By Courtney Sidky, NCJW Digital & Design Manager
My father is an athletic Robert DeNiro type who has never met a stranger. He is the favorite son from a Middle Eastern family where historically, that distinction has meant a lot. He has also been a full and equal partner and co-parent to my mother for over three decades. As a little girl, he was the parent who made the best ponytails, and on several occasions, he put my mother’s Foreign Service career ahead of his own. At one point, he left his lucrative job to be my sole caregiver while my mother’s previously family-friendly assignment abroad erupted into political unrest.
There were other options, he could have let me stay in North Carolina with my mother’s family or asked my mom to stay in the US, away from the work that is so much a part of her identity. I don’t think anyone other than my mother would have faulted him for it. I know for a fact he was subject to snide comments by various relatives because of his choices. However, he knew what was best for our family, all three of us, and never thought of it as a lesser choice. That said, this was only an option because of community support and financial stability.
To quote Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, of Call Your Girlfriend, “The scam is structural”. Through the pandemic, we have been inundated by nightmarish headlines about the state of women in the workplace owing to already overextended caregiving needs and unsupportive partners. We, the American public, have not invested in women, children, and families. Instead of a safety net, we as a society have opted to have individual women shoulder the entirety of the responsibility of caregiving to all of our detriments. The introduction of the Administration’s American Jobs & American Families Plans is a hopeful sign that changes are on the horizon. I hope we will all have the true freedom of choice that my parents had.
I love celebrating my father and am grateful for his example. However, he did what he was supposed to do; he was an active parent and a good partner. This is especially true when you consider the lack of structural obstacles in his way. Countless women have made the same sacrifices without anyone considering it a loss, and more have been unable to make a choice at all. My father should not be exceptional. In recognizing all that my father did for me and my family, and contextualizing it into today’s reality, I see that two things are true. First, we will not have equity until we as a society invest in caregiving infrastructure, and secondly, men who say they believe in actual equity prove it with their actions. Happy Father’s Day!