About two years ago, in one of our first articles, Heidi and I interviewed our moms for a piece entitled, We Got it from Our Mamas. Interviewing our moms was a no-brainer: they both work in scientific fields, offer a wealth of knowledge and advice, and (in our completely biased opinion) are amazing women.
I recently noticed that we don’t write about dads as much on BPC, even though my dad completely shaped who I am today. My dad stayed at home with my two siblings and me while we were growing up—and this was before stay-at-home dads went mainstream. The early 90s did not quite understand the concept…I’m not sure 2016 is even completely okay with it. However, the number of stay-at-home dads in the US has doubled since 1989 and today, 16% of all stay-at-home parents are fathers.
Though I’m sure having a stay-at-home dad (and my dad in particular) influenced me in a million little ways, these are some pieces that stick out most to me.
1. Do things because they are completely fulfilling.
My dad taught me early that while it is great to be ambitious and achievement-oriented, it is okay (and encouraged!) to explore things that interest me simply because they are fulfilling. My dad reads about topics from art to politics and science, creates comic strips, maps our family tree back to the 16th century, and travels to meet long-lost relatives, just to name a few. This consistently inspires me to try new things and probably is a big reason this website exists.
2. Be myself.
My dad has no qualms about being himself. He has this huge orange puffy jacket (I think it’s the Cincinnati Bengals football team?) that used to embarrass me as a kid when he would wear it anywhere besides grilling on the deck. I would be like, “Really, Dad?” in my 13 year-old Megan stuck-up tone. But orange is his favorite color and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. This extends across most things he does, and definitely allowed him to move past the question, “So, what do you do for a living?”
3. Pay attention to what is going on in the world.
My dad always knows what is going on the world, as received from no less than five news outlets. Related to this, I remember in the third grade when we had to do biography projects and I really wanted to do my project on Amelia Earhart. I got the books and everything ready for the project, and then I found out that someone else was doing her project on Amelia Earhart too. (The horror!) When I told my dad what happened, he suggested choosing from two contemporary women doing hugely important work: Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I was like, “Who?” I don’t think we had covered the Supreme Court yet in school. Needless to say, a few weeks later I had read several books on the Court and was standing up in front of my third grade class in a judicial robe and holding a gavel.
This aspect of my dad’s personality certainly influenced my love of science and technology. My dad keeps up on the newest technology, isn’t afraid to try new things, and encouraged me to do the same. I remember playing on his Macintosh computer at two, using the video camera at five, and editing videos at eight. He never told me—no you can’t use it, you’ll break it. (Though there was a lot of, “Don’t force it, you’ll break the mechanism!”) My dad definitely gets this from his dad, my late grandfather, who was an aeronautics engineer and the first person to suggest that I should be an engineer too (as I dismantled the back of his living room TV…these men placed a lot of trust in me…)
In addition to being an amazing parent, I know that my dad’s openness to taking on the challenging role of being a stay-at-home dad had a direct impact on my mom’s career success. I know she would have had a hard time leaving us to travel for work and focusing on her job if she was constantly worried about our safety, happiness, and connectedness as a family unit. Clearly, the choice for a father to stay home is a very personal decision, and is not for everyone. From watching my own family, I learned that the openness of both parents to take on this role, even for short periods of time, can be beneficial to their partner and children.
Funny enough, my dad now works in the scientific industry for a biotech start-up…maybe it’s time to bring him in for an interview!
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.