A few decades ago, most talk of fathers’ roles had a straight-up Don Draper-style emphasis on breadwinning. Toronto dad Michael Cusden remembers his dad “just kind of came home from work, had dinner and read the paper and then we went to bed. That’s what dad was to us.” A much more hands-on father, Michael is a digital marketing professional and creator of a blog called Like A Dad. He says the upside with today’s model is, “I know my kids way better. I know what they like. I know their personalities. I know how their day was.” While Michael admits that balancing it all can be stressful, he says, “My dad says he kind of wished he lived in a generation where he got to do it.”
We thought it was time to ask dads what is life like for them today. What are their new struggles, joys and expectations? Here’s what we learned.
Today, leagues of engaged modern dads like Michael are slowly refashioning what fatherhood looks like. For example, 2011 Statistics Canada figures found that 30 percent of eligible fathers filed for parental leave benefits in 2010 – a nine-fold increase over the previous six years. StatsCan also reported in 2011 that the number of stay-at-home dads had tripled over 30 years; and that the number of families headed by single dads is rising.
Did you survive your morning today? Did you get the kids to school and then to work where you could finally relax? For a lot of parents, you are probably nodding your head yes. The morning is all about survival. You succeed and do it all again the next day. Mornings get better, but when you have young kids, it can feel like you are just doing whatever it takes to get out the door.
Lately for us, the mornings have been a grind. Everyone is waking up in different moods. The weather is cold. We don’t have the right cereal. “Cool” pants are dirty. There is not enough time for an episode of Sesame Street. Oh and somewhere in there, mom and dad need to get ready as well. That part becomes secondary in the game of getting out the door.
Charlie in particular has been dishing out the terrible two attitude lately. Nothing is right. Everything is wrong. Except when he wants it. Then it is right. But then you look at him funny and it’s all wrong again. Such a tightrope.
The milk, cereal box and bowl need to be arranged on the table in such a way, it’s like some puzzle that makes it okay for the kids to eat. They say they are done. You put everything away and then they decide they are actually hungry again.
Katie does her best to manage breakfast. I find it impressive that she manages to get some food in her own tummy. Between falling chairs, flying place mats, exploding Lego and the painful clang of a spoon hitting the floor, Katie and I keep pushing through.
We know that it ends once we cross the finish line, or in this case, the door leading out to world. Once out there, everything is fine. The fresh air hits and the kids turn back into happy kids.
Breakfast is the first hurdle. There are days when it all goes smooth, but like I said, Charlie is testing us. He is imposing his will on breakfast time. We have not broken. Yet.
The second hurdle is when Harry starts to turn down the pace. This is when it’s time to get dressed. I do my best to speed up the process. Why the kids are eating (or not), I pick out their clothes and have them ready. So then Harry can go and get dressed while I heard Charlie from the breakfast table to the bedroom. It’s harder than you may think.
Usually it is a good five minutes later. Harry will be sitting there just staring into space with his clothes still next to him. Now instead of tagging off and going in to dress Charlie, they are both in there tossing clothes at each other. It’s fun.
Finally Harry decides it is okay for him to get dressed and he disappears. I get Charlie dressed and he starts begging for “cookie” or what he calls Sesame Street. I can barely get his shirt on before he bolts out the door. This is the turning point of the morning for Charlie normally. Television.
I switch the kids again. Charlie gets comfy on the couch and Harry returns to brush his teeth. Hair done, teeth clean and we are done.
Both boys now watch TV for 20 minutes while everyone else gets ready. Pretty cool huh? After all that, we get a whole 20 minutes to get ready. But’s the best 20 minutes of the morning. It is quiet.
Before I go on, these mornings are normal. They are not horrible. They are what mornings with kids are like. There are far worse things in the world than getting ready for work and school. That being said, by Friday, it’s a lot to deal with. That is what weekends are for. Regrouping for another five mornings.
So everyone is ready. Kids are calm and done their show. The final hurdle is next.
Getting dressed for the winter world. Uh…snowpants.
February was brutal. It was freezing every day. Normally I skip snowpants because it’s just easier. But February was too cold. So that means chasing Charlie around trying to stuff him into these puffy blue pants. He does not like it.
Harry, well he gets ready with his body always perpendicular to the TV. This means backwards boots and he keeps missing his arm holes on his coat. All hail master TV right.
So Harry is ready, Charlie, is ready enough to leave and I throw on my stuff. A quick bye to mom and we finally are ready.
From waking up to door is about an hour. Some days it feels like two. But we made it.
I get the door open and we break free to start the day. Are you tired just reading that? I am.
This does not even involves anything out of the ordinary. There are millions of parents who have more kids, special needs, weird situations and so many other variables that make the morning even crazier. I can’t imagine it.
After the kids are dropped off and I get outside, the world slows right back down. It’s calm. I can hear and see my surroundings clearly. I am relaxed.
It’s funny how going to work is the most relaxing part of the day.
The last few months have been a blur. Going back to work and Charlie starting at daycare really changed things in our house. During the week, we really only see the boys for a few hours. It sucks. But that’s life. The thing I need to keep reminding myself to do, is to just stop and look at the kids. They are changing so fast and I feel like I am missing things.
New words, faces, laughs and much more are occurring more and more. I think I am seeing them, but they are not having the impact they used to. Maybe it is because we have two kids now and each thing is not a first. Who knows.
But Charlie is such a different kid from Harry, that I really need to start celebrating those differences. He makes me laugh almost every time I see him. Such a cheery guy.
Harry, he is not even a little kid anymore. He is a tall, smart and well spoken boy. Yes he is 5, but I swear he is really 7 or 8. The scary part is I am going to blink and it is going to be true.
Slow down life.
When we only had 1 kid, everything was in the spot light. No matter how big or small, it seemed like Katie and I had the time to see it, digest it, talk about it and pop it in the memory bank.
With Charlie, I don’t feel like I am doing that enough. Things are crazy. Our small amount of time together is all about something being dinner or trekking to and from school, or trying to carve out an hour of no kids just to relax.
I don’t even take as nearly as many photos as I used it. I probably went out of control with Harry, but the photo taking has dropped off to only a few per week now.
The boys are by no means boring, they are the complete opposite. I just think they move so fast now, that it’s hard to sit back and enjoy the little moments.
Do you find that with your kids? Weeks fly by where you just think to yourself, where did the time go.
Bottom line, I am going to try to get back into just enjoying everything they do good and bad. I don’t want all my time with them be filled with process and getting annoyed with them.
Reviewing like a dad will cover my favourite and not so favourite places, products and events based on my experiences. As a parent, it is always better to hear it from another parent, rather some person who has no idea what it is like to do anything with kids.
Have a place, product or event you would like us to check out, please contact like a dad today.
The 411: We first tried Greenwood Smokehouse for my birthday. It was a takeout meal and it was exceptional. I have a taste for BBQ and this food fit the bill. You knew you were in good hands once you entered the place and it smelled like actual smoke. We ordered the dry rubbed ribs and beans. Again, exceptional BBQ. The ribs were fall off the bone and had a great flavour. The beans, well you knew they were home-made. I have been trying to suck up to Greenwood Smokehouse on Twitter, hoping to get the recipe.
Playtime is the highlight of almost every child’s day, which is why parents should make time for play.
Even wild animals seem to crave a break in the day for play. We see birds chasing each other through the trees and think, “I wish I could do that!”
Yet when our own children beg us for time to play, or to play with them, there are often so many other things to do and places to be that playtime gets delayed.
It is important to remember that the idea of play differs for every child. Some children love structured activity while others look for the time to break out of structure and even run wild in the yard or on a playground.
That means there is no right or wrong way to play. Some kids like to play alone while others seek out groups, organize games or recruit their siblings to play along with them.