I don’t think I can go on much longer talking about parenting without talking about who I am doing this with. You know, the ying to my yang, the thread to my needle, the mashed potatoes to my gravy, the fish to my chips, the chocolate syrup to my brownie. Mmmm….brownies…urghghghh. Wait, what was I talking about?
Right, the spouse. My husband is a pretty decent guy. And the most awesome thing about him is his wife. And because I believe that for a marriage to be truly successful, you need to constantly remind your spouse how blessed they are to have you and how they couldn’t get through life without you, I try not to tell him too frequently how awesome he is. It’s for his own good, really.
A post on Welcome to Fatherhood (https://father-hood.co.uk/2017/03/29/6-reasons-dads-need-to-find-their-voices/) got me thinking about my husband and his role as a dad.
During the first year of the spawn’s life, my husband was in the same situation as when you show up to a BBQ late and everyone’s already helping in the kitchen. And you don’t want to look useless so you stand in the corner holding an empty garbage bag and get in people’s way who are trying to get to the punch.
For logistical reasons, we were living with my parents temporarily after my daughter was born and there really were too many chefs in kitchen. So the poor guy couldn’t find his footing, even more so than normal dads. And even when he did try to help, he had no clue what he was doing so I would do the job myself. He had a hard time bonding with the boiled potato we called our daughter, and was most of the time, standing in my way to the changing table, with an empty garbage bag in hand.
I feel that post childbirth, dads get demoted to the lowest rung of the household organizational chart. They are right there above the toilet brush. Everyone hoos and haws over the baby and offers help to the moms and asks them how they are doing. Are they happy? Did they get enough sleep? How are they coping with all the changes?
Historically speaking, this made complete sense. Back in the day, men did little past the fertilization stage. Like, male penguins were more involved than human dads. A 60 year co-worker of mine who had six kids was listening to my conversation with another co-worker who just had a baby and was talking about how involved her husband was. The older co-worker snorted and said, “My husband wasn’t even in the room for any of my six children’s births. He was a Neanderthal!”
It’s true, evolution is at work and men have come a long way on the apes to Neanderthals to modern day dads spectrum.
But here’s the thing, they never get enough credit or support for it.
While my husband was about as useful as a dead light bulb during the first year of my daughter’s life, he quickly found his role as soon as I returned to work. We were now equals, bringing home equal amounts of dough, living on little sleep and no will to live. It was war and we were in the same battalion.
When the spawn was around two, the spouse and I were discussing our experience of becoming parents. And he said, “I think I had post partum depression.” I almost snorted out my brain.
He said, “Seriously. People talk about what women go through and their challenges with becoming a parent. And I agree that it will always be harder for the woman. They have it the toughest. After the baby is born, their hormones are raging, they are depressed, some women have a hard time coping with all the changes. But men go through it too, you know. They are suddenly sidelined. They’ve lost the attention and affection of their wife who is tired and preoccupied. They don’t understand their role in this new baby-mother dynamic. Everything in their life has changed too but they don’t talk about it. They don’t get the same support from people. And if they did talk about it, they would be ridiculed because obviously women have it way tougher”.
The man had a point. While I won’t minimize what a woman goes through during childbirth and after it, men, especially present day men, experience their own share of stress because they are equally involved in a lot of cases.
After the first year of the spawn’s life, Daddy became as adequate, if not more adequate than Mommy. My daughter goes through phases. Sometimes, she is in the “Mommy” zone where everything from toilet time, to meal time, to hugs, to boo boo-kissing has to be administered by Mommy. Then the Earth revolves and a new solstice comes around, and then it’s “Daddy” time. Hallelujah. Daddy is the savior. Till the next solstice, Daddy is walking around with the spawn hanging off his knees. He is the maker of milk bottles, the feeder of food, the wiper of boogies and bum bums, the changer of clothes, the Almighty. While mommy sips coffee on the couch and smiles slyly.
The point is that my husband is there. Every day and in every way. Many times, the exact same way as me. He entertains her when I have to work overtime. He takes her grocery shopping with him on the weekends. He takes her swimming. He gives her a bath. He feeds her food when she being difficult and whiny. Daddy can do everything except make ponytails and dress her fashionably. He is the quintessential knight-in-shining-armor kinda Dad and I feel sorry for the poor bloke who has to stand up to the standard my husband has set for my daughter, much the same way my dad did for me.
I won’t minimize my burden and privilege as a mom. There are some things my husband can never do as well as me, like pack for a vacation and think about every possible item the spawn could need in a week. Or intuitively know what she is feeling or wants. Or give her a sibling. But there are many things dads can do, and many are doing them well. So maybe it’s time we celebrate dads a bit more. At least the good ones. And not just on Father’s day. Give them the due credit. Support them through sleepless nights. Create a sense of community around them, especially the ones who are single and doing it alone. Appreciate them for not being Neanderthals anymore. Mommy is Mommy, but Daddy is pretty badass too.