Our family has just gone through a big transition. After 23 years, we’re now retired military. My husband, and father of our three kids, is no longer wearing his uniform and having folks salute and call him “Sir.” While we don’t plan on saluting him at home to compensate, we’re very proud of him — then and now.
As we’ve made the switch from military to civilian, I’ve watched my husband consider his future through the lens of fatherhood. A lens that is heavier and more distorted for him than I had previously realized. Every career decision he’s made this year — from retiring to choosing his next job – has been about “us.”
Having been married forever and best friends before that, you’d think I would have understood what being a dad has meant to my husband. Or, more to the point, what being a dad has done to him.
As a mom, there’s no getting away from what having kids has done to me. My life has a definite fault line between before kids and after. My career changed dramatically, then went away, my body was not my own for years and now bears little resemblance to the pre-2000 version, my brain is littered with all the kid-generated to-dos, and, speaking of litter…what happened to my clean house?
My impression of my husband’s life, before and after kids? He had the same job, continuous possession of all body parts, and his room of the house is under national park rules: Feel free to visit; just leave no trace.
This year’s transition made me realize that my impression of my husband’s “gentle” metamorphosis to daddy was not exactly spot on.
We were married seven years before we started a family – a long (fabulous) time of just us. So when the atomic bomb of baby number one hit, I got sucked into the experience 100 percent. I used to be “his” – then I was “theirs.” Our world tipped in a big way.
While I was in that first baby fog, my husband had time to ponder this new reality. As a new dad, he was left with the task of picking up the bits of our previous life and crafting the basis for our new life as a family.
What I didn’t realize is how parenthood changed his perspective and priorities almost as much as it did mine. As we’ve raised our kids, I have envied his freedom to pursue his career while it was all I could do to keep the homestead in good, well, stead.
As he’s been so successful in his professional pursuits, I didn’t appreciate how much he had to work the system to be sure his career didn’t upset our family apple cart. He turned down opportunities if it meant moving us. He took a series of dreaded correspondence courses in his “spare” time so he wouldn’t have to be gone for nine months. He’s played the parent card he was dealt with an amazing poker face.
So this Father’s Day, I’m going to take an extra moment to look at our precious world though my husband’s eyes. I realize now more than ever that his journey has been as much about our kids as mine has. The dad role he’s sculpted is just so very different (and controlled) than my frenetic mom role.
So happy Father’s Day to my dear husband and to all those quietly dedicated dads peering through their own fatherhood lens. Military or not, we salute you.
Special Projects Editor & Writer
Washington FAMILY Magazine