Dear Wife: You Make Me A Better Father

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couple laughing with their daughter
One father feels closer to his kids... and he owes it all to his wife.

My lovely wife:

I want to thank you. Today, I spent long hours in the summer sun with my children. I did this yesterday, as well, and will again tomorrow and next week and the week after. I splashed in the kiddie pool, talked to a toddler about snakes and negotiated spoonfuls of oatmeal with a baby.

Today I'm on—what?—my fifteenth month of paternity leave, if you add it all up? At this point, I easily dress my kids in the morning, sleep with them at night and have learned to pack a mean snack bag.

And I feel all the more masculine for it. I feel like a better father—and a better husband.

I would never have come to this place without you, without your belief in co-parenting, without you teaching me how to do things like pack the snack bag, and without your willingness to take a step back. And that is perhaps the hardest thing of all with one's own kids, isn't it?

I know we live in Sweden, and that this type of equanimity is more of a cultural norm here than in the U.S. But this started long before we moved back here. This started in the New York City suburbs, where you had expectations of me that I welcomed but did not expect, and where you trusted me in ways I didn't see coming.

I always thought I'd be a good dad, and I'm sure in a parallel "American" life I would have been pretty involved, like most dads in my generation. But would I have insisted on co-parenting, paternity leave and reduced working hours? Hmmm... probably not.

And even here in Sweden, there are so many dads who turn out to be glorified babysitters on their parental leave, the moms driving—or being burdened with—the daily family agenda and routine.

But we are not like that, and I think our family is so much better off for it. The gains are subtle—in the way we talk over coffee, in the way we don't compete over who has it harder, in the way we are honest about what we want and don't want to do.

So thank you. You are the best.

Love,
Nathan

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