Friday, 3 December 2010

Since you can't have a pint, how about a diaper change?

Raising a person is hard work. I feel for all the mums, whose partners work long hours, have meetings, come home late and have little time to be around. But I also feel for all the dads who are, sometimes unconsciously, left out. Who want to participate but often don't know how. Who are afraid they will fail. And to all those dads I just want to say: we are scared too. And frankly, I think maternal intinct is a tad overrated.

I was lucky to be home not even 24 hours after our son was born. Not that I would do it again, or that I recommend it. But I was lucky, because as I could not move around too much and was just plain tired, I had absolutely no urge to control anything. For the first week I don't think I changed a diaper more than three times. I occasionally dressed my son. I really only fed him and tried to sleep. My husband did the rest. That's why I think I was lucky.

I can't imagine how hard it must be for a man to try and connect with his newborn baby - we are, after all, connected to them since day one. They are physically a part of us. And on top of that we get to feed them, should we choose to breastfeed. All of this we have naturally, as part of the package deal. Our attachment with the baby seems to be of a different kind, especially in the beginning. Sometimes when I think about it I think dads have it harder, in a lot of ways...

Connecting with a tiny person is hard. It's hard in a lot of ways, as we are (in our culture at least) somehow led to believe that it is not a full person in his own rights - just some kind of person-to-be. Potentially. And since we, as mums, on our maternity leaves take care of their basic needs, what are dads to do? It's not like they can watch football together. That's why I'm happy I was let out of the hospital and could watch my husband take care of our son as I was getting my energy back, bacause in all honesty - he didn't know what he was doing as much as I didn't. We both had no idea.

So my husband is the diaper-changing guy, and I am the feeding guy. I am the stay-at-home-most-of-the-day guy, but he is the bath-time guy. Sometimes I stand behind the door when they are engaged in the diaper-changing. They are so busy they probably don't even know I'm there. It's a serious business in our house, not just a quick deal. It's almost ike listening to two friends having a pint, in a way. At first I thought they were taking quite a long time, now I know that these are their quality moments, what Magda Gerber calls 'wants something quality time'. There is a lot of talking involved, and recently not just on my husband's side. It's really great watching the two of them together, each knowing exactly what the other one is doing, occasionally having a few laughs. As all is done, the conversation usually continues on the way to the playpen, where my husband stays in for a while, while our son slowly returns to his world.

So even if you, dads, are busy, tired, stressed and scared - it's ok, we are too. You don't have to be around all day. You don't have to build up the energy to constatnly entertain your baby. One good diaper change will do. Because I hope one day my husband will be having a pint with our son and I will see the connection between them that started on our changing table.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my... this is just so wonderful. And so true.
    We had the same - left hospital 12 hours after birth and I hardly changed a diaper in week one. But Jan enjoyed it from the beginning too and now they have their own way. He does a few things different than I do and first I thought "You know you should..." but then I stopped and learned - it's their way. And they have their fun.
    I just couldn't have put it in such wonderful words. Thank you !!