Cultivating a Modern Family

Parenting and family planning have evolved in countless ways over the years. Some things have stayed the same; the pride of first steps, hearing first words, art created on walls, and learning quickly to never be caught without a snack. Others have changed dramatically, such as balancing passions and hobbies with the duties of work, college deadlines, and what we define as our family. How is anyone supposed to “balance” it all? What does “balance” mean? To Ryan Moskun, a claimed father by our 5-year-old daughter, Thea, that balance lies in priorities.

The Road to Parenthood

Growing up, Moskun desperately wanted to start a family. Through high school and college, having kids was a must. Someone to share his knowledge with, to teach, to marvel at the world with, and give experiences he felt he missed out on. “I always asked to go camping every single summer with my parents and never once did we go because it wasn’t something my dad wanted to do, so things like that… I didn’t get to fully express myself,” Moskun said. 

Ryan Moskun scuba diving in Cozumel, Mex., Aug. 6, 2021.

As he started to finish up college and realized that he had the time to do all of the things he was interested in like rock climbing, scuba diving, camping, and even starting a band, kids didn’t sound so appealing.

Several years later, he ended up dating me: I had a child, a fact he was well aware of going into the relationship. It started casually, we both knew that it wasn’t serious and that there were no conversations about him even meeting my daughter Thea. Then… things got serious. The relationship got to the point where decisions had to be made- it was teetering between casual dating and a committed relationship and that came with some heavy conversations.

Showing Up as Parents

Moskun and I had discussions at length on how I had a transition into parenthood and a loss of time for myself that he didn’t get- morning sickness resulted in canceled brunch plans and replaced it with online shopping for baby gear and the endless rabbit hole of parenting blogs. My third trimester slowed life down as those canceled plans turned into setting up the nursery, making as many frozen crock-pot dinners as the freezer could possibly hold, and spending time savoring those little kicks and hiccups that will soon occur earthside. Moskun seemed to become a parent overnight. 

 “Making sure I was good enough to fulfill their needs was important. That’s definitely daunting- walking into a situation where you are being trusted with a small life-form and you don’t want to f- it up. Especially when there has been a standard of a single parent for the majority of the child’s conscious life. You know, that’s a huge shift for the child…” Moskun commented, further reflecting on those early conversations:

“Making sure you’re doing what you can to be accepted by the parent and the child and yourself. It’s hard to put into words.”

Ryan Moskun with his daughter Thea in Orangevale, Calif., Apr. 9, 2021.

We communicated through the process and covered topics like parenting styles and we took our time with the decision. This gave Moskun a different kind of transition into the job of parenthood.  

Moksun talked about how intentional the transition was. He was introduced as Ryan, and Thea would eventually come to call him “Dad,” on her own accord. We didn’t push any label, but when Thea would ask about her own paternal figure after seeing the other dads at school pick-up, he would ask, “What do dads do?” After Thea rattled off some tasks he would ask, “Is there anyone around that does those things for you?” This got Thea thinking about who was showing up for her. The answer was “Dad-Ryan,” almost every time. 

These types of conversations define our family and he commented on how important it was for us to get Thea to really think about what being a family means.

Our village, several generations back, has been made up by who shows up not by genetic obligation.

The Work-Life Juggle

After long talks over coffee, wine, and sometimes speakerphone, we moved into the 46% of two-parent households where both parents work full-time.  Before becoming a parent, Moskun would spend most weekdays doing what he felt like after work and weekends off on adventures to San Francisco, Vegas, Tahoe, or wherever else the trails were taking him. He loves to create and tinker and our home is filled with ship-lap walls and intricate light fixtures he made himself. There is an entire closet dedicated to outdoor gear for hiking, climbing, snowboarding, camping, mountaineering, and even scuba diving- all hobbies that are not very toddler-friendly. 

Moskun claims that the biggest change was losing those smaller bits of time to himself to just relax that now had to be structured around the needs of our daughter, “I’m still able to be around the house and work on projects. And, you know, our daughter is at the age where she wants to be involved and help. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes and she’s bored and done, other times she stays the whole time. It can be a little distracting and I don’t get into my full workflow.” 

Ryan Moskun with his daughter Thea in Yosemite National Park, Calif., Feb. 13, 2021.

In 2015, Pew Research published a study on how household labor is divided in two-parent working households. In the study, Pew found that about 54% of full-time working families generally have the mother spearhead most homemaking duties. When broken into tasks, the study demonstrated that the mother was more likely to manage the child’s activities and schedule as well as take care of the child when they are sick. The majority of parents reported that they split several tasks evenly such as discipline, engaging in activities with the child, and doing household chores.

When we talked about the division of labor in our own home, he explained that it is not about who is or is not doing which tasks- it is about a healthy family unit. I work full-time and attend college full-time as well, and he runs a business and works another full-time job. We regularly check in on each other and switch nights doing the bedtime routine with Thea, and swear by our shared Google calendar. 

Moskun admits that he does take on more of the household chores than me so I can focus on schoolwork more than folding laundry. He notes that: 

“Sometimes equal means supporting goals and each other’s well-being, not about who does the dishes.”

Little Family, Big Personalities

Moskun and I have big goals and time-consuming passions- from planning another business and getting books published all the way to stepping foot on every single continent. Yet Moskun maintains that no matter what, our daughter comes first and that he never wants to be an absentee parent. Sometimes we are able to have grandparents watch Thea for a day so we can take off to Tahoe and get some diving in or spend a romantic, adventurous weekend in San Francisco.  

Moskun’s daughter, Thea, at the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, Calif., Nov. 13, 2021.

We have no intentions of slowing down, but we do have to get creative with how we engage with our passions. To share his love of the night sky, Moskun took Thea on a trip to the Chabot Space & Science Center. During her oceanography unit in school, Moskun and I gave a presentation in a full wetsuit in her class and let the kids try breathing through the regulators. We’ve blended our passions with the kinds of toys in the house and the books we read. While someone else is out there reading Goodnight Moon, we are reading about all the different kinds of sharks before drifting off to sleep. 

“I let her dictate what she likes and dislikes. A child doesn’t know what they aren’t exposed to… The ocean is the hot topic this week, maybe next week it’s dinosaurs. Kids change their minds all the time. Regardless of where her path takes her, I’m sure we will find common ground. And even if we don’t, if she enjoys something she needs to pursue it and I’m going to be there to support her.” Moskun said.  

 He notes that even if it isn’t a shared interest, there is no other way he’d rather spend his time. Love is what makes a family and the exhausting balance of sticks and plates worth it.


Written and Photographed by Madalyn Wright

Madalyn Wright is a Journalism, Ethnic Studies, and Gender Studies major. They served on the Editorial Team in the Fall of 2021 and was Editor in Chief in the Spring of 2022. After finishing their degrees at Sierra, Madalyn is transferring to a 4-year university and continuing to work in the field. Madalyn is passionate about amplifying the voices of the working class and traditionally muted populations. They are based out of Citrus Heights, Calif. on Nisenan land.

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