When we had our first baby, I was terrified to be alone with them.
I did my best to take care of the baby, but avoided being left alone with them like the plague. I couldn’t handle even a few minutes of it.
As a father, this is what a lot of people expect. I imagine many mothers reading this rolling their eyes and pursing their lips at yet another useless dad shoving his responsibility on someone else. Tale as old as time, right?
Here’s the twist: I’m the one who had given birth to that baby.
Pregnancy and birth had been brutal on me. I needed a cane from the second trimester on, it would be over a year before my hips would get back to normal. For a few days after the birth, I needed a wheelchair. Our baby was special needs and colick-y from day one. A screamer who was only comforted by being walked around.
A baby who needed to be walked and a parent who couldn’t walk. I couldn’t soothe my own baby.
Due to the mastectomy I’d had many years before the baby was even conceived, chestfeeding wasn’t even on the table. I’d spent my pregnancy being told that this alone meant I was a complete failure as a parent. The physical disability and complicated dysphoria ravaged my mental state. It felt like literally any other person was more qualified to raise this tiny, demanding bundle.
I got about 2 weeks of this before my partner had had enough. I wasn’t getting any less afraid of my own baby. Giving me time certainly wasn’t helping the situation.
My partner gave me the baby and went out.
By taking away the option to fob responsibility off on someone else, I had to take responsibility. I couldn’t rely on someone else’s methods to soothe, so I had to devise my own. I had to work out my own way to calm down the baby. And it worked, I figured some things out. I started to calm down, which helped the baby. It didn’t cure anything, mind you: baby had undiagnosed digestive problems and it took 18 years to get an evaluation with the right specialist.
Things that worked for my partner didn’t work for me, and I developed my own methods that my partner can’t get to work.
My partner knew what I couldn’t believe: I was a perfectly competent parent, I just needed practice.
If my partner hadn’t done that, I don’t know when I would have bonded with our kid. Possibly never. We’ve certainly seen families where one of the parents barely knows their children.
I’m lucky that I have a partner who wouldn’t let that happen.
I’ve seen quite a few mothers do the same and report amazing results from it. Whenever there’s one parent who takes on the brunt of parenting and feels taken for granted, my suggestion is to take a weekend trip- leave your partner with the kids for a weekend and see how easy they think your job is!
Some mothers balk at this idea. They feel that they shouldn’t have to facilitate their partner’s parenting. They feel that no one taught them how to be a mother, that they shouldn’t have to teach someone how to be a father. They should be
Here’s the thing: You were taught.
You were not born knowing how to care for babies. At some point, you learned. All of parenting is a learned skill. Even breastfeeding. You either were taught because you were expected to be a mother, or you learned on the fly because you got left alone with a baby at some point and had to learn.
Too many men aren’t allowed to even play with dolls, much less babysit. They’re blocked from learning how to be good parents. When the baby comes, they don’t magically get this knowledge. They need the chance to learn. And the space to do it their way.
And there are many, many worst things in the world than taking an afternoon to treat yo’ self while your partner bonds with the baby.
Parents: What’s the best thing your partner ever did for you when it comes to the kids?