A few nights ago, I was talking to friends, none of whom have children, and one of the young men added to the conversation ever so humorously, “When I have kids, I’m not even going to touch them for the first few years.  I mean, they’re weird.  They have that soft spot thing in the head.  They can’t even sit up; their heads flop all weird.  So, when they’re born, I’ll wave.  I’ll say, ‘I’m your dad.  I’ll see you in a couple of years when we can do cool stuff.’”

The other woman in the group noted, “No, you won’t.  Not when it’s your own kid.”

He contested, still intending to make light, “Even my own kid.”  He continued to discuss how he ought not be responsible for a fragile person.

Granted, new dads (and this guy is a long way away from fatherhood) can be afraid of the frailty of a newborn (a fear that can be overcome), but too many dads are quick to believe that they get a pass from “baby stuff” merely because the baby is not appealing to him or that women are better equipped to know how not to break them.  I think that this largely stems from the idea that women in general are naturally inclined to enjoy everything in the baby realm.  I provide myself as a counter example.  I barely liked kids before I had them.  After I had children, I had a great appreciation for my own, but a growing dislike for other people’s kids (underdeveloped humans).  The fact that I was used as a vessel for gestation does not mean that I think that every weird thing that the baby oozes (out of innumerable orifices) smells like flowers.  It weirds me out too.

So, I decided that this nugget of wisdom should be shared with this young fella.  Here it is folks: “YOUR WIFE IS INCLINED TO TREAT YOU THE SAME WAY YOU TREAT THE BABY.  Wives, ahem, provide a lot.  If you want to be held and coddled, hold and coddle the baby.  If you look at the baby and say, ‘Ew, that’s gross.  I don’t find that to be appealing at all,’ your wife will look at you and say, ‘Ew, that’s gross.  I don’t find that to be appealing at all.’  You’re either a help (as a fellow grown-up) or a burden (leaving her to think of you as another child).”

He laughed, “I just don’t want to touch it.”  I replied, “She won’t want to touch it either.”  When it appeared that he wasn’t following the logic, another man in the group piped up, “She’s talking about a different ‘it.’”

Dads would do well to understand the mindset of their wives when they are new moms.

A dad who believes that he is not responsible for taking care of a small child, especially a newborn, contributes to his wife thinking, “This broke me.  I am BROKEN.  I feel terrible.  I look terrible.  I can’t even remember what it feels like to be me.  I have lost my identity.  I am no longer a woman.  I am a pair of sunken, puffy eyes sitting on top of what feels like bruises instead of internal organs and skin that is torn in a variety of ways.  My hormones and brain chemistry tell me that I might hate you, and you’re not making any sort of rebuttal.  You take a pass and rest because you’re a man, because you WEREN’T the one who was broken.  Taking all of the physical stress of gestation was my lot for being female, yet all of the exhausting caretaking is still my job.  You might ‘help me out a little’ with ‘my’ responsibility.  You are killing any hope I have of ever feeling better.  I’m sorry.  I CANNOT take any more.  I have nothing left to give.  Please, as long as you feel that way, don’t get near me.  This is not manipulation or lack of loving you; this is solely because YOU TERRIFY ME.  I am injured (for now, a lot, but a little injured forever) because you came near me.   I’m scared of you and I hurt, but you’re going to let me deal with it all by myself.  Please, I beg you, don’t hurt me anymore.  Don’t crush the broken pieces of me.”

Now, that last part was too much truth to lay on someone.  So, I didn’t .  I, instead, noted how my husband models good dad behavior.  I said, “You know what’s delicious?  My husband carrying our daughters, one in each arm, to their beds is delicious!  They each pick a different animal to pretend to be.  They roar, meow, bark, oink, moo, and hiss all the way up the stairs through their giggles.  I’ll tell you what, that shirtless man’s muscles ripple ever so exquisitely when he’s cradling 80 pounds (total) of preschooler.   You know what else?  My son greets me at the door when I get home from work and says, ‘Dad told us to clean up our messes before you got home.  See?  He’s in the kitchen loading the dishwasher.’  Beautiful.  Mmm, hmm.  When a toddler climbs up in his lap and finds comfort, I look forward to procuring that same seat later.  ‘Good dad’ is yummy.  Remember that.”

When a dad takes responsibility in caring for the offspring, the mother is inclined to think, “He will sustain us!  There will be a day when I will feel healed!  I will survive!  I have hope!  This man is interested in sustaining me and the fruit of my womb!  We are a team and together, we will thrive.  My goodness, he’s hot.”

That last little bit was running through my head as the rest of them discussed.  I think they deviated from that conversation, but I wasn’t really listening; my husband texted me and said that he picked up the kids and he was on the way home.  The night ended at that time when I chuckled loudly and awkwardly.  I didn’t know where the conversation had gone, but I gathered by the way they looked at me that a loud chuckle was very misplaced.  I explained, “heh, heh…my husband’s a really good dad.”  There was a consensus that the night was over and Courtney obviously needed to get home.