— Zac Chase (@MrChase) January 26, 2016
I’m so glad that Dad Bods are a thing now. For a while there, I was worried that I was going to have to start working out more or losing weight, but now I realize that I am just a part of a trend where embracing fatherhood excesses is encouraged and even highly sought after by some.
While that may sound like hyperbole, I believe that my internalization of gender is very wrapped up in a narrative of fatherhood. Being a dad, makes me a man. Picking my kids up from the bus stop is something that anyone could do, but the fact that I am doing it, shows my gender and my love.
There are times, though, that I feel out of sync with my gender as a result of fatherhood. When I am taking care of my 2 year old during the day and we choose to go out to target or the grocery store, I see almost exclusively women with other children. I see motherhood being advertised in every aisle. And yet, I feel proud of my gender in that moment, too. Even though I am doing much the same thing as the mom with her kiddo, it feels like I am being unconventional and subversive. Like, I am an undercover man.
Other times, my gender is more about a role I am playing at home. I do the dishes every morning, and while it shouldn’t be a gendered event, I am doing something that I almost never saw my father do while I was young. I do most of the vacuuming and putting away of folded clothes (although I don’t generally fold them) and each time I engage in those activities, I am proud of both contributing to the household and the way in which I am not playing a role that was archetyped for me.
I embrace stereotype too, when it feels authentic. I make all of the technology in the house work as a prototypical nerd dad. I wrestle my boys and let them get into much more precarious bodily situations (falling off of couches and the like). I am less likely to see the emotional components of any situation in favor of the logical explanations. But each of these things are a part of a plural personality and they are always a part of a spectrum. My wife would far rather play sports with our kids than I would. I passively avoid a lot of the final decision making for what we do with our weekends. I listen a lot to my kids and my wife.
So, I guess I mostly internalize my gender by seeing myself through the lens of expectation. Sometimes I meet expectations and other times and let them go. My manhood is tied up in fatherhood and being a husband, but it is complicated by knowing what those roles looked like for my parents. I am not the sum of what I have seen, but rather the sum of my reactions to what I have seen. I embody my choices and most of the time that is what it feels like to be a man.