When Jason and I got married, he was adamant about having kids, and I was adamant about having boobs that didn’t hang below my belly button. I didn’t feel ready to bring someone else into the world. I didn’t feel accomplished enough to be a role model or old enough to drive an SUV. I was selfish and self-obsessed and overly consumed with earning more Twitter followers than my actor husband. So we waited. And waited. Until finally, Jason’s biological clock starting drinking and my boobs started falling anyway.
A week after the arrival of our first son, Sid, there was an earthquake in Los Angeles, where we were living. The walls shook, and picture frames fell from the shelves. I remember grabbing two of my dogs in my arms and screaming for Jason to dig through the blankets for the third, at which point he turned to me and said, “Jenny! Forget the dogs! We have a f _ _ _ ing baby now!”
Yes, we come from very different families, and that has undoubtedly influenced our approach to parenting and natural disasters. But for Jason, caretaking has always been second nature. From the time Sid was an infant, friends, both male and female, marveled at what an actively involved father Jason was.
At first I found their reactions confusing. For as shocked as they were that I didn’t know what size diaper the baby wore because I’d never bought him a single box, I was equally surprised that some of my married friends were raising their kids as if they had sole custody of them.
“You are so lucky” became the words I’d hear on repeat at playdates and birthday parties. But as much as I loved my husband, I didn’t feel as though I should have to feel lucky. Nobody would ever say to a man, “Wow, you are so lucky your wife feeds and bathes your children!” Women are expected to love and protect and show up for soccer practice. For men, an hour or two alone with the kids on a Sunday during football season somehow warrants a trophy, or at least a World’s Greatest Dad mug. Sadly, this laughably antiquated double standard is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s, even in New York City, where we live now.
Mothers are expected to do and be everything at the same time. Society shames moms who work and those who don’t. The onus is on us to say this is BS and that imbalance is normal. Sometimes I’m focused on my career, and sometimes I’m focused on my kids—just like Jason is. If he picks up my parenting slack, there’s no need to say it’s out of the ordinary. Everyone who is in a partnership deserves exactly that.
I wouldn’t have had children if I hadn’t found a partner who was just as invested in raising them as I was. I am lucky that I found such an incredible husband. He has taught me everything I know about love that my late poodle, Mr. Teets, didn’t. By watching him I’ve learned how to show up for people, how to occasionally put myself last, and how to expose myself to playground skin cancer if it means having tuckered-out kids at bedtime.
But I refuse to say that I am lucky he shows up for our children as much as I do. I expect Jason to be willing to both forgo football and crawl on glass if his sons require it. I am lucky because he’s willing to do the same for me!