There was nothing I wanted to inherit from my father more than the name “Dad.” I loved my dad, and in my mind, he was indelibly tied to that particular sobriquet. “Dad” was a term of love and respect for me, a part of all my memories of childhood and a crucial element of how I defined my family. The problem, when I actually became a dad, was that my partner Drew wanted to be called “Dad,” too — or, in the early years, “Daddy.”
“You can’t both be Dad,” a million people warned us. “That’ll be so confusing for your kids.”
They suggested we go by “Daddy” and “Papa,” which seem to be the go-to designations for gay dads these days. No matter how much we considered it, though, “Papa” felt like the consolation prize, and neither of us would agree to settle for it. We both grew up with dads whom we loved very much, so that’s what we wanted to be. Finally, we found someone who gave us the answer we were looking for.
“We’ve never had a problem,” a business associate of Drew’s told us one day. He and his partner had an eight-year-old son who called them both “Dad.”
“Is it ever confusing?”
He shrugged. “When it is, he finds ways to differentiate.”
So we went for it. Before they could even understand speech, our twins heard the word “Daddy” thousands of times. To them, “Daddy” came to mean two different men and one common function. They called for Daddy to kiss their boo-boos and to break up their disputes, not knowing for sure whether the tall guy or the short guy would walk through the door. When they didn’t get the Daddy they were hoping for, they made their displeasure known.
My kids will turn 4 this summer, and already, they’re pros at differentiating between their two dads. Their favorite way is to use modifiers like “Silly Daddy” or “Funny Daddy”, and in those cases, we all know instantly who they mean — not me. When they take the extra effort to throw in a compliment like that, they’re always talking about Drew. I’m just plain old “Daddy.” Some days, Papa doesn’t sound so bad to me anymore.
I want to plead my case: “Remember when I sang Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’, but I changed every word to ‘poop’? Didn’t we have a lot of laughs then?” But I don’t want to end up as “Desperate Daddy,” so I keep my hurt feelings to myself.
I’m the stay-home parent, so while the kids and I do have fun together, I’m also the guy who enforces naptime and who makes them take off their dress-up clothes while they eat their healthy dinners. At night, when Silly Daddy is at his most uproarious, I’m groaning and trying to rush them to bed, because I’m exhausted from all the unfunny things I do all day.
… which brings me to the one distinction that hurts more than Silly Daddy vs. Just Daddy. At some point, my kids started calling my partner “The Daddy Who Goes To Work” and I became “The Daddy Who Stays Home”. Was that how they saw things? Drew was defined by his job, but I was defined by my location, by the fact that you could usually find me within 20 feet of the bed where I slept last night?
These kids didn’t know me before I was Daddy. I used to have a career, too, one that I enjoyed, and that allowed me to live a lot more comfortably than I do now. I took vacations. I saved for my retirement. I saw movies in the theater.
I thought I was trading that in for something better, a more interesting and adventurous life path. I was going to be a dad — a professional dad — and a gay dad at that. Take that, status quo!
Instead, I’ve ended up like most stay-home parents, the clichéd unappreciated house-spouse. I’ll find myself cracking privately to friends, “You know what they should be calling me? The Daddy Who Gave Up His Life for Us!”
It turns out that deciding who I would be to my kids wasn’t as simple as choosing what they would call me. I still love being referred to as “Daddy,” but I’ve come to accept that that term doesn’t mean the same to them as it did to me when I was growing up. For my kids, “Daddy” is an ever-evolving designation, one that requires adjustment at times, complete overhaul at others.
Recently, they decided that “The Daddy Who Stays Home” wasn’t quite working for them anymore. Without notice, they gave it a subtle twist, one that probably seemed minor to them but which brought me instantly out of my funk. It materialized as my daughter drew pictures of two men’s faces, which looked very similar except that one had spiky purple hair and one had a red crew cut. “This is the Daddy Who Goes to Work,” she said, pointing to the first one.
“And this,” she said, holding up the other picture proudly, “is the Daddy Who Takes Care of Us.”
OK, you saw the asterisks. You know what that means. This is the part of the post where I shamelessly ask you to share this post (or my blog in general) on your social networks. Facebook me, tweet me, surprise me. If you like something I wrote here, help me out by spreading the word. If you hate it, then you can still share it, because hey, traffic is traffic, and your friends might have better taste than you. Also, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you can find me. I’m not the type of guy who plays hard to find.
LOL. It seems like equality is yours, hon. ❤
I read your story and smiled. I am a stay at home mom and my wife works. I went through the same feelings. We have 7 kids and oh how I love them but I to get tired and defeated. I can tell u this and oneday if u stick it out u will see that you are the one that has the best part. As they grow up they will know your dependable and you are there. My kids range from 6 – 16 and the olders now come to me to have serouse talks or answer questions. They are thankful for me and by no means do they make life easier (hormones are a nasty thing) but they make all those long days worth it. You are taking time to build the core of who they are. Respectful, kind, healthy, smart……, your job is more important than any job on this earth as of now. It don’t seem like it dishes, naps, fevers, tantrums, and on & on but it will be worth it hang in there and don’t feel less because I never had a dad and you must be one amazing father and a hell of man. Hold your head high papa cause next is school.
JennMaye, I believe you meant to address this comment to the author of this blog, not me. The header says that you are responding to a comment I made, so I am guessing that you must have clicked to send a comment right after my comment. I’m only telling you this so that in the future, you scroll all the way to the bottom of the comment chain and add your comment, so that the author of the blog post you liked gets notified. Have a wonderful day (and good advice, BTW!)
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I couldn’t stop reading your post. I’m not a dad but I can relate. After spending six years in the military I gave it up to take care of two of my nephews because they’re mom couldn’t. One was 6 and the other was 2 and had frequent seizures. When you put you’re life on hold no one seems to notice. I can only hope that one day I will also be rewarded with appreciation. Thanks for this post.
Well, good for you, taking care of kids who aren’t even yours. I believe those moments of appreciation are there. You just have to look for them sometimes, because the kids don’t always know how to express them yet. But even if they’re not vocal about their appreciation of you, I will be — you rule!
Ah yes, the joy of being the parent that puts their career aside to stay home for our children! The job you are doing each and every day with your kids is one of the most important positions we can ever hold & one that quite often leaves us feeling a little unappreciated at times. Just remember in those moments of feeling like just the “Daddy that Stays Home”, Silly Daddy is missing out on the day to day amazing tiny little moments shared with your children. I am loving reading your blog, you & your spouse sound like you are doing an wonderful job raising your children! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks – and you’re right. You’ve pointed out the flip-side of feeling unappreciated, the guilt of getting to spend so much quality time with my kids. 🙂
Being a new “Daddy that Stays Home”, although I do go by “Papa”, with 6 month old twins this is a constant topic in my mind. Thanks for the story and the perspective. It’s a big transition and can definitely cause a “funk” as you put it.
Best of luck to you! I can promise you one thing – it does get easier and in a lot of ways more fun than when they’re 6 months old. At the same time, I miss those days. Enjoy it all – and congrats!
You mentioned the term “Daddy” doesn’t seem to have the same meaning to your kids as it did to you? I certainly didn’t read it that way… Just because they may have to alter the way they say “Daddy” doesn’t mean their definition will be much different from yours. In regard to the term “Dad” you said it is a “term of love and respect for me, a part of all my memories of childhood and a crucial element of how I defined my family.” Regardless of which “Daddy” you are don’t you think a time will come where you and your partner still represent everything you mentioned that your Dads did for you? I sure think so! I bet one day it won’t matter who stayed home and who worked, who enforced the rules and who threw caution to the wind. In the end your kids are loved by two amazing men and the term “Daddy” will represent everything it is supposed to for them.
Yes, well said. And ultimately, what matters most is the unstated stuff, not the terms they use for one of us or the other.
That was so sweet! I was brought up by my great uncle (who I was brought up to recognize as my grandfather) and I call him Papa. He wouldn’t let me call him Dad growing up, so after watching A Little Princess, I decided that I would call him Papa and maybe that wouldn’t bother him. Sometimes people refer to him as my dad and we don’t correct them. In every way that counts he is my father, and I love him very much.
Your kids sound very lucky to have both of you. At the end of the day,titles don’t matter as much as knowing you’re loved 🙂
Hilarious! I would share, but I live in a kid-free world; no one would appreciate except me and my secret want to be gay-mom.
The best Jerry, the best!!! I loved this one– i will share it for you!!!!!
Great post! I really think the world needs to become a place where “the daddy (or mommy) who stays home” is an honorable title.
I did a spit-take on the “Daddy who is desperate” line. My husband is Papa and I’m Daddy. Our son doesn’t see the difference — the only thing I find difficult is the lack of “papa”s in tv shows, books, greeting cards, etc.
I would just like to acknowledge that “Daddy Who Takes Care Of Us” is WAAAAAAY more talented, smart and funny that “Silly Daddy” or “Funny Daddy,” because That Guy just has so little time to impress them, he resorts to cheap stunts. You’re the real deal, Mahoney.
Well that sounded a little mean.
I loved this blog post, and it brought a big smile to my face when your kids changed your moniker to “the daddy who takes care of us”. And I guess it’s the same in any relationship – the one who stays home is the less fun one becasue they are the one who has to ensure the kids have a good upbringing with discipline, learning and respect all thrown into the mix, whereas the one who earns the bread gets to come home after being absent all day, and gets to do all the fun things and have their attention demanded. I shall most certainly pay heed to your asterixes and reblog this on my blog. 🙂
Totally agree. And being able to stay at home and have control in how they grow p is a wonderful thing.
Reblogged this on Strawberryquicksand and commented:
Drew is a gay dad. This post is about how he is the “stay at home daddy” and the other dad is the “going to work daddy”. It’s a great read and if you like this, please follow his blog because all his posts are a great read. 🙂 I promise to write you some more of my own blog posts soon and stop fobbing off with reblogging other ones that I enjoy. 🙂
Reblogged this on Help! We're on fire!.
Awww, does it get any sweeter?! Even though Drew seems to have it a bit easier to be appreciated as a Dad (absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess), deep down they do know what you are to them. Lovely post, Jerry, and congrats on being the Daddy Who Takes Care of Them.
Oh, well this made me weepy. (I like weepy. Good job with the weepy.)
Way out my league..Something I get to see only in movies and sitcoms….But hurrah to you both…
As I too sit here, with career on hold…and the ‘one who stays home’ this warmed my heart. In time they will know what we did for them…may just have to wait until they have their own children to hear it:0
Loved your post. My husband and I had such a good laugh reading it last night, because we had the same story at home when I wasn’t working yet. ‘Mama’ did all the boring stuff (naps, lunch, discipline) and Papa came home from work and took Felix to the beach, to the playground, etc. Now Felix goes to nursery three times a week and I work part-time, so things have changed a bit – we pick him up together and he runs straight into MY arms (ha haa!). But I swear, when he says ‘Mama’, it comes out like a whine. When he says ‘Papa’, he sounds really happy! Anyway, I really enjoyed your post, thanks for writing a great blog.
awww so cute! the daddy that takes care of us is a wonderful title!
awww you just brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face at the same time. you just described my life…except for the gay dad part. xoxo ❤
Best ending EVER.
OMG. Can this get something like “the most touching post in the whole universe” award? Being a stay-at-home mom, I understood every sentiment in this. And the red spikey hair is a good look for you.
I agree with kelloggs77 – absolutely touching. You are so blessed with your kids and partner, although I would not trade my career to be a stay-at-home parent! My daughter is at crèche during the day, and both my hubby and I work Monday-Friday! You have 2 kids; wow I can barely cope with just my 1! 🙂
Awesome post – really enjoying your blog 🙂
If time is money you’ve made me a wetihaler woman.
I wondered about what T and I will do when we have children. All I know is I don’t like “mom” and don’t want to be called that. I don’t even want to hear her called that, but that’s what she called hers. I like “mum”. My friends think it sounds old. *Shrugs* I think we’ll be “Mum” and “Mummy”, but I can’t be sure until they come along and name us.
And I’m glad you both decided to go with Dad. It really isn’t that confusing. We don’t give children enough credit sometimes. My dad and brother have the same name, but we always know which one is being called. It’s all in the tone. Haha.
This was a great post. I’m glad you got the warm and fuzzy from the picture. 🙂
Awww. I love this.
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We decided on Dad (me) and Daddy (my husband). It’s worked pretty well for us, although he does use either at any given time. He knows, when he’s trying to get the attention of one of us specifically, to use Dad or Daddy.
I still prefer it to the time we were at a restaurant and I had the misfortune of taking him to the restroom after another patron had done a number on it. For about a solid week, I was known as the “stinky poop Daddy”, even though I was not the culprit.
Your website is wonderful! I do not remember having to explain this to my kids either; they saw two mommies or two daddies or one mommy or one daddy or one grandma or auntie and uncle at school functions sometimes and nobody asked anything. Maybe because nobody at school (teachers, administrators) showed any surprise. All the school ever wants is that the students have parents that care about them. And I live in the South! We may be evolving, y’all.
About the “daddy/mommy who stays home” – it took 18 and 21 years respectively, but I am regularly thanked “for all you did for me, mom”. DO NOT GIVE UP!!!
Hooray! Glad to hear they appreciate you — and kudos from me, too, from one stay-home parent to another!
Thank you for this! So nice to read, a tear in my eye as the mommy who stays home.
Hey Jerry, I just nominated you for the WordPress Family Award! 🙂
I’m honored! Thanks so much!
You’re welcome! You deserve it. I love reading your blog!
I am OBSESSED with your blog. I relate to your life in so many ways and I’m excited to continue to follow your journey. I hope to one day be thought of by my children as the one who takes card of them and not the one who is simply always around. Good luck in all of your upcoming adventures!
How sweet! Wonderful kids, wonderful daddies. 🙂 Following your blog!
I’m only 20 and not married and have no kids or anything but I’ll be damned if I say that the last line didn’t make me tear up. Loved this, your kids sound precious!
Reblogged this on I'm what Willis was talkin' 'bout. and commented:
Genuinely put a smile on my face. Definitely worth the read.
God! the naming daddy part seems the most confusing part of the deal, who would have thought that!! what about daddy1 and daddy2? 🙂
My partner and I obsessed about the naming issue and finally gave up, figuring that our kid would just have to solve the puzzle on his own. The result has been that I am Mommy Jenn and my partner is Mommy Kellie. For a while, if he said just “Mommy”, we knew he meant me. But lately, as my partner has taken over more of the parenting duties, she gets to be just plain “Mommy” as well.
Thanks for adding your perspective. I’m glad to hear there are other people out there dealing with this issue like we are. 🙂
Ugh! I completely relate to the “you didn’t know me before I was a parent!” sentiment. I moved out at 18, and worked really hard at two jobs to support myself while I pushed through the schooling/training to be a surgical assistant. I loved my job, and I was proud of my accomplishments, leaving wasn’t an easy decision. Now I am the stay@home mommy of two little girls (Cady, 4 & Lexy, 2). My oldest is VERY literal, VERY blunt, and doesn’t mince words. My husband is the same way, and it’s never bothered me, but hearing the raw truth (as she sees it) fall out of my toddler’s mouth was different. It stung. I’ve learned a few things though – 1) Parents need thick skin, lol. 2) If the truth hurts, I need to change it or accept it. “Mommy doesn’t dress pretty. She wears clothes for the gym” – ouch! truth! but it’s not gonna change! so I’ll get over it. – 3) Ask questions before wallowing in hurt feelings. My daughter told my husband that he goes to work, and mommy doesn’t. He asked her what mommy did while he went to work. She listed taking care of them, playing with them, cooking, cleaning etc. He said isn’t that work? Her reply – “It’s LOT’S of work, but you GO to work. Mommy STAYS at work!” It’s all in the fine print 😉 Rock on Daddy-who-STAYS@work, we make the world turn ’round!
Thanks, MegaMomma! Love this comment!
I’ve been reading the heck out of your blog tonight and really enjoying it. This one rang with me to the point I felt compelled to comment. I’m the female half of a straight couple, and our son was born three and a half weeks early just about ten years ago. When he was about two and a half months old, I went back to work. My husband is self-employed, and we couldn’t afford for me not to be at the full-time job with the steady paycheck that provided ALL our health insurance. But I was cool with that; I am not stay-home material. (And mad props to you and all the other folks out there who are.)
So, Mommy went to work and Daddy became Superman of the house. And he still does pretty much all the domestic tasks even to this day. Because he’s good at it. And, left to me, it would go undone most of the time. But I gotta tell you, as much as I knew I could never stay home, I also felt both guilty as hell and ridiculously jealous of the bonding my husband and our son were doing in my absence. I don’t know how military parents do it.
I was rooting for you all through this blog post, and I really loved the ending. The kids will always communicate with the two of you differently and have different nicknames and views of you and Drew based on your personalities, the roles you fill in the family, and so on. But they will, as they come to meet kids not as lucky as themselves, ALWAYS place extreme value on the love and care you give them day in and day out, come hell or high temperatures.
When I told my now 10yo son about how I felt jealous when Dad got to stay home with him, he seemed surprised. We have a special bond between us that is very different from the bond he and his Dad have. I can’t believe now that I ever doubted we would.
Thanks for all your great sharing. Looking forward to the book!
My partner an I have a 4 almost 5 year old son. He adopted him with his x partner. His x left when our son was 1 month old. I came in the picture when he was month an half and been there ever since. My partner is only one on the adoption and he said he would be be daddy he would reference me as dano. One day our son looks at us an days daddy an points to my partner an looks at me an says dada. He still calls us daddy an dada. I am much like you. I am the one who cooks and cleans an takes care of the family an works full time. My patrner works full time but in retail an unstable hours as I have set hours. It is a blessing an a curse. But when my son comes up to me out of the blue and gives me a hug an says I love you dada. It bring joy an tears to my heart.
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Nice to meet you, I read your blog and I have nominated you to BLACK WOLF BLOGGER AWARD, hugs, Arden. http://elbesoenelespejo.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/black-wolf-blogger-award/ And I invite you to read my Gay Blog Book!
Reblogged this on This Wonderful Life and commented:
This brought a smile to my face and happy tears to my eyes. So happy for this daddy that “takes care of us!”
I wondered…. have you thought how you want your grandchildren to address you?