In Defense of Daddy

I like to play baby man French children’s music (like this, and this, and, oh, this), and it’s watching those that first introduced me to this Tide commercial. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a view. There are quite a few articles on it (here’s one, and here’s another), but it also works for the purpose of this blog: a daddy, parenting, and not a single wink in sight! He’s treated like a real parent – not glamorized or made fun of. Shit’s fucking radical and that’s sad.

This post focuses on heterosexual relationships, but any relationship where one partner takes on the masculine, daddy role is subject to this shit.

I knew the world of parenting was, ahem, mommy skewed, but I had no idea how intense that bias actually is. It’s the first time in my life that, although I’m standing next to a man (hi, Westley!), people mostly direct their questions to me. “Is he sleeping through the night?” “Are you still breastfeeding?” “How many times a week does he poop?” “Has he started crawling?” “Are you sending him to daycare?” “What instruments does he play?” “How many languages does he speak?” “Which colleges are you looking at?”

And so I kind of love it and hate it: the both. It’s nice to be noticed, to be (at least in theory) respected as an authority (even if only on infant poop, par exemple), but! Well, this focus on mom does bring with it more than a few negatives.

Do you like lists?

Too bad, you have no say. I just thought you might like the illusion that this is interactive. I mean, I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, didn’t you?

A Short (and Far from Complete) List of Ways in which Our Culture’s Mommy-Focus is Bad and Shitty and also Totally Fucked

1)  The most obvious and enduring negative is that the father’s role in his child’s life is diminished.

2)  Because society diminishes a father’s role, he may internalize that; this can lead to less involvement in his child’s life.

3)  A less involved father will not form as close a bond with his child. This puts stress on both dad and mom as dad isn’t as close to his kids, and so mom has to pick up the slack, doing everything/being everything for the kids. However, dad is arguably the bigger loser here: he misses out on the potential for growth, vulnerability, and love. Sticking with stereotypes, he trades all that for a six pack and a ball game or whatever.

4)  Fathers are expected to be strong (i.e. without emotion), and so inadvertently (ugh, and purposefully sometimes) teach that men are emotionally stunted, unavailable.

5)  This teaches little boys to shut down anything emotional (i.e. feminine) within  themselves, and teaches little girls that boys are cold, mean, indifferent. May the circle be unbroken.

And the list could go on (and on and on and on and on and), but let’s pause here. Because many fathers betray these social expectations. Many men are strong and gentle. When I had my c-section, Westley changed every. Single. Diaper. I didn’t ask him to. He didn’t have to be told. He didn’t expect a gold star or accolades from the nurses (although he sure as hell received them – what were the other fathers up to?). He did it because baby man is his baby too (and, you know, I’d only very recently been sawed in half, but yeah). Good dads do this shit and much more all the time, and it should not be a big deal. We (parents!) are expected to keep our spawn alive. What do genitals or secondary sex characteristics (outside of breastfeeding, I suppose*) have to do with this?

Good dads are the equivalent of good moms. That shouldn’t be a radical thing- that should be fucking obvious to all of us. But you know what we do instead? When it comes to kids and family and responsibility we infantilize men. You can see this in every other domestic sphere commercial where men are treated like buffoons or big babies while “Dr. Mom” looks on ruefully. Stuff like this other Tide commercial where moms are the true experts and dads are just filling in for the superior parent for whatever reason.

It’s dumb.

Worse than that, it’s insidious. That kind of diminishment, of infantilization, is the fermenting heart of misogyny (oh, that fizzy, bloody mess. That rusted over, tired ass bullshit). Misogyny is ugly, worse, its razor edge cuts both ways (unsurprisingly – bad reaps bad, you know). The horn o’ plenty ways women are hurt by it are obvious, but men are on the receiving end of that wicked shit as well. When half the population is told they cannot cry, cannot be passive (always instead active), cannot be tender, quiet, soft- they are denied humanity. Because it’s human, animal even, to love your fucking baby. To hold your baby and completely lose yourself to tears because goddamn it, that’s your baby. 

Our kids deserve good dads, and our kids’ dads deserve to be active participants. Maybe if we recognized them as such, fewer moms would suffer from postpartum anxiety and depression. Maybe family leave would be more generous (read: supportive). Maybe our kids would grow up more accepting of themselves, less self-loathing than us. Less split in two.

More whole.

But as long as we view women and men as separate species, we will continue to pose asinine fucking questions like:”So, is daddy babysitting tonight?”

No. No, he’s not fucking babysitting his own baby. He’s being a parent. He’s fucking parenting.

 

*Okay, so breastfeeding is the one thing that only moms  do (although it’s biologically possible for men to as well). Doesn’t mean dad has to be any less involved in child-rearing. Keeping a baby alive involves much more than feeding.

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Anxiety (postpartum and otherwise)

courtneys pic

The picture above is of me when I was, oh, four months pregnant. Westley and I played a dear friend’s birthday show and it was more fun than a pregnant lady is supposed to have (I should know – so many people told me so many things I should do or not do while pregnant).

I love this picture. It was taken before all the scary pregnancy stuff happened – before the gestational diabetes and mild preeclampsia, the early contractions, the bed rest, the insulin injections, hospitalizations, blood pressure checks, and then, of course, before 41 hours of labor.

It was a truly fun show. And I loved playing it, being pregnant, looking forward to all that was to be.

And then the scary stuff started. I’m in a much better place now, with baby man and Westley and myself, even, but I still have moments where I feel like I can’t breathe. The other day at a routine checkup my blood pressure was high. My blood pressure issues are supposed to be resolved, gone with the placenta. Friday my blood sugar was high after dinner. Then again on Sunday night, again Monday morning.

These numbers have so much power. They freeze my blood, pang through me like metal on metal on ice on metal. They invade me, rend me apart.

I’ve always been anxious. In fifth grade I waited every day for the fire alarm to go off. Head kind of bowed at my desk, fingernails digging into my arm. If I saw someone toss a cigarette butt out of their car window in the line to school, I’d say to myself something like: well, at least when the alarm goes off you’ll know why.

Eventually I get to the worst thoughts, the ones that will not stop. The ones that niggle at me like a mosquito in my ear or a torn cuticle or a blister on the back of my heel: who will take care of the baby if I die? Worse, what if the baby dies?

That last one is intolerable. It turns my blood to sound. I have to distract myself, focus on the moment. You know the thing, right? I think it’s: find five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch, two you can smell, one you can taste. It helps.

It really does, but anxiety is powerful. It circles back around. Comes in through another door. What happens if I die?

Well, of course Westley will take care of the baby. He’s a great father. I mean, I knew he’d be good at it, but he surprises me every day with his love for our little monster (and, actually, that’s a post for another day. The tentative title is “In Defense of Daddy”). So, fine. Westley would take care of the baby. And I’ve told him that he should re-marry, or at least re-date. Baby man needs as many caretakers as he can get (I’m greedy that way).

Where was I going with this? Do you ever feel it in your heart? That sinking feeling that everything you’re doing, everything you’ve done, it’s all for nothing because it’s all over now – that death is a shadow you’re about to slip into, a hidden missing tile in the floor. You will fall in an instant, as to sleep, and be erased.

Because a five month old can’t remember any of this, you know? And why do I do this to myself? When I was little, I’d stay awake nights, imagining what would happen when the time bomb went off. It was buried in the backyard, nailed beneath the floorboards. It was always about to go off.

Of course, it never did, and maybe that should tell me something, but if I’ve learned anything it’s only this: you never ever learn something for keeps. It’s not permanent. We’re in a constant state of learning and relearning and re-relearning and so on and so forth, amen.

Which brings me to the best thing about anxiety: its impermanence. Just like everything else in the world, it cannot last.

And I’m not anxious all or even most of the time, but it’s true-  anxiety has given me an abiding appreciation for every kiss, every touch, even every moment of despondency (how privileged we are that we can despair).

Breathe in. Every immaculate thing is in that breath. Breathe out. As is every horror. We don’t know anything, really. How exceedingly rare it is to be alive. How miraculous.

Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb

Hello, world.

Great, now I have “Cherry Bomb” stuck in my head. Can we start over?

“I’m your wild girl.”

Nope, not working. Okay, let’s try to move on from here, because actually, The Runaways and their 1976 song “Cherry Bomb” kind of apply. To the blog, I mean.

So, right, neither I, nor my husband, nor our son (the time traveling that would involve is making me light headed) were alive in 1976. I was born in 1980, Westley (that’s my husband, in case your sleuthing skills need work. Also, not his real name, but absolutely his level of dreamy [and yeah, it would make more sense to call him Jordan, but the whole Westley thing is kind of an inside Princess Bride joke (not any more!)]), Westley was born in 1979, and our son? Well, he’s 2015, but I digress.

Westley and I have argued (politely and then with increasing intensity) about which generation we belong to. He claims Generation X, the cool kids who listened to records of The Runaways in the 80’s and early 90’s- the kids who recognized Joan Jett’s influence on riot grrl music. Who were too cool to care that south Florida rendered the flannels tied around their waists completely absurd. Who rolled their eyes instead of smiling when meeting new people. Those kids.

Whereas I’m pretty sure we’re mostly Millennials (even though I may have had my own ridiculous flannel collection). We’re addicted to our cellphones, but mostly only in order to text, check the Internet, and play games. We’re optimistic. We’ll pause mid conversation to look something up online.

Apologies if my definitions seem simplistic. I’m assuming you have at least a modest level of familiarity with this shit.

Anyway! Then we learned of the Catalano Generation (from Jordan Catalano a la My So-Called Life). It’s a tiny generation snuggled between Gen  X  and the Millennials, composed of those born in the late seventies and early eighties, made up of people who grew up without cellphones, but then got one pretty young. People who most likely don’t have a landline now. Apparently we lack both the smug apathetic nature of the Xers and the special-snowflake narcissism of the Millennials. We’re both and neither. We’ve paged someone 143 , you know?

If my explanation is dissatisfying, you can google it or check out an article from Slate here, but for Westley and me, this moniker finally felt right. It fit like a worn-in pair of selvedge denim (don’t get me started on this topic. I’m not a fashion person, but Westley kind of is, so I, you know, pick things up).

Is that last sentence giving you the douche chills? Ugh, it is me, but I’m leaving it. That shit, while annoying, is apt.

So, here we are, two old af kids raising this new af baby. That’s what this blog is about. In case you were wondering.

“Hello daddy, hello mom/ I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb.”

That’s our spawn, for sure. For realsies, even. He’s blown our entire world apart, but like any radical upheaval, he’s exposed a whole new reality. A Brave New World not at all dystopian; rather, baby man has evolved us. We’re leveling up, guys.

Which means the next boss stage is going to suck, eh?