From The New York Times “Adventure In Parenting” section
Am I a ‘Working Dad’?By KEN GORDON
I’m a dad — two children, 9 and 7 — and I work. Hard. I fall out of bed at about 5 a.m. and stumble back there at about 10 p.m., and it seems like I haven’t caught my breath or cleared my to-do lists since my first child was born on July 22, 2002.
Yet in spite of all this unremitting labor, no one, not a single person, has ever called me a “working dad.” I’ve never called myself this.
The question on the docket is, “Why not?”
For one, “Working dad” is a weird term. An odd idea. Working dads simply don’t count as a recognized demographic in our society — a dad is a dad, and he works, of course, and to suggest otherwise is, well, strange.
But oddity isn’t necessarily a good objection. We can get used to all kinds of words. (Think “webinar”! Think “cantaloupe”!) In fact, the more I consider it, the more appropriate it seems to call me and the millions of the other dads out there schlepping around in a way that would have puzzled our cigar-chewing grandfathers “working dads.” We take working and dadding with equal seriousness and we deserve our share of the W-word.
A working mom, after all, is a term of approval. She is a master of multitasking. A mistress of multitasking. She is capable and competent on numerous fronts, and while her carpool-board-meeting-spaghetti-dinner-toothbrushing-book-bedtime lifestyle may mean that she sometimes forgets an orthodontist appointment or misses the annoying 2 p.m. staff confab, it also means that she is a kind of real-life superhero. The whole bring-home-the-bacon-and-fry-it-up-in-a-pan shtick commands our respect and admiration. The adjective “working” means that whatever else she’s doing, she’s also on the job.
My fellow dads and I deserve the same kind of respect, no?
We dudes get up every day and make breakfast. We feed the cat, take out the trash, wash the dishes, if any are left over from the night before. We can do an occasional emergency load of laundry — even if we sometimes mix lights and darks — drop the kids off, and commute to work. And then put in a full workingman’s day of labor. After which we rush home, bolt down dinner (that our wives have perhaps very kindly cooked or ordered) and shuttle our kids to soccer, guitar lessons and the rest. Then it’s overseeing homework, playing with the kids, helping them into jammies, and finally a good-night story or two. At the end of all this, we do maybe an hour of work and then collapse next to our wives.
And so on.
That’s enough to earn a “working dad” merit badge, no?
If not, if we’re encroaching on sacred woman-only territory… I have another, more modest proposal. I suggest that we give “working,” that poor, exhausted adjective, a vacation. Perhaps we can replace it with one that fits contemporary moms — and dads — better. What about “overworked”? This adjective suggests that every good contemporary parent is employed on many levels, domestic and professional, and that all our nonstop busy-ness, the unremitting demands on our energy and time and patience, means that we’re chronically wiped out.
Works for me.