The Fight For Fatherhood

Dear Readers,

Today’s post comes from my husband, Kevin Johnson. Kevin is not just the love of my life, he’s also a wonderful father to our girls. One of the things I admire so much about his parenting is his intentionality. He seizes every moment available to teach, to love, to bond, to fight for relationship. I hope you enjoy his reflections on fatherhood as much as I did.

I was jealous of breastfeeding for the first few months of my firstborn’s life.  All I wanted to do was help, to provide, to assist.  And all I could do was pass off this screaming child to the one who had the only thing they really wanted.  So I was jealous of breastfeeding, jealous of my wife.  It felt strange, to be so willing to help yet so unable to do the one thing that really mattered.

Before our children were born, we had talked about how we were going to share the parenting duties in our family.  We were going to be equal partners, sharing the load and the joys of parenting whatever children God would grant us.  I thought that this was all being equal partners would take—a willingness to change the diapers, to get up during the wee hours of the night, to bathe and make lunches and comfort.  I expected that on the day my little girl was born I would feel instantaneous connection with her.  Instead, I realized it was going to be a fight.  A fight for relationship.  A fight to be an equal parent.

So during her 3rd month of life, I was on paternity leave with her by myself.  I took runs with her in the stroller.  I took her to get my oil changed.  I took her to lunch to meet some buddies at the pub, and then had to change her on the floor of their sexist no-changing-table restrooms.

We don’t start out as equal partners in parenting.  So to be equals with my wife I had to fight hard for relationship with my kids in their first two years.  The kids still prefer Mommy when they are sick or tired or hurt.  And that’s hard and annoying.  When Mommy’s at a meeting and only Daddy is there to put them to bed, and all I hear is the cries for, “Mommmmyyyy” it’s tempting to bow out of the fight.  It’s tempting to give way and let my wife be the primary parent.  But I’ve fought to be an equal partner.  I’ve fought hard for it, fought not just for my kids’ affection, but to be an equal parenting partner with my beloved.

I’m not saying anything scientifically revolutionary here,but Dads don’t have the same natural bond with their kids that Moms do.  We don’t carry children for 40 weeks, and we aren’t depended upon for sustenance from their first breath.  And so we’ve got to fight.  I have to fight to have relationships with my kids.  I’ve got to fight to become depended upon.  I’ve got to fight in order to love and help my wife and share the load with her.  The way that I love her best right now is to fight for fatherhood.

The fight was even harder with my second child. While my wife was with her constantly in those first few months, I had to take the two-year old on special adventures.  So it took longer with the second.  I tried to dance around with her, to sing with her, to make her laugh.  But she always wanted Mommy.  Until that fateful night.  During the glorious 3:00 AM wake-up, I heard her call out, “Daddy!”

It was the first time.  She had never called for Daddy during the night.  But after months of going to her room after midnight to comfort her, she finally called for me.  I won the battle.

Fathers, join me in the fight.  We are at our best when we are fighting for relationship with our little ones.  Get out there and fight.  It will always be worth it.

One thought on “The Fight For Fatherhood

  1. Thank you for this viewpoint and and especially pointing out “the sexist no-changing-table restrooms,” which I have heard many a rant on from my own husband who stayed at home with our two girls in their younger years. That reality also is a reminder that for dads, it is not just about a fight within your own family to be on equal footing, but a fight with society at large that views dads as incapable, ill-equipped (weren’t we all at some point) and inadequate parents for their children to be viewed as “just as good as a mommy” on the playground.


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