Friday, October 11, 2013

The Dad Identity

I was folding clothes when I overheard Silas say something to Daddy. Daddy sighed and said, "You're right Silas," and got up from the couch.

Silas was happily eating his meatballs and raviolis, but he had heard me tell Daddy that after he finished that game (of whatever video game he was playing) it was Silas' turn to watch a movie I'd gotten for him.

So what did Silas say to Daddy?

"Daddy, that's one game. It my turn. Movie please."

I secretly smiled to myself. This is something I try to say to my husband all the time but it's as if I've said it too often and now he doesn't hear me.

Sometimes I wonder why it is that much of my day, my life, is spent talking to these boys, learning from these boys, teaching these boys to *hopefully* be good people, and mostly spending my time with or for these boys, but my husband still maintains his hobbies (like video games). I mentioned this to him the other night and he responded, "Hon, you blog." Well yes, I do. After the boys go to bed. When they're otherwise engaged. I don't just take off and hole up in my office and write. And if I want to, I ask my husband if it's OK if I do so for 15 minutes or so (and I make sure I'm back in 15 minutes).

I am a mom. I've been a mom ever since Silas was born. I'm not sure, if you asked my husband to answer the question "I am..." 20 times, if "a father" or "a dad" would even be on that list (and he's not interested in doing that activity if I ask him). I've met guys who "are" dads. That's how they think of themselves, that's what they talk about, that's what they "do," that's "who they are." And I sit and wonder why it is that some men get attached to that title and the role as I have to being a Mom, while others continue to focus more on themselves than on their role as someone's dad.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing my husband. I'm trying to understand the differences I see. And I've asked him and he doesn't seem to have any insight into it (or he doesn't want to share it with me). Research on identity theory (remember now, I'm a social and personality psychologist, a researcher, this is what I do) tells us that humans play multiple roles (easy right?) and that only a certain number of roles can be "central" at any given time. As one becomes more central, more important to how we think of ourselves, another becomes less central (because we only have so much mental energy).

So I ask you, readers, parents, friends, psychologists, arm-chair psychologists ;) What makes some men a "dad" while others put the role of "father" further down in their list of roles? What do you think?