for release May 11, 2001
by Melodie Davis
(INTENDED FOR USE PRIOR TO MOTHER'S DAY)
Recipes for Long Marriage: Fathers Who Are Like Mothers
You hear a lot about how horrid it is to get stuck next to a crying kid on an airplane. I say anyone who really feels that way has never had a crying baby on an airplane.
On a recent trip, a crying baby had me in tears, not out of frustration, but from watching the beauty of a super-patient, nurturing father deal with the child. It had been an early morning flight, and by liftoff the 15-month-old was cranky and ready for a morning nap. But the child just couldn't settle down. It didn't look like a question of a "spoiled" child. The parents had control and he was a good kid, but just tired and over stimulated by the experience of flying, strangers, and new places. First the exhausted-looking mother tried to calm the child and then the father took over, walking him up and down the aisle, entertaining him, trying to get him to hang on until breakfast was served.
Ironically, the movie that was playing on the plane was Nicholas Cage's somewhat sappy but endearing modern day rendition of A Christmas Carol, "Family Man." If you've seen it, you know that the childless and wifeless character Cage portrays is a workaholic, calling in the troops for an emergency meeting on Christmas day. Then he has a dream that he is the married and bewildered parent of two bouncing children. About one hour into the movie, when things are getting really sentimental, I looked over and the young father at my side finally had the little boy asleep in his arms. When we got off the plane, others commented to the dad about how patient he was.
Talk about family man, there he was.
I thought of my own husband at home who had weathered the kids through many of my own business trips, especially when they were younger. I thought of him enduring 8-9 hours on his feet working in a warehouse that was freezing in winter and roasting in summer. And of course I had to cry. So often men don't get the credit they deserve.
My theme for this column, "Fathers who are like mothers" may seem like a weird way to honor mothers on this Mother's Day weekend and to talk about recipes for long term marriage, but bear with me because columnists and pastors soon tire of saying the same old thing for Mother's Day anyway.
One of the things that has made me appreciate my husband, I would say almost more than any other thing, is in his role as father to our children. While I respect those who decide that having children is not for them, and feel profound compassion for those who want to be parents and cannot, having children for me is the icing on the cake of marriage.
Fathers play a different role for children-sometimes they must be nurturing mothers (and that happens for us more often when I am temporarily out of the picture). I have always found that my husband steps in and plays a very different role when I am gone. He relates to them differently -- is softer -- without me around. And I am probably too much of a pushover: I think my kids would be wilder if he was not around.
Certainly one of the profound reasons for hanging in there through the rough times in marriage is for the children, and this reason cannot be taken too lightly. For some years, experts scoffed at this idea: staying together for the children. But some of those who study the long-term effects of divorce on children are realizing that children may be affected in deeper ways (Time, September 25, 2000). Sometimes children seem amazingly resilient and go back to normal routines in the years following a divorce.
But look at even the most basic effects that most single parents live with: a much lower income with all the pitfalls that poverty brings; uprooting children; dealing with two households; step-brothers/sisters/parents; and not having two parents who balance each others' strengths and weaknesses; the logistical problems of being two places at once. Then you realize that many times the best thing you can do for your children and even yourself is to put extra effort into making your marriage work.
It's harder to celebrate Mother's Day if Mom or Dad isn't around. It's hard to celebrate Mother's Day if 364 days of the year, Mom does all the parenting and Dad is not really "there" for the kids either. The best way for Moms and Dads to endear themselves to each other is to both work hard at nurturing and shaping the children, regardless of whether they are technically "Mom" or "Dad."
For a free booklet "Creating a More Loving Marriage," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 760 words; end material = 105 words
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