Saturday, July 29, 2006

Welcome back, Ubermale

As Matt Lauer heralds the end of the Metrosexual Male in some fluff piece on morning TV, and my husband strutted around the kitchen, a cock in celebration, I could help but cheer for his return, too.

You see, I secretly hope the return of the retrosexual means the fashion of "DAD as the NEW MOM" is on its way out, too.

Don't get me wrong, I love that my husband is the primary cook and that he's as comfortable with Annabel as he is with his soccer pals, it's just that I think society's urge to make him new-age-sensitive-dad is sometimes making it unnecessarily difficult for me to be a mom.

I got to thinking about this as a result of a bulletin board posting about one husband in particular, whose need to share in the experience of parenthood 50/50; even-steven; 'I am father, hear me roar,' from DAY ONE was tearing apart this family not yet delivered. Instead of a laudable urge to be an involved parent and protector, he wanted equal opportunity for his family tree to root at the hospital and in their home because it played to his thoughts of what was fair and equitable. 'Why should MY family be turned away? Am I not important? This isn't just happening to YOU you know, It's happening to me, too."

While he fought for his parents to have equal and unfettered access, his wife's emotional well-being crumbled as the clocked ticked down on her gestation.

I wanted to be snide. I wanted to put this man in his place with a sledgehammer. This new-age-sensitive-man who feels that the woman he married is dissing the woman who raised him and usurping his rightful place as a 50-percent equity parent in the birthing room. I wanted him to realize, that an ounce of sperm does not a equal partner make when it comes to pushing out a phesant-shaped someone from a hole roughly the diameter of a lemon.

I formulate a list of things I want him to understand:

1. No one is going to be peering into your vagoogoo every half-hour to see how big it is.

2. No one is going to cut your vagoo so a baby can come out after hours of painful labor, then stitch it back up.

3. No one is going to cut open your abdomen and take the baby by force if numbers one and two have to be abandoned.

4. YOUR hormones won't fluctuate uncontrollably, making it 1,000 times more difficult to act human for at least a few days. Being NICE to the mother-in-law isn't going to be in you're wife's ability. Sorry, but no matter how well they get along normally, civility won't be possible.

5. Unless you have incontenance troubles, it is NOT likely that you will soil the sheets or vomit during the course of the labor.

6. You will not be having a baby sucking on your tits for the next six months (not to mention RIGHT now when it's new to the two of them and there is a steep learning curve). ANY Helpful suggestions, be they nursing, swaddling or diapering, will feel like admonishments. I reiterate. Civility won't be within her reach, it's NOT her FAULT it's HORMONAL.

7. WHY, if you love her and want to be a family, would you PURPOSELY make it MORE difficult to have that bond? Your wife DOESN'T HAVE THE SAME relationship with your mom as she does with her own. And SHE is going to PHYSICALLY go through a rollercoster ride of not-so-pleasant things? Why on Earth would you even consider making that HARDER?

Let me explain more from a personal standpoint: As a pre-natal and post-natal patient, we women undergo some seriously daunting hormonal challenges, and we are likely to be in a situation that makes us feel terribly vulnerable. For instance, I'm not ashamed of my body, but I don't want to be exposed in front of my husband's father. I don't want to vomit in front of my mother-in-law. I still had a need for dignity and privacy, especially when these are people I see at holidays. The last thing I want to think about at Christmas dinner is whether my father-in-law saw my vagoogoo or if I swore a string of explatives in the direction of my mother-in-law while I was being possessed by the demon hormones.

We don't want to believe we, in this day and age, have roles that are gender based. But I assure you, we do. There will always be exceptions. There will always be circumstances that buck the norm, but for the first few months, usually it's mom at center stage.

I think what's happening is that men have gotten confused about their roles, and fear that if they don't assert themselves somewhere in the family early on they won't have a place other than the distant, breadwinner they might remember their fathers to be. The problem is that they want 50 percent of the baby and not 50 percent of the family. Sometimes they want to have a say, even to the extent of being contrary, just to have a voice.

It comes down to this: Perhaps a reason more men are flexing their parent muscles in the wrong direction is that they are physically unable to tend to the needs of newborns the way birth mothers can. Here the "OTHER" parent often feels unnecessary. And that, I think comes from their own insecurities rather than immediate external sources. Patience and understanding, and trust that the other "OTHER" parent isn't going out of their way to undermine you is what family building is all about, isn't it?

So I've revised my snide list to something that might be more helpful:

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE A NEW DAD:

REALIZE THAT YOUR MOM AND DAD AREN'T UNLOVED or SECOND CLASS FAMILY. But don't compare them to HER parents at a time like this. They didn't raise her, nor do they have the same feelings of unconditional love for her that they have for you. This is a potentally life-threating situation, even in this day and age, and it's only NATURAL for a daughter to want her parents. Have your parents stay in a hotel, let them visit occasionally and then make them understand that your wife and you need time to bond with each other and the new soul. There is a lifetime when it won't be as difficult to show off the kid. Why risk bad feelings that could last its duration? It's time to protect your new family from bad feelings, and realize what it's really all about.

MAKE SURE RELATIVES REALIZE that while their advice MAY be welcome in the future, your wife has instincts and you need to protect her ability to exercise them. Hold off on dispensing pearls of wisdom until asked for them.

ACTIVE HELP: Make dinners, do laundry, wash dishes, change diapers. Make sure mom has the opportunity to eat, have liquids and bathe. Let her sleep a little longer. Be vigilant about not allowing guests to overstay their visits. There will be plenty of opportunities down the road, when things aren't so hectic.

I guess that list still doesn't sound too manly. But rest assured, to your wife you'll never look like a bigger man.

6 comments:

Christine said...

I think that as part of the prenatal birthing classes available, every man needs to be sent to read this post. Then they must have a quiz to verify that they read it. With penalties if they fail the quiz and still invite the inlaws.

wordgirl said...

You should seriously think about writing a book. If only I had had you on my side when my first one was an infant...

Diana said...

Amen. When little miss was born, her biodad INSISTED on his demon (which is putting it nicely) of a mother being present at the birth. I had her kicked out halfway through my labor and told the nurse in no uncertain terms that only my own mother was welcome from here on in. Luckily the husband wouldn't even think of inviting his mother for this birth and she in turn wouldn't think of showing up, being that he's the youngest of a million (or is it 7) kids and she understands this principle by now. Only my own mommy is welcome to see my vagoogoo thank you very much.

jenny said...

I'm printing this out and giving it to all the husbands of my pregnant friends.

Not that it'll help.

My feeling is, either you're a guy who gets it or you're a guy who doesn't. As much as you'd like to you can't retrain them.

Andrea said...

I guess I'm one of the exceptions, because my mother-in-law was present when my son was born. My own mother was on a plane when the magic happened, but her flight wouldn't arrive until 7 hours after his birth. I've gotten along with my MIL well throughout the years, and while I will never feel the same bond as I do with my mother, I was comfortable enough with my MIL to allow her in to witness my most undignified poses to pull off my most dignified moment as a woman.

However, I know I'm in the minority and this post is indispensable for pregnant women and new mothers who don't have as comfortable a relationship with their MILs as I do. Thank you for this.

toyfoto said...

I think it's wonderful that you have that kind of relationship with your MIL. I understand it completely, because I am fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law who is equally as wonderful as my own mom. In my case, though, I really didn't want EITHER of them with me in the delivery room. (I ended up having a c-sec so it was just my husband). But we had lots of people at the house later, and it was fine.

I know my experience wasn't the norm, though, and not all families get along as well as ours do.