Father Envy.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


Father’s Day afternoon. My family and I were heading home after a weekend away. Our plane was packed. We were last in line to board.


Right in front of us was a middle-aged dad, wearing khaki shorts and a golf shirt, holding a six-month-old baby. Stroller, diaper bag, carry-on bag, bottle, pacifier…All of us who’ve ever traveled with babies surely remember how much heavy, awkward, leaky junk you need to fly with an infant.


Airport Dad handled it all without breaking a sweat. He flung the diaper bag over his shoulder without jostling his drooling son. Then he folded the stroller with one hand while holding the baby securely in the crook of his arm. He had clearly done this many times before. His competence warmed my heart – just like Sting shirtless once did.


My seat was in the back row, so I passed the twosome again after boarding. Dad looked happy and baby was thrilled as they buckled in. The funniest thing was the expression on the women’s faces surrounding him. Pure rapture. Not because of infant envy – we weren’t looking at the baby. We were drooling over Airport Dad. Welcome to Father Envy.


I guarantee few of us would have looked twice at this man before we had kids. At first glance, Airport Dad was not handsome enough, tall enough, rich enough, or charismatic enough to catch anyone’s attention in a crowded airport. He looked like one of those nice guys in high school – your friend, but never your boyfriend. In the midst of our 20s, dating furiously, learning from awful relationships, working hard to make increasingly wiser mate-choices, how could we comprehend the bliss of having children with a man who could capably travel alone with a baby?


You're writing the story of my (mothering) life up there. Helping without being asked... it's a pipe dream. How is it that someone who seemed to sensitive and enlightened during the six years I knew him before marriage could turn so socially prehistoric when the baby came? He's actually much more help now that she's school-aged. But it was a BIG issue for us while she was a baby and I was a work-at-home mom and he had so very many important things to do all the time that would take him out of the house. It's absolutely mind-blowing to me in this day and age... So I blame his parents.