The Faces of Modern Day Fatherhood

There’s a running joke in our family with the punch line, “I’m just the dad” [accompanied by the small smiled head shake].  Kids only want to snuggle with mom before bed? “I’m just the dad”.  Dad works insane hours to pay for college, but mom gets the thanks for the support? “I’m just the dad”.  Kids call to check in, and they just want to talk to mom? “I’m just the dad”.

When circumstances and timing are just right, it’s produced quite a few chuckles.   As parents we all have those moments when our kids unintentionally under-appreciate us, but my problem with the joke is that today’s dads are anything but “just the dad”. 

Listen to any of your grandmothers tell stories about their children’s births or what their responsibilities were when their children were young.  You know what I’m talking about.  Times were different.  Many dads weren’t allowed to be in the delivery room when their children were born.  Many didn’t change a single diaper. Dad’s focus was on providing for the family, and mom’s was raising the children.  Not to say dads weren’t rock stars back then too, but with different expectations, culture, and opportunities, things were just… different.

Today’s dads, however, keep adding to their polished fatherhood resume.  There’s nothing they are scared to do, nothing they can’t figure out, and nothing they aren’t a part of.  They are involved in every facet of their children’s lives, and bring such a powerful presence to their parenting team.  These modern day dads are severely underrated, and need to be celebrated and supported just like moms are.  They deserve it, and they’ve earned it.  

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, they are easy to spot.  They are the dads that walk in the door after work, take off their shoes, and run straight to the playroom to help build a block tower.  Its the dad that stayed up late on a Wednesday putting together a crib or dresser for the nursery without being asked.  The dad that takes his baby out for errands by himself because “he’s got this”.  They are the dads the kill it in the bedtime routine game, and then head downstairs to help pick up the kitchen before bed.  The dads that are active participants in discipline and teaching life’s hard lessons.  They are the dads that take the time to teach: mowing a lawn, how to read, tying shoes, or how to be a good friend. They are the dads that have the burning ache in their heart when they’re away from their children, because to them, there is no greater joy than watching their children grow and being in their presence.

Being a dad today is no easy task, and thanks to my growing Momtourage I was able to put together a collection of pictures that finish illustrating what my words can’t. To all those rock star dads out there – you’ve got a huge fan base over here. Keep up the good work!

This is what modern day fatherhood looks like.  Enjoy!

To the dads whose immense pride is worn on their face from the very beginning

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To the dads who make baby wearing look like it’s the coolest thing you can do with your child

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To the dads who take bedtime, middle of the night, feeding, and diapering duties seriously 

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To the dads whose kisses and cuddles are tender enough to heal all  

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To the dads with a sense of humor, who don’t mind getting silly, and love having FUN

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To the dads who understand the value of reading with their children 







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To the dads who ROCK the joint nap  


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To the dads who have passed the fatherhood rite of passage by carrying their children on their shoulders 








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To the dads who are present, in the moment, and on their level

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To the dads who teach, lead, mentor, and understand that the little moments are actually the big moments 

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And as if today’s dads weren’t doing enough, the real beauty comes as a product of their example – raising boys who learn from early on what it means to take care of others and be incredible fathers themselves one day.  

Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. :)
Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. 🙂


Unpacking “Help” in Toddlerese

There are basically three definitions of the word “help” in the Toddlerese Dictionary.  You know them.

Help /help/


1. used as an appeal for urgent assistance.

“Help!” (as their head is firmly stuck in between deck rails).  “Help!” (as they are stuck planking between the couch and ottoman and are scared to fall in between).  You know this one as a toddler actually needing help, but for something usually pretty ridiculous and picture worthy.


2. request to offer your services or resources to make the toddler’s life easier – not as urgent.

“Mom. Please help.” (as she points to the kleenex box on shelf she can’t reach, wanting to take out every kleenex one at a time).  “Please help. Water.” (as he points to his water bottle on the floor of the car that you JUST picked up for him no less than 12 times already).


3. an offering of assistance from your toddler to you – because through your own invitation or simple appeal of the activity, the toddler thinks their assistance will indeed be helpful.


THIS LAST ONE.  Numero tres.  The act of the toddler “helping” you.  This is the one.

No one talks about this act of toddler assistance, when some days I feel like it will surely be the thing that kills me one painstaking minute at a time. More so than the whining.  More so than the tantrums when leaving the playground.  And more so than alligator wrestling during each and every diaper change.  (I said some days).

If you’ve been around toddlers, you know all too well the “help” I’m talking about.  It can look like this:

Intention: help vacuuming.

Reality: toddler tries to hold and push your vacuum all on their own with NO help from you, resulting in a several minute struggle because its too heavy, and ending in tears because they couldn’t do it.  Hence, nothing got vacuumed, because your toddler now needs help coming down from their vacuum induced rage.  And if you’re thinking, “just remind her of her own play vacuum and you can do it together”, you are more than welcome to come over and tell her that.  I’ll be in the corner giggling.

Intention: help baking and cooking.

Reality: after bringing over a chair for toddler to stand on or bringing ingredients down to their level, you think you’ve got a firm grip on their hand that holds the mixing spoon.  Toddler refuses help, because after all, they’re the pro here? You calmly refuse to give them full reign, which incites immediate frustration from toddler.  Before you can say “here it comes”, that firm grip is not so firm, and there is food – everywhere. You swear under your breath as you clean up the unknown proportions of misplaced ingredients that that was the last time you let them help for awhile.  Until tomorrow. Blue berry muffins still turn out when half of the mix in your dogs mouth, right?

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Intention: help you go to the bathroom.

Reality:  Who knew that after being self-sufficient in the bathroom for 98% of your life you now needed help? You can’t say no – you want them interested in potty training and the process of going on the potty.  So, they help get you toilet paper to wipe with.  Which is fine, until you’re done wiping – but they aren’t done getting it for you.  Half a roll is on the ground, you’re stuck on the pot, and in frustration they quickly reach to flush before you tell them you’re ready.  All you’re left with is a few cold droplets of water on your butt and the shame in knowing your toddler just beat you in the bathroom.

Intention: help feeding the dogs.

Reality: This one is too easy to envision.  Toddler wants to dump food into bowls.  Gets distracted along the way (shocking).  Food ends up all over floor.  Some gets eaten by dogs.  Some gets eaten by toddler.  You don’t know how much food your dog actually got.  You find bits of dog food in kitchen over the next week.

Intention: helping unload the dishwasher.

Reality: They are playing nicely in the playroom, so you quietly open the dishwasher thinking you can quickly unload it sans “help”.  Your tot is the modern day version of Pavolv’s dog, however, and the simple sound of the dishwasher clicking open sends them running into the kitchen salivating with a thirst to help. You frantically get all the knives and deadly weapons up on the counter out of reach, and then proceed to let them help you.  Three dirty spoons, a broken plate, and 38 minutes later, the dishwasher is unloaded. How could you have possibly done it without them?

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Intention: help bringing in the groceries.

Reality: Most bags are too heavy to hand over.  You learned that when they tipped over sideways while trying to walk the bag through the garage and smashed into the wagon.  So now its a team effort between you and hubby. One sifts through bags looking for durable, non-breakable, non essential, light weight items to hand out. The other waits at the door to retrieve the items one at a time to avoid the toddler trying to walk up (and consequently falling back down) the stairs into the house.  If it was a large grocery shop, you know to run in the perishable fridge/freezer items first because they could easily go bad by the time your helper is done helping.

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To the parents of tiny helpers, I salute you.  Keep on keepin’ on.  Every day tasks take infinitely longer, the house can quickly turn dramatically filthier, and our patience meter can take significant hits when we are “assisted”, but we are determined to raise confident, independent, generous, and strong-willed young people. So we keep at it.   After all, are we really that important to take the extra time to teach them? We allow them to help us throughout our day because we know in the long run, the rewards will far outweigh the patience we put in.  And one day… one day… their help will in fact be our adult definition of help.  Right? (No seriously, some reassure me I’m right).

"Helping" me sweep out the garage.  Aka, stealing the good broom and sweeping our street.
“Helping” me sweep out the garage. Aka, stealing the good broom and sweeping our street.




Some Advice I’m No Longer Giving

I’ve given the same piece of advice countless times when new moms stress about getting everything done before baby. It usually sounds something like, “Just remember all that baby will need for those first few weeks is you! Baby will have no idea if he or she is being rocked or put to bed in a Pinterest perfect nursery.  They don’t know if your house is spotless! Just take your time and do what you can – you got this!”.  It sounds pretty good, right? It’s always spoken with the best of intentions, and at the end of the day, its the truth.

During my first pregnancy I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to nest.  Looking back in hindsight its kind of mind-boggling to me. We moved an hour away 1.5 weeks before the due date, and  I’m a “to-do list checking, everything has a plan, things need to be organized” kind of gal. Somehow, someway, I was able to take it all in stride.  Tayler’s nursery got done two days before she was born, and I don’t have any vivid memories of stressing over it.  Maybe I was too busy with work and the  move to succumb to those feelings, or maybe my hormones were in better check the first time around.  Either way, I didn’t have any overwhelming nesting instincts, and therefore felt my “all baby needs is you” advice felt good rolling off the tongue.

I’m currently 31 weeks into my second pregnancy, and all that advice sounds like at the moment is white noise with a few fart noises inserted throughout.  At this moment, I never plan on giving those words as stand alone advice ever again. What this fundamentally sound advice does not take into account, and is perhaps the most important this to consider, is mom’s natural feelings and emotional need to get things done.  What I didn’t realize until about 20 weeks into this pregnancy is that those, “I’m throwing out half of my clothes, you need to move the refrigerator now so I can clean under it, I’m not leaving this house till baby is born, and if you don’t help me hang things in his room right now I will unleash the Kraken on your ass” feelings are as real and as natural as eating spoonfuls of ice cream straight out of the carton.  My to-do list has been extensive, and those who aren’t helping me check them off are considered an enemy of the state.  I’ve gone on several hour cleaning benders on little sleep and a bad back, and I’ve spent countless hours looking at different kinds of cloud mobiles.  We’re fortunate to have many close friends and family getting married this summer, and while all I want to do is go let loose and celebrate such joyous occasions, all I really want to do is be home.  Being away from home gives me anxiety. I’ve organized baby boy’s clothes three times already knowing well that they’ll have to be washed and reorganized again anyway.  I was nearly in tears the other day leaving Babies R Us when they didn’t have the carrier I wanted, and I’ve literally went around all the baseboards and every inch of ceiling in baby’s room with one of Tayler’s tiny paint brushes and a tiny can of white paint because I didn’t think our edging job was sufficient when we painted.

These instincts are seen all throughout nature.  Rodents try and find the absolute lowest sheltered spot available.  Dogs pace and build nests with items they find throughout the house.  Rabbits dig and line their holes with grass and hair plucked from their body.  And birds insist on staying in their nest as much as possible. When its in our DNA to prepare for baby, no matter the level we feel it at, I think it needs to be embraced.  Not brushed off.

I’ll be the first to tell you some of my nesting habits during this pregnancy are completely irrational.  In my head I know that edging the entire room carefully by hand was crazy and no one would’ve known the difference.  I know I have several months to go until I’ll actually be able to use the carrier I want and have plenty of time to order it.  I know that leaving for a weekend is a good thing, making memories that will last a lifetime.  I know putting together little bookshelves at 11 pm isn’t necessary.  And as a second time mom, I know all too well that the mobile is for me – baby could care less. I know.  I know all of this. I haven’t lost touch with what is realistic and rational.  But it doesn’t change the feelings stirring within me, and I can imagine I’m not the only mom who has felt them in their own way.

I’ve thought about what kind of support I would want from my friends and family as I prepare for numero dos, and I’ve come up with a new approach.  First and foremost, don’t down play a nesting mom’s need or desire to get something done.  What may be trivial and silly to you, may just mean the world to her at the moment.  Don’t make her feel stupid.  Instead of pushing things back farther and farther on the calendar, make a plan for how and when you can get it done. Soon.  Together.  Time does matter. Don’t tell her not to stress (she will anyway).  Instead, ask her in what specific ways you can help her and when she would ideally like them done by.  Compromise on how much you pack on the calendar leading up to baby. Sometimes a need to stay home can feel overwhelming. While I’m not encouraging total hermit crab behavior, prioritize and choose which things are an absolute must.  Listen to her.  For this short period of time her hormones can trump logic, and she knows it.  Her brain, heart, and body are getting ready for baby – you can’t fault her for that. Just roll with it, and listen to her needs.  Be proactive, and help in ways you think she might like but hasn’t spoken up about yet.

Let momma bear be momma bear.  And when the time finally comes to bring baby home, she’ll be happily at ease knowing her nest is the perfect place to smother this baby with heaps of love and laughter.