Sunday, February 21, 2010

Husband's Thoughts...On Fatherhood

Husband is back yet again to answer more of your reader questions. (Here are the previous two entries: thoughts on breastfeeding and work/life balance if you missed them the first time around.) Take it away, Husband!

What is your favorite part of being a dad?

This is a difficult question to answer, mainly because I have a lot of contenders BUT I will try to narrow it down to my favorite...To be honest, I think it's the moments when Bella and I are playing in her room together, when she will be done looking at and interacting with her toys and play-things and she'll crawl over and start climbing on me. Usually I'll kind of wrestle (very gently, of course) with her and tickle her and blow raspberries on her belly, which makes her squeal with laughter. Then for a few moments she'll just look me straight in the eyes and will reach out her tiny little hand and touch my face and I know she loves me. Even though she can't speak, this is how I've decided she's telling me and it takes me out of the world and places me squarely in a moment with her. That is definitely my favorite part of being a dad.

How do you feel about diaper changes now that Bella is eating solids? My DH has actually thrown up from one LOL...

I have to admit, the probability of me coming across her poops is quite low, as I'm usually at work when it happens BUT I have had a few to deal with and, thankfully, I got over my gagging when I babysat my sister's son, almost 10 years ago now. However, it is a god-awful smell and I still feel the beginnings of a gag come on. I just don't think it's something that anyone ever gets 100% used to. To be honest, the even worse part for me is that we use cloth diapers so you don't just get to wrap it all up and throw it in the trash like with a disposable. No. You have to carefully march it back to the bathroom where we have this jet-spray accoutrement attached to our toilet and you have to strategically spray the diaper dung into the toilet without having reflected overspray hit you in the face or spray all over the toilet. Quite the challenge.

How does Husband feel about having another baby? Is he on board with having #2 in the near future?

One thing you can count on me for is a candid answer and here it is: Do I want more kids? Yes. Hell, yes. Do I want to have to take care of them? Hell no. So, I'm in a bit of a pickle because you clearly can't have one without the other. I can say this much...prior to having Bella, I was telling people I wanted to have three to four kids. Funny thing was, that when I told this to people who were already parents, they just smiled knowingly and politely and I'm sure they thought to themselves, "Silly rookie." Now, if we have a boy next, I might schedule a clandestine rendezvous with a urologist and get a quick vasectomy and just enjoy trying to have more kids with Laura for the next few years ;) Seriously, it is difficult to imagine how we would deal with more than Bella but I know people do it and a huge shout out to all the parents in the world because if I knew what I know now before we started trying, I would have had to think long and hard about it. The final result would have still been the same but I would have thought about it a lot harder.

How has fatherhood compared with his expectations of it?

This is a nice segue from the last question. It's so much harder than I ever dreamed it would be and, to some degree, I knew what to expect...or, at least, I thought I did. I had seen my sister and her husband go through it first hand and was a pretty active uncle, especially in the first year. I think I babysat for them once a weekend for that first year so they could maintain sanity. Also, I dated a woman for two years who had a three year old girl when we started dating but she spent half of her time with her dad. It's definitely the best but also the most challenging thing I've done in my life. It's challenging because so long as they're awake, you are ON. There's no "oh, I'm just going to lay on the couch and drink some beers and watch TV for a few hours and then maybe fall asleep for a little while" action going on in our house anymore and I miss that action, desperately. Laura and I have talked about creative ways that we each might be able to take a break but to be honest, it feels a bit like going on a vacation and leaving my right leg home. This parenting gig is truly a bittersweet reality.

How did Husband 'know' he was ready for a baby? Did he ever know?

I didn't KNOW I was ready but I sincerely THOUGHT I was ready, and even with all that I've said above, I now KNOW that I want more BUT, prior to Bella, I also knew that once the baby was here, my life was going to radically change and that my thoughts would be centered around three people not two and definitely not around myself. To be perfectly honest, I don't think the great majority of people who have their first kid are in any way prepared for the reality of the journey. How could you be?? In the average person's life, what compares to having the responsibility for the life and development of a completely vulnerable human being who's only request is unconditional love? I mean if you really think about it, isn't this the hardest thing you could imagine someone asking of you? The crazy thing is, once you're in it, you know there's no going back so you just go with it and it turns out to be one of the most challenging but definitely one of the most rewarding and, to some, the most important thing you'll ever do in your life.

What's his opinion on why guys have such a hard time taking this giant step in life?

While I can't speak for all guys, I'll give it a shot and the answer will be nothing more than a reflection of what made me struggle with it. I think every guy knows that having a kid will put a serious and overwhelming dent in their lifestyle. This is usually about as far as most guys will be able to go in explaining why they can't fathom being a dad. Consciously, this is all they can deal with. They don't want to dig deeper but I will try to. The second level that some guys reach is that they realize that they might be satisfied once they have a family. How scary is that? Well, to some, it runs counter to what they think they ought to be find satisfaction in (at least, in regards to what society/culture tells an American man he should be satisfied with). How will he be able to deal with himself if he's more satisfied with his family than he is with wealth and status? So, some guys (myself included) will try to get themselves a bit more 'established' before they're ready to take the plunge (no pun intended). Aside from these two things, what ultimately kept me, and may keep some guys, from taking this step until I was 35 was this: Some guys may know (some at a subconscious level or at a conscious level but may never admit it) that they will love their children more than they've ever loved anyone in their entire lives (even their wives but in a very different way, obviously). Strangely, they'll know that they'll love their child more than they love themselves. Introducing something to a guy that means more to himself than himself is a huge concept to deal with so most don't want to face it. Thus, they delay. When a guy (or again maybe it's just me) loves something more than he loves himself, he's willing to do anything for that object of love. This puts men into an extremely and terribly uncomfortable position: complete vulnerability. Men are shaped, from the day they are born, not to be vulnerable. We're told not to cry. We're thought to be weird if we express our emotions openly. If we comfort another man who's having trouble, we're more likely to get hit by him than hugged. By the time you're ready to be a dad, everything that you need to be a great dad has been taught out of you. To have unconditional love in your heart and mind, so much so that you fear the loss of your child because you don't know how you'd survive without them is completely uncharted emotional territory for a man. It's enough to completely freak a man out and this is why I (perhaps, we) have such a hard time with this step in life. I imagine it is similar for a woman, too but I can't say because I've never been one ;) However, women may have a better sense of emotional support from her family/friends that makes this step seem less daunting. Men don't have that sense and it's a shame. It's not how we've been raised. So perhaps it's up to us to raise our boys to be sensitive men and let them know that it's OK to be scared and it's OK to talk about it. If you're husband is having trouble with the idea of having a kid, try to remember that it's likely because he's scared and he may not have the tools to tell you this. So, if I can offer advice on this, don't get irritated with him; make him feel safe and ask him if he's willing to tell you what worries him.


  1. Great insight, husband! I'll add something to the last husband was hesitant to have a baby because he thought I would love the baby more than I love him. And I think this actually DOES happen in a lot of situations. Which is why we promised to put our relationship first, baby comes second. Because when your kids turn 18 and leave the house, you still have a lifetime to spend with your husband, so make that relationship a priority. My husband and I have never been closer- Like you Laura, I imagine losing my baby and think that life couldn't possibly go on...but then I imagine losing my husband...and...there are just no words...

  2. Good point! Husband mentioned that he thought of that point, too (he opted not to mention it since it wasn't a personal fear of his). We have also talked about how we can see how some relationships might derail after a baby b/c the baby sucks up so much time & attention. I have been so happy to see my relationship w/Husband only get better, but it does take work & effort.