It’s been a little over three weeks since my husband and I welcomed our second child into the world, and so far we have survived. Survived is the key word here – thrived would be too strong and a total lie. During the day, taking care of a newborn is not nearly as exhausting as taking care of a toddler, so it helps that my daughter is in daycare. At night, well that is a whole different story, and this weekend was such a disaster that my husband skipped out the door to work on Monday. Work does sound like a vacation these days. Come to think of it, so does being a father…
Have you ever imagined being a father? I had an epiphany last week when, one night, a family friend came over and told us about her children. “Paul has always loved being a father” she said about her son, a father of three. I thought about my husband and my own father, and I responded “Who wouldn’t? I too would love to be a father. It’s always been a dream of mine.”
First there is pregnancy. For nine months, we mothers avoid alcohol and watch our bodies change in ways that can’t be unchanged. Not to mention that we aren’t supposed to use anti-aging products or hair dye, so basically at the end of each of my pregnancies I have looked like a 90-year-old with a donut habit. Meanwhile, with every ten pounds of weight I gained during pregnancy, my husband lost a pound, and when we were stuck at home during a blackout, he drank the night away while I just sat there and watched.
And then, there’s childbirth. Let’s not forget childbirth (as if we could – those images are burned into my husband’s brain, as well, I presume). I know my husband yearns for the days when men sat in the waiting room with a cigar, but it’s not like it was so hard for him to hold one of my legs while I pushed until I felt like my head was going to explode. Granted, we both always wanted my husband to be a “behind the shoulders” participant when it came to labor, but we didn’t really have a choice, and there were several times during both labors that I would have given anything to be the leg-holder in the room.
Onto nursing. I have come to the realization that the term “breast is best” was invented by some evil genius father who had no interest in feeding his child. Since then, fathers of breastfed babies everywhere have rejoiced and slept comfortably through the night, somehow deaf to the sounds of their crying babies. Totally deaf, yet still my husband can magically hear my jaw click when I chew. Meanwhile, my baby so much as breathes a hair louder than normal and I jump and check for a pulse.
To be fair, I am sure there has to be something more difficult about being a father than being a mother. Lack of control over the situation? How much control do mothers really have anyway? The pressure of feeling like you have to provide financial support for your growing family? That pressure is mostly shared by both parents nowadays. Watching your partner get fat and worrying she will never be attractive again? Ugh, you know that thought has gone through every father’s mind at some point.
So as I was wrapping up this long, complaining rant of a post and daydreaming about how nice it would be to be a father, my husband sent me the sweetest text message telling me that I’m amazing and he’s seen me do incredible things. We’ve had an exhausting few weeks but he has been a wonderful partner who tells my fat, 90-year-old looking self that I look great and changes diapers in the middle of the night even though he has to wake up early the next day for work. In a couple of short months I will be returning to work myself, and I know that I will be missing these days at home with my baby. Which makes me realize that the biggest thing that is more difficult about being a father is that fathers don’t get to take maternity leave. Although, as my husband skipped out the door to work this morning, I am not quite sure he would agree…