“He has colic,” said my husband, while putting together a changing table for our firstborn son.
It had been about a month since we welcomed our son into the world. The easy pregnancy and delivery spoiled us. My troubles with double mastitis (think cracked and blistered nipples set on fire) and a miserable, screaming infant overwhelmed me. Every latch on brought me searing pain and if my husband was in the room, it helped me to imagine that I could use my mind control powers to make his head explode.
“No shit, Dr. Obvious,” I responded in my most vitriolic tone.
I hated him for not having breasts, but most of all I was jealous of the ease and confidence in which he took care of our child. I hated the way he seemed to have a choice as to the level of involvement he could choose to have with our little, shrieking, bald, life sucker.
I realized pretty quickly that I would be feeling victimized instead of blessed by parenthood if I were to keep trying to take it on alone. I had to stop crowding my husband out with my milk bags. I was taking away his choice.
I think so many moms make the same mistake that I made in the early days of parenting, thinking that because we birth and feed the kid, we are the superior parent. The wrongness of this concept stuns me even today. Everyone knows that biology doesn’t make a parent. We women can truly become victims of our own ignorance during the first go ’round as parents, by critiquing fathers, micro-managing every little detail of infant care or generally just baby hoarding out of fear that only WE can do things right.
I believe that bad fathers are created. Maybe people don’t learn about love and compassion during critical developmental stages because they had damaged and incapable parents?
Meh, too many reasons exist, but these reasons are not an excuse for being a bad dad. I am strongly suggesting that moms are the biggest contributors to the development of bad dads. I’ll tell you why.
We learn to be parents just as we learn everything else in life. It’s not natural for everyone, but how can you get good at something if you don’t put in the effort?
In 2005, my friend, Geoff became a single father to three little boys, the youngest only 18 months old, when his wife unexpectedly died. He went from being a career driven 35 year old man, who worked long hours, to being a stay at home dad for his boys. He had options. He chose something unique and difficult, and truly different.
Geoff will tell you that there is no way he would be the father he is today if he had to share the duties of parenting with his wife, a stay at home mom. Crisis revealed character and strength that he didn’t know he had, but he still had a choice.
6 years later there ain’t a woman in sight and those boys are some of the most fantastic and high quality freeloaders you could ever know. My son popped his ding-dong ditch cherry with these boys under our supervision on a muggy summer night, a childhood rite of passage, in my opinion. My heart was filled with pride.
Excuses are like assholes, everyone has them. If you are a dad who feels crowded out by a mom who thinks she can do it better, and you let her believe that, then you deserve the bad dad label. Loving a child isn’t a gender thing. The word dad isn’t a noun.
Dad is a verb. A dad fights, cheers, loves, teaches, approves, admires, apologizes, protects and so much more.
Cheers to the dads out there who are doing it and the moms who are letting them. I celebrate all of you this father’s day.
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