Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guest Blog from the Hubs - The Unraveling of Fatherhood

My husband shared this today online and when I read it, and reread it, laughed and cried I asked if I could feature it on my blog. Always refreshing to hear a man's point of view and wonderful encouragement for mothers and fathers alike!

With the birth of my second child near at hand, I find myself increasingly nervous about fatherhood. For some reason I have had an increasingly difficult time understanding mothers, and an even more difficult time figuring out fathers, particularly fathers who opt out of their fatherly duties. In mothers there are those characteristics that I love and admire. I have a deep respect for a mother’s deep love and compassion for her children. Her devotion, self-sacrifice, and zeal for being a good parent are unrivaled among earthly relationships. There is something obviously very special about a mother’s love. Fatherhood has never seemed so mystically affectionate. What I am increasingly vexed by is how a woman seems likely to morph into a much different person in the transfer to motherhood, like an affection-dispensing engine of love…and breast milk. The same is true of men in the transition to fatherhood but to a lesser degree I think. All the sudden I have found myself concerned about cute outfits for my son, a safe car seat, a safe living environment, and even more shocking I hear myself engaging (passionately) in conversations about breastfeeding, circumcision, to co-sleep or not to co-sleep, to puree or not to puree. Counting my previous discussions about these topics would be pretty easy. I formerly held no deep seated convictions about cloth vs. disposable or Aveeno vs. Johnson & Johnson. Perhaps I am so interested in all these topics now because my wife has an insatiable knowledge craving for all things motherly. Maybe it is just because I am so crazy about my son. Maybe it is because I enjoy knowing things. In any case, it is certainly not because I ever felt these topics to be so deeply intriguing that I couldn’t help but delve headlong into a study of infant rearing. And now…my life is pleasantly consumed by it.
Understanding my own change of interests and priorities is difficult enough. Understanding the female metamorphosis is much more complicated. I cannot fully comprehend what goes on inside a woman during pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, throughout the sleep deprived months of newborn mothering, or even in the toddler years to come. But I know that whatever is happening in the midst of all those precious moments is deeply emotional on a level I can only begin to appreciate. Sometimes I cannot stand and quickly run out of patience for the way a mom can be so easily offended about her parenting decisions. I do not see a lot of daddy dominated forums on breastfeeding, cloth diapering, or baby wearing, but I would be willing to guarantee that the content and demeanor would be drastically different. Mothers seem so quick to judge, quick to feel judged, and quick to complain and feel discouraged about being judged. The tragic comedy is when I see the Facebook comments about mothers complaining to other mothers about feeling judged and in some cases the very mothers to whom they complain of judgment they are both judging and being judged by (follow that?). Is it a woman’s need for acceptance, her emotional investment, or is it her insecurities that drive this defensive escalation? Maybe all of the above and more, I’m not quite sure.  My intuition would have me believe that the intensity of a mother’s love for her children restricts her ability to think rationally without emotions interjecting their opinions. If you are a woman reading this and you get defensive, you have fallen right into my ploy! If you can post a link for a forum of dads venting frustrations about criticism for breastfeeding in public or formula feeding instead of breastfeeding I will recant!
What I do know is that as a daddy it is sometimes hard to relate to the concerns of a mommy. It is hard enough for me to guarantee the survival of my youngling, trying to prevent him from falling down the stairs, put his finger in an electrical socket, or his arm in a wood stove. He has attempted all of the above. Yet mommy finds time to research the “healthiest” alternatives. Healthiest. I never was one to lose sleep over being “healthy”. My daily diets have been known to consist of Pop Tarts and Swiss Rolls from time to time. Needless to say considering my son’s healthiest options is not always my forte’. Mommy is in the details. Daddy waits for the big issues to come along before he is motivated to intervene. Mommy will turn her life upside down to nurture her baby, and proactively protect. As I have pondered these things my respect for mothers, and my patience for their defensiveness have both increased. It is no wonder why a mother so invested in the mothering process would be so sensitive about criticisms. She invests hours upon hours of detail oriented brain power into every parenting decision.
To wrap up my ramblings, I want to draw on a movie I watched last night called courageous. The movie caused me to think about the fact that our goal is not to make mom more like dad or make dad more like mom. There is a reason why it takes two to tango…if you know what I mean. Sometimes I think I am too complacent, and sometimes I think my wife is too anxious. Neither is true all the time. It takes both of us to get the job done right.
63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average. (SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health)
90% of all runaways and homeless children are from fatherless homes. That’s 32 times the national average.
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. 14 times the national average.  (SOURCE: Justice and Behavior)
85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average. (SOURCE: Center for Disease Control)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 9 times the national average. (SOURCE: National Principals Association Report)
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. 10 times the national average. (SOURCE: Rainbow’s for all God’s Children)
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average. (SOURCE: U.S. Dept. of Justice)
Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.  (SOURCE: National Household Education Survey)
Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
I have come to the realization that I do not always have to understand my teammate to function as a team. We do not always have to agree, or feel the same about differing topics. It’s ok if I do not vehemently uphold the environmental standards of cloth diapering and I go the easy route with a disposable baby wipe here and there. I will not always be a motivated and well-oiled multi-tasking machine like my wife, but I am irreplaceable too. My child cannot afford for me to merely focus on his physical survival. I must invest in him spiritually and emotionally in the ways that can come so naturally for a mother. I do not have pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding and all the connection-provoking chemical hormones that come with to create the magical mother-child bond. I will have to establish that bond through quality time, perpetual intention, mentoring, hugs, kisses, play time, and self-sacrifice. So moms, respect your husband when he seems complacent and clueless. And dads, show love and acceptance to your wife when she is anxious and concerned about things that seem trivial to you. We couldn’t do it nearly as well without each other. Maybe these are just hopeless ramblings, or maybe they will encourage a father to step up and be a more active role in his child’s life. In any case I hope that as dads seek to understand moms and forever hopelessly fail and vice versa that we will just appreciate our differences and draw together rather than resent them and separate.


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