Being a father in Iowa City comes with pressure.
We're a progressive community. We like to think we're cultured, natural, forward thinking. Outsiders might call us granola. I call us fortunate.
Many of us have the means to raise our children the way experts say we should. We don't raise obedient children, we raise socially responsible citizens. Our fabric softeners and fever medications are dye free. There are not one but two thriving food co-ops, a notable accomplishment because this is America, and in America healthy foods cost a lot more than unhealthy foods.
We're not lucky. A community like Iowa City doesn't just appear like a stray $20 bill blowing down the street. We're fortunate that our predecessors attempted to build a community that some might call "cultured," that there are not one but three hospitals in Iowa City, and of course that the University of Iowa is here.
(Let's take a moment here to remind ourselves that many in Iowa City struggle financially, living paycheck to paycheck -- if there even is a paycheck. I'm writing from the perspective I know, from the middle class. Although I hope to use this blog to explore Iowa City fatherhood among all classes, regardless of socioeconomic status, today I write from my perspective.)
So why the pressure of being a dad in Iowa City? Because nobody can be perfect all the time, but that's what I feel I have to live up to: perfection. I teach my children about recycling, but we don't compost. I try to have one veggie at every meal, but sometimes you just want to throw a milkshake at a kid and watch them enjoy it. We read to our children every day, but sometimes -- especially on weekends -- we just want to turn on the TV long enough to let us read a magazine article or to unload a dishwasher.
That shouldn't be a problem, right? Even experts say just a smidge of the bad stuff here and there isn't such a bad thing.
But it is a problem in Iowa City, especially when you have means. With every banana peel I throw in the trash, every fried chicken strip I serve, every episode of Word Girl I turn on, I am overcome by guilt. Regardless of how much the "good" we do for our three girls outweighs the "bad," I never feel like it's enough.
I feel like I am condemning my child to a life of overconsumption, obesity, and couch potatoism. Am I really? No, probably not, but that's how I feel. I am an awful, terrible, lousy, sickening excuse of a father.
This is what Iowa City does to me. As a father, it both invigorates and shames me. It pushes me to do better by my children and rubs it in my face when I do not.
I love being a dad. I love the opportunities Iowa City provides to parents, guardians and their children.
Iowa City's expectations are high. I don't and won't always meet them. Please come along with me as I try.
• Follow Dave Schwartz on Twitter at @daveschwartz