29 September, 2008

Is it my Imagination

Is it my imagination or is parenting easier for men than it is for women?  Single parenting in particular?
I read my fair share of single dad blogs and even know a few in person and, well, they make parenting seem easy.  For them, it appears to be this wonderful stress free way of life.  I don't hear them talking about desiring just a few minutes of peace, being bombarded with a continuous performance of Mamma Mia, or even craving a weekend away.  I am not sure that it is a single dad thing or a dad thing in general? 
Is it just that men don't talk about it?  Is it that they keep it all to themselves? 
Perhaps it is just that they don't stress about it?  They see each task that needs to be accomplished and, well, they do it without too much concern for the little details?  
Perhaps it could be that men know how to "relax" where women often don't.  Where women need to be busy doing things and have a list of things that need to be done, men find time to watch football, play soccer, hit the gym, etc.  Where women teach their kids to stress and multi task, men teach their kids to relax and find time to just be.  
I find myself wanting to ask some of these single dads (and you may know who you are) how do you do it?  Isn't there any stress in your life?  Aren't there days when you just want to lock the bathroom door and let "Calgon" take you away?  (If there are, they don't share them)
I am familiar with the "How do you do it?" question.  It is one that gives me pause, "do it?  I do it because I don't know what it is not to do it.  It happens because it has to happen; there isn't a choice."
My life, like most parents, is a well written piece of music.  Each note has its place, each chord must be played at the right time.  There are rests and repeats; there are highs and lows; and there are changes in tempo and volume.  I am a mere associate conductor who attempts to interpret the sheet music at any given moment, leading the orchestra to play as well as possible.  There are sometimes sour notes - the sounds that send shivers up the spine and the mouth into a pinched grimace.  But there are lines of perfection as well; when the music floats, lifts, and soars into the heavens with pure grace and beauty. 
And I am happy to share both.  I admit my mistakes when it comes to parenting as there are many.  There are things that I could do better and am working to refine.  There are times when I'm lacking in my parental patience.  I admit these realities with the knowledge that they are the truth and that I see them and am learning from them. 
I am less likely to admit the moments of pure delight; when life is as perfect as it can be.  Not because those moments don't happen, as they do - probably more often than I realize.  I don't admit them as easily because they are whole moments - the moments that are optimal; the moments that leave me believing in miracles and that I am not such a horrific parent after all. 
I love my daughter with all my heart and yet... I think that I am a better parent to her when I have time to myself now and again.  When I can escape into bubbles and music and think.  When I can walk the beach and feel the sand beneath my toes and hear only the waves and the gulls. 
But I don't hear men talk about the sour notes.  I hear them mention the moments of pride - the moments when their children succeed.  But what about the other moments?
I don't know a mother alive who has not wanted to lock herself in the bathroom, by herself, if only for five minutes.  It isn't a weakness at all; it is a reality.  But do men know that feeling?


T said...

That is a VERY good question! Just from my experience with the ex, it seems that the kids just want to be all over mommy more than daddy. I don't know it this applies to single daddy's too?!?

One of my co-workers speculates that as mothers, we feel more "mom-guilt" and dads are immune to it. Therefore, we allow the kids to get away more with being around us and not allowing us to just be. Eh, its just his theory. I feel like I'm more of a hard-ass on my kids than their dad is. And yet, I can see him sitting on the couch relaxing with a martini when they're with him. I can't even enjoy a glass of wine!!

I like the comparison of parenting to music. Very beautiful. Great post!!

mama llama said...

I agree with you, TE. Comparing when He has the kids as opposed to when I do...well, he thinks that a bowl of granola is fine for dinner, for example, whereas I break my back to give them a more balanced approach. Or morning routine...nonexistent for him but he still somehow ends up getting them out the door whereas for me it is a daily battle. He doesn't mind setting them in front of the TV or the computer, where I consider that sick-time, my student-time or absolute last resort privilege.

Maybe it's because we think more about what we are producing in our children for the future of their lives (being healthy, happy, educated adults) while perhaps SOME men are more preoccupied with the present--NOW what do I do with them? How can I make this afternoon go by quicker, etc.

Sorry...sounds very anti-man, I am sure...and I realize all aren't this way, it's just my current state of mind talking.

Be well, TE.

brookem said...

hmm... interesting question. i dont have the experience to answer this, but im going to tell my pal egan to head on over here- he might have some good input.

egan said...

Okay, I'm here to represent the dads. Not all of them, just myself actually. I'm not a single dad by any means. My wife and I share the parenting duties down the middle.

I do talk about the ups and the downs. I think the big difference is guys don't have that unique bond only a mom experiences. We don't carry a child in our body for 10 months and we don't breastfeed.

I will say I think many dads take the lazy way out. I'm appalled by how many dads take less than two weeks off after their child is born. I have tons and tons I could say on this topic because I've seen what you mention here.

Men and women are wired differently, but this doesn't mean we don't have grave concerns for our children. We do.

Great topic and I'm glad I wandered over to read about this.

Jim Everson said...

Well, as for me, I can tell you that the days of stress and undone tasks is more common than not. See my post from August 10 called Competence for details.

I promise you, it is not a mom/dad issue. It is a good parenting/bad parenting issue.

Jim Everson said...

Well, as for me, I can tell you that the days of stress and undone tasks is more common than not. See my post from August 10 called Competence for details.

I promise you, it is not a mom/dad issue. It is a good parenting/bad parenting issue.

Crazy Computer Dad said...

I think most single dads only have their children part time. They have custody every other weekend, or part time during the week. Also, most moms do the doctor appointments and other scheduling so those dads get off a little easier. It isn't that they cannot do it, it is that the moms take care of it.

Since my son's mom lives 4 hours away and is uninvolved during the school year, it all falls to me. Do I need alone time? Yes. Usually it comes after 8:30 when my son goes to bed. I'm a little more relaxed when he is actually asleep. That is normally when I call people, etc. Lately though things have been particularly difficult between work and parenting that I have just shutdown. There are several people I mean to call, write to, things I want to blog about, but instead I find a brain dead activity or a quick puzzle and just shutdown. I also have a couple of great sitters for when I need some adult time with other adults. I struggle with the duality of being the nurturer and the disciplinarian and it often leaves me feeling like I'm just an inadequate parent.

It could also be a huge conspiracy to make women feel inadequate to make them believe they need men.

dadshouse said...

I have half-time custody. My kids are older. I have NO IDEA what their schedules are sometimes. For instance, their school days don't start the same time every day of the week. Wed. is late start, a different time for each kid. Thurs my daughter has a free period. WTF? I simply trust them to stay on top of it. They're old enough, so it works.

When they were younger, I didn't let the stress get to me. House not clean this week? Oh well. Dishes not done yet? Do them tomorrow morning. The important thing is to put their lives first.

And I completely disagree with Mama Llama - what she wrote might be true in her situation, but PLEASE don't generalize. (I know she said "some". Still, she started out with woman power...)

I absolutely am helping raise my kids to be happy, healthy adults, and contributing members of society.

As for endless plays of Mamm Mia - for me, it was Beauty and the Beast that got played a million times. I simply sang along with the tune.

And if I got really sick of it, I told my kids to turn it off and find something else to do.

Treat your kids with respect, let them grow and be free, set limits. You live in the house together. I really don't have problems with my kids. (Knock on wood)

The Exception said...

The ideal situation is definitely with both parents taking part in the raising of a child - more equal part. It is both working with schedules and focused upon raising happy and healthy kids. Sadly, I am not sure that this is the norm.

EGAN - Nice to see you again. I need to drop by your place sometime!

Jim - I will definitely check out your post.

CCD - I know exactly the feeling of the need to zone out. A game of word twist can work wonders.

We all bring something different to the parenting strategy of our kids - and working together is important.

I find it interesting that women are often (and definitely not always) more open about the stress that goes along with parenting. Perhaps it is the relationship we have with our kids (being mommy) or perhaps it is that we are often more a single parent than a 50/50 parent. CCD demonstrates that even dads feel the stress of being that full time parent - that need to have adult time and find a sitter.

I wonder if it is more that women have the need to share and to connect through the sharing. I am not sure how the other men would take it if a guy said that he wanted to lock himself in the bathroom for 5 minutes just to have some privacy! ;) But as a parent, I think it would be nice to be able to connect with dads about the issues and the challenges as well as the love of our kids.

I have a great kid - responsible, mature, a wild woman in the making... and yet there are times when I just need those five minutes to think.

Mike said...

It's just that men and women stress over different things. Men will do it over work and finances. Women more with the relationships and the house. Have the male parent take the kid to work everyday and you would see the stress.

harassedmomsramblings said...

I have to echo T!

The bar is set a little higher for moms - often, by ourselves, but we feel we HAVE to get it right and if we dont then we take it hard.

Dads dont seem to that!

I read DHs comment about the house not being clean - how many moms do you know that could actually do that? I often think I WANT to do it and will try leave the mess but will get out of bed and go clean it!

Dads just dont seem to have the same issues we do as single parents.

And also the bulk of them do only have kids part time - so the rest of the time they are re-charging and getting their alone time!

Jared said...

I'm not a single dad and so I can not speak for all Dads...just me. Momma stays home with the boy all day and I go to work. When I get home I try to help out as much as possible to give Momma a break.

For me, I try to make even the mundane things fun. I try to make everything a game...and make my boy smile. This makes me smile and makes it all worth it.

For example, when changing diapers..there is always a tickle session afterwords. When getting a bath I always participate in playing with the bath tub toys. When getting PJs on there is a certain song that we sing. And at bedtime we read a book.

Of course there are things that need to be done, but I try to find a way to make it fun for my boy too. When I mow the yard he gets to play in the sandbox and on the swingset. When dishes need done we sing the ABCs along with one of his fridge magnet toys. When the vacuum needs ran I chase him with the vacuum.

I think stress is self inflicted. Happiness is not a way of life, it is a choice. :D