My wife and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our second child, a boy, who is due in about a month. As excited as we are, there is still so much to do to prepare for this little bundle of joy. Like most families, we had a baby shower but we decided to make it co-ed which was wonderful because all our friends and family were in attendance — a great time was had by all.
Prior to the shower, I was speaking with a friend and trying my best to explain the concept of a co-ed baby shower. While trying to navigate this apparently inconceivable notion of men attending a baby shower, my friend says to me, “Why do you keep saying ‘we’re’ having a baby, isn’t your wife the one having the baby?” I immediately got flashbacks of a previous article I had written where I had to explain to my boss why I needed to take Paternity leave. Since this was a friend, I felt comfortable enough to pursue this line of questioning and tried to better understand why this sentiment is shared among most men, and how come I see things so differently.
So, I ask my friend, “Don’t you think having a baby is a shared experience between the parents?” And he goes, “Yeah, but you aren’t doing anything! She’s the one doing all the work!” Now, I couldn’t argue with the fact that my wife IS the one that is physically giving birth to our son — but why does the notion, that as the Dad, I am not doing “anything” so troubling to me? It was only when I probed a little further in to my friend’s logic that I was better able to understand how he, and apparently others like him, could make such a statement and be adamant that as a Dad, you have no real involvement in the birth and the first couple of weeks.
As my friend and I continued our conversation, I inquired as to what he felt his role was in the whole birthing process. He responded by explaining that other than driving his wife to the hospital and being in the delivery room — that was about it. No coordination of the visitors to come see the baby, no food or errand runs for the family, no coordinating a “welcome home” for mom and baby, no Paternity leave (shocker) — nothing! Any assistance with the late night feedings, diaper changes, just giving mom a break — nothing! To me this sounded so archaic, but to my surprise — he is not alone. After speaking with several other guys it became clear to me that we had fundamentally different views on the role of a Dad during the birth and the weeks following.
We have talked before about how there are different philosophies about the role of the Dad and it’s clear that when it comes to “domestic” roles, many Dads out there are still not fans. For some of us, we aren’t the ones having the baby and that’s all there is to it. But I am encouraged by those of us who want to change this definition. Or, for new and soon-to-be Dads out there who want something different for their families — this is a great place to start.
Although I would never suggest that one way of thinking or acting is better than any other, for me, the birth of a child HAS to be a shared experience. Sure my wife is the one physically having our baby, but where I cannot share in that specific experience, I try to make up for it as best as I can by taking care of most everything else — therefore WE are having a baby. We Dads are capable of doing so much more that can have a positive and lasting impact on our families. But it’s also more than that. Thinking this way facilitates the ability to establish the foundation of how to parent our children — as a shared experience. It challenges us to set the tone for how we, as Dads, intend to participate in this journey of raising a child.
Let’s be proud and excited to say that WE are having a baby!