Why single mothers make great dads


We all complain about our spouses.  It’s just a fact of marriage.  And God knows, I’m as guilty as the next person of focusing on my husband’s flaws rather than the millions of gifts he possesses.

But lately, I just can’t help but explode with gratitude for this man with whom I’ve chosen to spend my life.  I watch him right now, pushing the lawnmower on a crisp, fall morning wearing basketball shorts and a hoodie pulled up over his head, while my daughter sits in a chair by the dining room window waving to him and singing, Daddy, Daddy to herself.  I smile each time he charges back up toward the house, making a grid in the grass, as she says, Daddy hold you, Daddy hold you, and waits patiently for him to come in and do just that.  Because he will.

I think about Friday night, when I thought (thank God!) that I was finally going into labor with my second child and we went out for our own version of The Last Supper (PS, I’m still pregnant a day past my due date as of this writing–ugh!).  I pinch myself when I picture my daughter eating his sushi tempura while he ate her cheese quesadilla instead, and the two of them danced together by the front door of the restaurant as I took twenty minutes to lift my pregnant self from the chair.

This man is an awesome dad.  And I say this not because my brain is a soup of pregnancy hormones right now, but because it is the honest truth.  And to top it off, he’s a pretty damn good husband too.

It occurred to me last night while I tossed and turned in the bed that there could very well be some sociological explanation for how well suited he is for these jobs.  I’ve heard a lot lately about “the millennial man” and I do think there is something in the air that has pushed modern men to play more domesticated roles, but I think in my husband’s case, he is such an amazing husband and father because he was raised by a single mother.Father's Day 2013 (23)

His father died when he was an infant and his image of what a man was supposed to be was a single woman raising three children alone, while dealing with the sudden and tragic death of her husband.  He has no illusions that “men aren’t supposed to cry” or “such and such is women’s work, not men’s” because his male role model cried often and would at once mow the lawn and have dinner ready by six.

I know my husband, his siblings, and his mother wish more than anything that they didn’t grow up without a father and husband, and I know they miss him still.  But I think about many (many) of my students who are raised by single parents and the supposed negative psychological and sociological impacts of this experience, and I have to respectfully disagree.  I think that strong people who are missing someone so pivotal in their lives often fill that void by becoming more of a whole person than others.  I never pushed myself to be both yin and yang, masculine and feminine, because I grew up with clearly defined boundaries about what that entailed.  I never needed to be both.  But his mother did and what she produced is children who don’t define themselves by those roles.

My husband cooks dinner every night (and he’s a hell of a better cook than me).  He cleans most of the time.  He cuddles, hugs, and kisses our daughter ceaselessly.  Every day between 9 and 10 am, I get a text telling me he loves me.  And he also always takes out the trash, mows the lawn, and kills the occasional spider.  He is everything to and for us.  I wish every woman in the world should be so lucky, and I thank my lucky stars day after day that I am.IMG_4254

Hopefully I will have this baby and not be pregnant for the rest of my life, and when our new baby girl enters this world, God-willing, she and her sister will grow up with a male role model who is both protective and nurturing.  A mother could not ask more for her children.




The Search in On…

IMG_0963During my first pregnancy, all I wanted to eat was watermelon.  And I went through A LOT of them.  I ate at least two watermelons a week, and the watermelons that year were the best I’ve had in years.

Fast forward to the present day, a second pregnancy, and another nagging hankering for sweet, juicy watermelon.  But this year the watermelons have been crap.  Seriously, crap.  They’re never ripe enough, too tough, not sweet enough, too mushy–you get the point.  My approach to dealing with this has been, “Let’s just keep getting them every time we go to the grocery, and we’re bound to find a good one.”  My husband’s approach has been, “They’re not good enough, so we’re not going to get it.”  The debate has been heated enough that we’ve turned quite a few heads in the produce aisle, but the problem is bigger than getting thrown out of Whole Foods.  The way we’ve searched for watermelon this summer is exactly how we each approach life.

Matt does all the cooking in our house, not because I don’t like to cook or am terribly awful at it (although the idea of cooking a meal after putting on a show for teenagers all day sometimes makes me want to cry), but because I always mess something up.  The food usually turns out fine, but my timing is always off, or we are missing an ingredient so I do a spur of the moment substitute that doesn’t quite work, or one box says 350 degrees and the other says 450, so I just average the two and end up with half frozen, half burnt meals.  I am very impulsive.  Matt, on the other hand, is extremely calculating.  He will study cookbooks or online recipes for several days before planning a meal.  He will lay out all the ingredients on the counter (no matter how crazy it drives me that he makes such a mess while cooking) and scan it all before starting.  If we don’t have the exact ingredient, he will stop midway through and run to the store.

Our difference in this area filters into almost every aspect of our day to day existence.  Before purchasing an item, Matt will look up reviews until his eyes bleed and compare the prices of every possible place to buy it.  I tend to buy a lot of stuff and take half of it back–I’m pretty sure the guy behind the customer service desk at Target rolls his eyes when he sees me coming.  Matt wants the best of the best of everything (especially when the best of the best is on sale), and I just grab whatever I see first.

So our approaches to watermelon this summer hasn’t really surprised me.  What has surprised me is the way it’s made me question so much about myself.  Because, as luck would have it, we did find the best watermelon only a few weeks ago at the farmer’s market across the street from our house.  Apparently the Amish know how to grow ’em, and at $6.00 a piece, it’s not a bad deal.  The thing is though, (even though I will NEVER tell him this) I kind of regret eating all that crappy watermelon, and wish I had held out for the good stuff.

Because I’m impulsive, I do tend to spend quite a bit of time regretting.  Not only do I regret my purchases, but I regret texts I send, words I say, worries I dwell on, and a whole mess of things that if I just took the time to wait, to be a bit more calculating, I might not regret so much.  I’ve always thought that being impulsive was another way of saying spontaneous, and that it was all a part of my flaky charm.  But now that I’m in my thirties, it’s a liability, and it negatively impacts my relationships with others and myself.  If I thought about what I said before I say it, I might not say it.  And if I don’t say it, I might not send the pitiful I’m sorry text after saying it.  And I might not then worry about whether or not the person is annoyed that I sent the text.  And…you get the point.  So, in the end, others become frustrated with me and I become frustrated with myself.  It’s a vicious cycle that always leaves me lying in a puddle of regret.

I’m learning that one of the best things about being in my thirties, is growing into myself.  And that means letting go of some traits that I always thought were “just the way I am.”  There is something to be said for accepting and being kind to ourselves, but if we’re not growing, what’s the point?  When we moved into our current home, I set about preparing to paint the plain white walls.  Having always been a lover of bright colors, I wanted to bring some color in the house, but part of me wanted to tone it down a bit from what I’d done in the past.  Matt, who loves me inside and out, kept saying, “What happened to my Ashley who loves bright colors?”  I listened, went against my gut, and bought a gallon of bright, grass-green paint for the dining room, and about ten rolls in, I realized that it was a disaster.  It was truly awful.  And although I am grateful that I have a husband who would tolerate living in a Pollock painting for my sake, I had to repaint it.  That girl who loved bright colors has grown up, so now her dining room is a bright, although tasteful, gold color.  And she’s stuck with a gallon of ridiculous green paint if you need any.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and we will make our trek across the street for the good stuff, but with each bite I’m going to remind myself that sometimes it’s best to wait for the best and to let go of the way we’re used to being.  If you do, you’ll end up with a properly cooked meal, a bright, yet tasteful home, and, quite possibly, the best watermelon the Amish can grow.