The last few nights I’ve been trying to make a dent in the massive backlog of New Yorkers piling up at my bedside. Now, as always when I read the New Yorker, my little brain is whirring away. The article most on my mind is one about the conception and evolution of “Parents” magazine, but on a wider scope, the concept and evolution of parents. The article points out that the whole idea of “parents,” is an invention of modern times. Previously there were “Mothers” and “Fathers” with very clearly defined roles; no team action, more of an individual pursuit.
This blows my mind. Since Jungledad and I are a team, and most everyone I know with kids actively shares responsibilities and general parenting practices with their partner, I’ve fallen into the mindset that this is how it is for everyone, and how it’s always been. Not so.
Last December I was well and truly shocked when I met a father in his 30s who did not subscribe to the team philosophy. I met him at an airport; it was in interesting encounter. A little background: Jungledad, myself, and jungletwins had boarded a plane at jungle airport, headed for Boston to visit family at Christmas. 26 straight hrs of travel and 2 more planes later (that’s what we get for living on a remote island in the Pacific), we still hadn’t arrived. By the time we reached the airspace over Boston, I was hanging on by a thread. I won’t even try to describe to you my state of mind at that point; suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty. So I was not amused when our charming pilot went in for a landing, then pulled back up at the last minute. Circled around endlessly, for over an hour, with no further attempts to land. Finally the pilot came on the intercom- said there was wind at the airport ,and he didn’t “feel comfortable” landing. He decided to fly in the opposite direction, to New York. Lovely. I don’t know enough curse words to express my frustration at that point. I was drenched in baby pee and formula. The girls were exhausted. All our ears were sore from taking off and landing over and over and over. We hadn’t slept in over 26hrs. My arms were shaking with fatigue from bouncing Mumu for hours on end. I just wanted to go to bed. At that point I really almost lost my shiz. I wanted to tell that pilot to be f-ing man and land the plane.
Okay, I’ve really digressed. Back to the parenting thing. Junglefamily sat in JFK airport waiting for the pilot to get some gumption. The girls had turned into miniature grizzly bears by this point, and I really couldn’t blame them. Lots of passengers sympathized, many spoke to us in the terminal. One guy in khakis who looked to be in his 30s approached my husband and asked him if it was he and Lulu the man had heard in the men’s room: Lulu shrieking and my husband begging her to stop. My husband confirmed it was indeed them. The man said he had 3 kids, I forget the exact ages, but they were somewhere in the 8-12 range. He was fairly shocked that Jungledad had changed a diaper in the men’s room, that he had changed a diaper at all. The man confessed that he himself had never in the course of 3 children changed 1 diaper. Whoa, really? I was appalled. I couldn’t imagine.
After that article I starting thinking, maybe his situation is not unusual, even in this day and age. Maybe more couples have a clear division of parenting and no overlap or team stuff. It made me curious. In your own family, do you subscribe to the team philosophy, or is your parenting style separate but equal, or separate and not equal? There’s no wrong answers, I’m just interested.
Oh, p.s, we did make it to Boston in the end. The original pilot had a huge row with the airline and refused to fly us back, so we had to sit for hours in the terminal until another AA flight came in and the airline could yank a pilot off of it and make him fly us back.