Thankful Nation

Am I a stressed, tired, rushed dad? Yes. But I'm also enormously thankful

Father buckling baby into car seat


They say that most couples fight over money. But I’m convinced the biggest showdowns happen over chores.

My wife and I are one argument away from making lists to track who does more. It’s a running gag that — after making breakfast, packing lunches, cooking dinner, helping with homework, supervising bedtime — I walk around griping: “I can’t do it all.” My wife responds by teasing me: “You do nothing!” 

There ought to be a point system. Three points for grocery shopping. Two points for driving carpool. One point for picking up toys off the floor.

You probably think modern parenting is a two-person job. 

You probably think modern parenting is a two-person job. Not true. Take it from a hands-on, work-from-home, amateur-juggler, short-order—cook, unofficial-Uber-driver dad with three kids (6, 8 and 10) — all of whom hunger for attention — you need at least three or four people to do this job.

Not true. Take it from a hands-on, work-from-home, amateur-juggler, short-order—cook, unofficial-Uber-driver dad with three kids (6, 8, & 10) — all of whom hunger for attention — you need at least three or four people to do this job. 

Recently, I was scrambling to file a column and then drive to the airport for a flight. My wife called and told me that our son had forgotten his soccer jersey. She asked, would I mind taking it to him on the way to the airport? Sure, I’d mind. But I took it — and almost missed my flight.

At a time when Americans are busier than ever, parents seem intent on being more involved in their children’s lives. 

And more men are stepping up and becoming the primary parent in an activity that just one or two generations ago was wrongly considered “women’s work”: raising children. 

The older men in my family — dad, uncles, grandfathers — were not exactly child care professionals. But I’m a hands-on dad, while working seven days a week as the main breadwinner. 

The New York Times recently looked at the state of two-parent households in our country and they offered up this look in their Upshot column: Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family

Yes, I can relate.

In fact, moments to myself are so rare that it felt strange to recently dive into a lengthy and thoughtful magazine article on — you guessed it — parenting. The article, which ran in Atlantic Magazine, suggested 50-50 parenting is impossible. It also explored, from the first-person point of view, the idea of being a “lead parent” with all the benefits.

The article was written by Andrew Moravcsik, a Princeton professor, and it was titled: “Why I Put My Wife’s Career First.” Moravcsik also happens to be the husband of Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton Professor, President/CEO of New America, a Washington and New York-based think tank, and author of the new book, “Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family.” 

Moravcsik’s introspective and impactful article argues the value of men being the lead parent.

“Promoting gender equality is laudable,” he writes. “Yet if taking the lead at home is so tough, many men may wonder what is in it for them. The answer is a lot.”    

After 13 years of marriage, and a decade of parenthood, it now seems quaint to admit. But I once assumed that my wife and I would equally divide the parenting duties. 

That’s ridiculous. There are times where one of us is pinned down, and the other has to do more than his or her share.  

For the last three years, I’ve been our family’s “Johnny on the spot.” Because my wife’s job afforded little flexibility, I picked up the slack — making breakfast, packing lunches, driving the kids to school and then putting my work aside to take them to dentist appointments or little league games or birthday parties. The oddest moment had to have been when I attended my daughter’s Mother’s Day celebration because my wife, no matter how hard she tried, just couldn’t break free from her office.

I was being a great dad and supportive husband, but a not-so-good employee. Work took a back seat. I learned ou can push a deadline easier than you can push a 6-year-old. 

Things are better now. Several weeks ago, my wife started a new job teaching at our kids’ school. It gives her time with them, and me time to work.

Even so, there are a lot of things to do in order to keep a household running. And, in between assignments, I do them.

As I look back at the last few years, when I was the lead parent, I’m not happy about the fact that my productivity was not what it should have been. But I’m OK with it. 

I remind myself of what I’m often told by parents whose children are grown: time speeds by. While there will always be another book, column, deadline, interview, or speech, there won’t always be an 8-year-old asking for help with his homework. 

Those are life’s most essential moments. Yet they rush by. And once they’re gone, they never come back. That’s why, when I think back on being the lead parent, I don’t feel resentful. All I feel is grateful.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for the Daily Beast. He also writes a nationally syndicated column for the Washington Post Writers Group. He is author of "A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano" (Bantam 1994).