by Jordana A. Loeb
When my two-year-old son fell asleep in his stroller this week I took the opportunity to hunt for a Father’s Day card for my husband: First Target, then CVS, and then Duane Reade. Zero, zero, zero. Its not that there weren’t an array of choices from which to choose. But for me, the process was fairly disturbing. I had started out excited to find heartfelt, or hilarious cards; and by the end of the afternoon, I was quasi-depressed. Nothing fit. I would pick up a card, assess the picture and the accompanying sentiment, and feel . . . nothing. Even the cards that were meant to be “from” children didn’t align with the reality of my son’s, or daughter’s relationship with their father.
I love my husband. Our children love him. In fact, he is one of those guys who everyone loves.
So why couldn’t I find a card? None of them applied to him — he doesn’t cook, he doesn’t play golf, he doesn’t wear ties every day, he doesn’t have a ton of time with the kids, and beer is rare (good luck finding me someone who would be content with a tipsy doctor swirling tubes inside of their brain).
Either he leaves the house at 6:00 a.m. in scrubs in a rush, looking like a kid running away in pj’s; or, I leave the house with the kids (amazingly) not in pj’s, leaving him passed out in our bed from having coming home at 4:00 a.m. from the hospital where he clocks in more hours than with his family.
Where is the Father’s Day card encapsulating the kind, but overworked dads? The thoughtful, but tired fathers? The caring, but emotionally spent?
Coming home from work ready to light up the grill is never going to happen for him. Weekends off call are for detoxing, resting, and playing with the kids — not escaping solo.
I know I am not alone — I know there are many spouses who have experienced the same card conundrum — the cards that don’t fit our reality and that don’t define our relationships. They just don’t work. The American greeting card industry is playing to a supposed “ideal” American father stereotype, not a common one. The card conundrum exists because of two human strengths linked together: the richness of our differences, and wanting to say, “I love you.”
Personally, I don’t want to deal with smelling up the neighbors’ backyards from a grill. I believe swapping ties for scrubs is awesome because he never has to stress about his outfit. It took a lot of effort for my husband to construct a career where winning a game on the weekend requires zero competition, but simply the satisfaction that he is exhausted because someone he has treated is now not dead.
So I scripted my own card for my overworked, exhausted, and sometimes burnt out husband:
“Happy Father’s Day! The munchkins are super lucky! You care deeply about the importance of love as you see lives healed and hurt daily — so you understand sincerely what is truly important for all.
We all love you.”
Jordana has a background in law and private equity. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her two munchkins and her scrub-clad husband.