Sunday, February 12, 2006

Impossible Dad

Amy and I have gotten Parenting Magazine for about a year now. It's a
good mag filled with good ideas for playtime and good recommendations
for toys and stuff. When we got our first issue, I rifled through it,
and noted immediately how female-oriented it was. Pages 20ish to
40ish were all about beauty care tips and products! I frowned at
Parenting for not thinking that us dads read the mag, too. Then I saw
the tagline on the front cover: "What Matters to Moms." OK, so I
guess the mag is supposed to be for the moms, not the dads. Any mags
out there for the dads?

Anyway, in the course of getting Parenting over the past year, I've
read plenty of articles about this notion of the impossible mom. That
is, in our yuppie, driven culture, it's easy for moms to create an
unrealistic standard of what it means to be a good mom. Moms beat
themselves up, sometimes to tears, because they can't juggle holding
down a rigorous job, being their for the kids, keeping the house
clean, making time for hubby, and having some semblance of a social
life. Moms write in about how they are fraying at the seams trying to
do it all, and Parenting assures them that the standard they've set is
impossible and that they need to be OK with their limitations.

If there was a magazine for dads, I'm sure it would similarly discuss
the notion of the impossible dad. For just as moms struggle, so do
dads. I talk often with a friend of mine from high school who son is
the same age as my daughter, and we both confess a sense of inadequacy
about being able to juggle it all. As societal standards have evolved
for women, leaving moms to try to fulfill them all, so it has been
with men. My friend and I want to be competent in our careers,
advance ourselves intellectually and professionally, provide finances
and leadership for our family, do more than our fair share of the
cooking and cleaning, make sure our wives know we love them, and spend
quality time with our children. And usually, there aren't enough
hours in the week, let alone bits of energy in our bodies, to do it
all. So we lament falling short in one, two, or sometimes all of
those areas.

And so in the absence of a magazine whose tagline says, "What Matters
Most to Dads," and which can tell us not to play impossible dad, my
friend and I assure each other that we're doing the best we can, and
that we need to accept our limitations. But you heard it here first:
if I ever start a magazine for dads, there will be a regular column,
after pages 20ish to 40ish cover the requisite gadgets and power
tools, called "Impossible Dad."

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