I Am Not a Babysitter, I Am a Dad

January 7, 2017 a father's perspective, Attachment, attachment activities, Bryson, Dads, Perspectives 5 Comments

I have been unusually emotional lately. At the drop of a hat, I am tearing up. This week is our son’s “famiversary.” One year ago we stamped our thumbs in red ink and officially made him part of our family in a humid government office in Nanning, Guangxi. As I write this, today is also the three year anniversary of receiving LOA for our daughter. The amalgamation of these two things, along with a couple others, has made me more emotional this week than I’ve been in a long time. I may or may not have cried watching the Christmas episode of This is Us last night.

Recently, someone told me it was “so great” that I was “babysitting” my children while my wife did her weekly evening office hours for her job. A babysitter “clocks out” when the job is done, and I think society gives me permission to clock out in unhealthy ways. Mandy and I both have full-time jobs and we try to divide the household work so that it is somewhat equitable. But I realized, no one ever tells my wife it is so great that she watches our kids while I travel for work and no one ever comments how great it is that my wife drives my children all across the country handling their medical care so that I do not miss work.

The comment about how great I am for “babysitting” my children has caused me to reflect a lot about different societal expectations placed on women and men. It seems society has unrealistic expectations for moms, and lower expectations for dads.

Here’s the issue for me: I’ve known only a few strong, reliable men in my life.

Then I started thinking about the strong women I’ve known. There is no comparison. None.

I’ve watched you (namely you, adoptive mamas) fighting for goodness in this broken world.

I’ve watched you sacrifice careers and notoriety for the sake of your children.

I’ve watched you do hard. I mean the kind of hard most people don’t understand or appreciate.

I’ve watched you pursue your child’s heart every single day and receive nothing in return.

I’ve watched you try to describe the pain of raising kids from hard places to people and family who just don’t get it.

I’ve watched you rally together and raise tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of hours time and time again to help families adopt.

I’ve watched you text, chat, talk, cry, and laugh into the wee hours of the night because you are there for each other. No matter what.

I’ve watched you as your children receive scary medical diagnoses and the way you become the expert on your child’s disease. I have been touched as thousands of adoptive mamas pray and fast for your family.

I’ve witnessed some of you experience the unimaginable death of your child while adoptive moms from around the country raced to your side to attend your child’s funeral.

Men, we have a lot to learn about connection and community from the women in our lives.

I think a lot of us men disconnect and go to work. Yes, we need to go to work and provide, but sometimes, I recognize this is a convenient excuse for me. I am not sure a lot of us recognize how hard it truly is to parent kids from hard places. Yes, we need to provide. Yes, we have demanding jobs. But all of that cannot come at the expense of connection.

I think one of the reasons I am so emotional this week is because I am realizing that strong and reliable men are connected men – strong and reliable dads are connected dads. And though men and women are different and created uniquely, we are both called to connection.

As we go into the new year, I would like to challenge fathers…

Given the demands of a stressful career, where are tangible opportunities for you to connect with your family?

Given the challenge of raising kids from hard places, where are opportunities for us dads to connect with other adoptive dads? Many of our wives have found their tribe on Facebook, where is this space for adoptive dads?

What does it look like to be a connected father?

In this new year, may we truly appreciate, honor, and put ahead of ourselves the amazing women we know. They are doing hard work. It’s work that will pay dividends for eternity.

May we as dads also look for opportunities to engage in connective parenting too. May we find a community of other adoptive dads. May we model for our children that strong and reliable dads are connected dads.

Mao Zedong said, “Women hold up half the sky.” May we engage in the hard work with them.

5 responses to “I Am Not a Babysitter, I Am a Dad”

  1. Lisa says:

    I love connected Dads! Bravo! My hubby is in China now adopting for a third time and this will make FIVE total kids for us. I love how my hubby stands up and connects to our family and does all the things a ” mama” would do. He is the strong, nurturing force of our family…so yes, strong men exist! It’s so nice that you too stand as an example, that strong men DO exist. That you speak truth to men out there, that men have such an impact on their kids, their marriages and society in general. Thank you for writing this..so Love your heart and words! 🙂

    • Amand says:

      Your husband isn’t in Taiyuan by any chance is he? We met a father this week traveling by himself for the third time to bring home the 5th child.

  2. Mia White says:

    Amen, good stuff. I wrote something quite similar a year ago: http://untoadoption.org/daddies-dont-babysit/

  3. Helen North says:

    Thank you Bryson. I choked up reading your words of acknowledgement. And then i promptly emailed your article to my husband.
    Thank you and congratulations on your famiversary and remembrance of that first really important piece of paper connecting you to your little girl <3

  4. Donna Moore says:

    You are a strong and loving Dad and I am so proud of you! Your dad was also one who was always available and happy to provide for our three sons and multiple foster children. Without him I would not have had the opportunity to attend school to obtain a degree and have a career I loved. Raising children, regardless of where they come from, is a privilege and a blessing that comes with many challenges. You and Mandy are awesome parents and I pray God will bless you more and more as you travel this life of parenthood!

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