Part time Dads- I’m glad you came to the park. I know you don’t get to spend enough time with your children. I know you’re trying to give mom a break. She deserves it. She’s exhausted and burnt out. And I know you’re uncomfortable, this is new territory for you. You don’t spend every day immersing yourself in kid friendly activities. You don’t recognize anyone here from Gymboree or swim class and you have no idea what cartoon characters your kids are play-acting right now. You haven’t had a chance to learn the subtleties and nuances of the unspoken park social code, and you have no clue how to interact with anyone here. That being said, what I wish I could say to part time dads is: please just sit quietly with your discomfort for an hour or so.
I can see the children playing makes you nervous. That goes away with experience. They will fall, cry, bleed, and be totally OK. It’s just part of growing and learning. Please don’t take a stick away from my daughter, or tell her to slow down, or ask me to follow her when she climbs the big kid playscape. This is not a place where you get to set the rules and expect people to follow them. Calming your nerves is not one of my job duties for the day, and I resent you dumping that task on me without my permission.
I get that you want to make small talk. It seems awkward that we aren’t speaking, that’s another thing that fades with time. Chances are, if my toddler is off playing with another kid or quietly enjoying being pushed on the swings, this will be the only moment of peace and quiet I get all day. Please don’t ruin that just to ask me how old my daughter is, when she started walking, or what age she was when she started sleeping through the night. I can tell you don’t actually care and I don’t enjoy being forced to reciprocate the questioning and feign interest in your responses. You might assume that full time parents are so desperate for grown up contact that you are doing me a favor- you’re not. I’m not so starved for adult conversation that any interaction is a welcomed one. I might be interested in talking about sports, or politics, or any other topic I can’t discuss with my toddler, but I’d expect you to be able to gage my interest and act appropriately. Read the room. If I’m not biting, leave me alone. You are not entitled to have a conversation with me just because the lack of small talk makes you uncomfortable.
Discomfort is a feeling I’ve been coping with for ages, can’t you deal for one lousy park visit? I was uncomfortable carrying a child for 9 months and when I delivered a nearly 10-pound baby. I was uncomfortable when my husband had to return to work before my episiotomy stitches had healed, when I bore the majority of the sleep deprivation burden, when my nipples were raw, bit, clogged, and bleeding, and when I went days without getting a chance to shower. I’m uncomfortable every time I sneeze and pee my pants a little.
I’m uncomfortable when I consider the long term ramifications of my choice to be a stay at home mom. I worry about how difficult it will be to reenter the workforce and how I’ll ever be able to afford retirement. I’m concerned that my disaster contingency plans don’t feel comprehensive enough. What would happen if I became sick or disabled? What if my husband dies? What if my birth control fails and I become pregnant again?
I’m uncomfortable every time I encounter a new parenting challenge. You choose dinner and adventures a few times a week while I bear the weight that my decisions will shape what kind of person my child grows up to be. I’m uncomfortable when my choices are judged, when I’m made to feel guilty for occasionally missing my pre-baby life, and when I’m asked invasive questions about my post-partum body.
So please, come to the park. Just consider: should your comfort be the main priority of everyone here? Maybe, just maybe, a more important goal is a block of time where us full time parents can shut our brains off and catch a break from being pestered. Maybe I’m entitled to my comfort here a little more than you are.
Holly Harris is a regular writer at The Bolde, contributing writer for Elite Daily, and currently working on building her personal blog, hazelgolden.com. Find her other published work at http://thebolde.com/author/holly-harris/.