All 3 of these roles-Husband, Father, Leader-are obviously packaged inside of a pandemic right now, and that’s making what is already a complicated juggling act even more complex.
Three days ago my youngest daughter’s preschool program (really a mini version, designed to be safe as can be for COVID) was shut down for 10 days because an administrator had come up testing positive. In the big big picture that’s awesome, that they have those kind of protocols in place and activated so quickly [I still seriously can’t believe they get 3–4 year olds to keep face masks on during their session…can they help us get these grownups to wear theirs properly??].
So, knowing that everyone is still safe and healthy through that move, then we move immediately into the mode of being another test for that Husband | Father | Leader. Big kids still in online school, needing their space. Wife still in online graduate school, which is crazy work. Job still needing to be done, because, well, it’s my job (it’s a cool job, too, but we can get into that later). So then enter the 4 year old and the puzzle — what do we do with her?
As many COVID fathers will understand, enter screens. Movie? That will get us two hours. Shows? Maybe a little bit of breathing room. Ultimately her little brain is buzzing too strongly to be distracted by screens for too long (fyi, that makes me a lucky Daddy, contrary to what it may seem like in this current problem). The question is, which role to lean in to in order to help her? In this case, I thought it was actually Husband — not Father. Let me explain.
When we got married the man who raised me, and is my role model for fatherhood and marriage, gave me one piece of advice that I remember. He told me that the key to happiness in our marriage — and specifically in our future family, if we were lucky enough to have kids — was to focus on my partner. We were together before kids, we will (world willing) be together after kids, and the best way to take care of those kids was to focus on her. Counterintuitive, when you think about the problem at hand: my 4 year old desperately needs a Father role, but I leaned into Husband, in part because of that advice from 16 years ago.
It became important to ramp up communication. We needed to talk this out. What time do you need for studying? When do I have work things that can’t be moved? How can we both be more intentional about the time we spend with our little one and the activities she needs? Together we blocked out times for each other, so that mentally we could be present with the little one when we had her…not floating away thinking how much stuff we really needed to get done. It slowly started to flip the switch for both of us. Focus on one role, assisting the other roles to stay in balance — and actually work together.
Then that night, focusing on getting my wife study time, my youngest and I went out into the snow (yes, I said October snow — we can discuss whether that’s depressing or not in another article, or you can share your thoughts) to build the first snowman of the year. We began with the big first bottom piece, rolling it out. Just then, I reached out to toss some snow to my little one — and my wedding ring flew off into the yard, and the freshly fallen snow. We looked and looked. Couldn’t find it. It’s been three days and I’m still not wearing my ring…………….more on that, next article.
What are your thoughts on focusing on Husband in response to a Father need?