaccuum with OnePass. I was so passionate about it, I made this unboxing and demonstration video:

I’m the one in our household who does the vacuuming every weekend. I noticed immediately how lightweight and agile it is. My wife has tried it out as well and agreed completely.

And it’s amazing to us that we purchased it for only $75 at Target!

By the way, Bissell is not endorsing me in any way to do this review. They were not even aware of me until I Tweeted them this story today.

That’s how much I like this vacuum!

Bissell CleanView Vacuum with OnePass: A Dad’s Review (Including Unboxing Video & Demonstration)

Flowchart below courtesy of ProFlowers.com.

Dear Holly: I Would Marry Your Mommy Every Single Time

24 weeks.

Back in Nashville 032 Crop

Dear Holly,

Mommy and I are going on nearly 7 and a half years of marriage and if I could go back and do it all over again, I can say with confidence, that I would marry her every single time.

That confidence comes from knowing that we’ve survived through some life-changing and mind-altering experiences together.

Like digging our way well into, and then way out of, over $50,000 in debt. Like raising your brother together for the past 5 years. Like selling and a buying a house or two.

Even more minor things like becoming vegetarians/vegans 4 years ago together and seeing her quickly rise to become the stellar vegetarian/vegan chef that she is for our family.

I still am so impressed by her, on a daily basis, after all this time so far.

When we met we were, by default, two 26 year-olds who were less mature and experienced than we are now. (Pictured above.)

Now we are two 34 year-olds who are at the best place in our lives so far.

Apparently age 34 is officially the happiest time in a person’s life. While I could easily agree with that so far, considering we are more secure in our jobs and finances these days than ever before, I have to believe that things still get better beyond age 34.

Because, after all, you are due to be born right around my 35th birthday, in April 2016.

After having shared my life with your Mommy for this long, I am more convinced than ever that I couldn’t have made a better decision.

I am grateful to the 26 year-old version of me who, in my immaturity and inexperience, was able to recognize that Mommy was the one for me. Plus, I am grateful that version of me had what it took to convince Mommy to fall for me.

My life couldn’t have been any better than it is right now had I not met your Mommy. She is quite the catch and I will be overly aware of that every day for the rest of my life.

I bet my life on her… and won.

Love,

Daddy

People Finally Stopped Asking If We’re Going to Have Another Kid

People Finally Stopped Asking If We’re Going to Have Another Kid

The first question was, “When you are two going to get married?

Then, “When are you going to have a baby?”

After that, “When are you going to have another one?”

From the time our son was about 1 year-old, until he was about 3 and a half, that last question was in heavy rotation.

So then, being the family friendly daddy blogger that I am, I began addressing the fact that my wife and I could easily be the couple that only has one child.

The reality of the two of us working full time in a major city got in the way of the concept of us having many as 4 kids; something we had at one point talked about, years ago.

So I began explaining here on my blog that the two of us could truly be happy with just one child; even if that wasn’t normal.

However, my wife and I mutually realized recently, “It’s been a long time since anyone has asked us if we’re going to have another kid.”

Our son will turn 5 years-old next month. By this point, people have stopped even wondering if we will “have another one.”

(That’s a funny phrase to me; “have another one.” I think of those Russian nesting dolls, called Matryoshka dolls.)

Of course, I never said we wouldn’t have another child. I simply made it clear we would be happy and content with just one; if that’s how things ended up.

I guess to a lot of people that comes across as, “We’re not having any more kids.”

On the contrary, I’ve mentioned a couple of times already this year here on Family Friendly Daddy Blog that we’ve never been more open to the idea of expanding our family, as I prefer to say it; than we are now that we are financially settled and moved into our new house.

But still, people gave up and stop bothering to ask. After all, having over 5 years in between kids is a lot of time.

It all comes down to us, the parents, being ready on all fronts; plus, being physically able to conceive a child.

Most families can have kids 2 or 3 years apart, and that works for them, culturally: Having 2 in diapers at the same time.

Culturally, for our family, especially at this point, having a Kindergartner and an infant sounds more our speed… if that’s how things ended up.