My mom was a working mom before there were really working moms. She went back to school, got another degree in psychology and began a life of juggling her patients, her family and herself.
But when I think of my childhood, I have far more memories of my dad. He was the one who taught me to catch, schlepped me to museums and incessantly quizzed and questioned me on the complexities of life. He did not want his daughters growing up dependent on anyone.
Now that working moms are the norm, more dads are stepping up, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Today’s fathers, at least the ones I know, are truly present in their kids’ lives. They are the ones supporting their daughters’ basketball careers, little league games and soprano solos. They go to their parties and sit close to them until they are comfortable to go off on their own. Their love is palpable.
Some might argue that this is how it should be. I have a friend who hates it when he is watching his kids, and someone commends him: “That’s great that you’re babysitting.”
“I’m not babysitting, I am their father,” he responds.
How often have you heard someone give accolades to a mother for staying home with their kids?
My father had a thing about making sure we could always catch a ball. He didn’t care if we were athletes or competitive, he just wanted to make sure we could handle any obstacle in front of us, figuratively and literally. He started off slow in our training, spending time with us in our backyard throwing old lime green Dunlop tennis balls back and forth — high balls, grounders, lobs until we were comfortable. But sometimes we’d be inside, and my father would turn around and say, “catch!” and you’d better be prepared to snag that ball lest you break some antique or stained-glass window in our Victorian home. I grew to expect it and would throw my fist into the air and grab it from the sky.
In the age of social media, it is easy to get bonus points for parenting. People dole out endless photos of themselves with their children, proving their presence in their lives. But if you were truly present, you would probably forget about the camera altogether. So, here’s to the dads who give of their time simply because they want to be fathers. They want to help shape and mold their children, and they want them to know that no matter what they will be there for them. And a special shout out to the fathers of girls who raise them to be strong and confident and let them find their ways in the world.
Sure, there are still a lot of men out there who think parenting is a woman’s job or wives who rush home because they are afraid to leave their husbands with their kids too long. One day, I hope that will change.
A decade ago I didn’t know many stay-at-home dads, now I know tons of them. As society evolves, the evolution of a father from breadwinner to co-parent or even a single parent is something to behold.
I am grateful to both my parents. I know I’m luckier than most. I’m even thankful for those endless games of catch my father insisted on playing. I want him to know it taught me to be cognizant of the world around me, to face fear and to always be alert.
Thanks, Dad. I wouldn’t be here without you.
Elana Rabinowitz is a freelance writer. This column was originally published in The Baltimore Sun.