don't forget the papas

When a woman becomes a mother, friends, family, and strangers sympathize instantly, and cut her a whole lot of slack.

If she's late everywhere, fine, she just became a mother. If she is wearing her pants inside out to the grocery store, strangers say "girl, I have been there. You're doing fine."

But weirdly, that outpouring of patience and understanding doesn't leak over onto the newly christened father. If he starts crying at work he's going to get a lot of eyebrows. If he shows up with his pants inside out at the grocery store, he's probably going to be escorted out. ESPECIALLY if he's hanging out in the baby aisle looking stoned.

What's up with that? Mamas aren't the only ones whose worlds just got rocked. Why are we forgetting about the papas?

I think it is just as hard to be the working parent with a new baby and a new mama to support.

At least if you're the parent staying home with the baby, you have the following things going for you:

1. You don't have to shower, get dressed, or leave the house if you don't want to.
2. You can cry all day long, and be a zombie or watch TV if you're exhausted.
3. You get in a mode. You get in a rhythm. You have one goal that day, and it's keep this little bastard/precious angel alive. Also, try to eat something.

Your partner doesn't have the luxury of doing any of those things. Your partner has to shower, get dressed, go to work, interact with adults without breaking down in tears, say smart shit in meetings, seem rested, and then come home and wonder what fresh hell is going to greet him on the other side of that door.

Yes, as a new mom I would gladly have swapped places with my husband (or the neighborhood wino) just to have the opportunity to walk down the street without a parasite strapped to my chest. And I know for a fact my husband would NOT have agreed to that trade.

But it couldn't have been easy for him to come home and have a baby thrust upon him at the baby's absolute worst time of the day, when I was Done-with-a-capital-D, after he'd had a full work day and a bus ride home and it wasn't like he spent the last few nights in peaceful slumber in some magic soundproof chamber.

OH. And the best part... when you're a stay at home mom you spend each and every day coming up with no fewer than 3 New Unbreakable Rules for Taking Care of the Baby that you may or may not communicate to your husband until he has BROKEN them like a BASTARD.

Oh my God, no! Stop! We don't feed him like that anymore! You have to tilt the bottle 45 degrees to minimize gas bubbles. That's why he's been so insane in the evenings, because the bottle has been tilted wrong. YES, IT MATTERS. BECAUSE I AM THE ONE WHO WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH HIS SCREAMING BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THE GASSY BELLY HOLD.

ARE YOU INSANE? We're only doing soap in the bath once every couple of weeks now. I read today that using soap every night will dry his skin excessively and can lead to rashes! Yes, I think we should empty and re-run the bath. Yes, when I said we I meant you. Yes, now.

NO, no, just... STOP. Just... let me. We're doing a new swaddle since it's been so warm. NOT LIKE THAT. HERE, I'll show you. (SIGH.) Why don't you just... go... somewhere else. Ssshh, it's okay baby. Daddy's trying.

Not my finest moments. It's pretty much emotional terrorism. But it's funny now, right?

Honey?

I don't have any resolution or revelation. I just wanted to say that for a few minutes tonight around my kitchen table, the papas got some props for holding themselves and their families together.

Thanks for saying smart shit in meetings and coming home and embracing the chaos of life with a new baby, for apologizing and ordering pizza when you asked what was for dinner and I started to cry. Thanks for showering, shaving, finding a clean-enough shirt, and braving a working world that doesn't really care whether or not you just became a father.

Thanks, papas.

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