If being a mother is a thankless job, then being a father is the coffee-getting-no-credit-given intern to the thankless job holder.
When the baby finally makes her appearance, the village elders gather around the new mother, swapping birth stories and dispensing advice. The fathers are left with an awkward exchange of words from their father- in -laws. Together with the untimely, “So, what’s it like being a dad?” from fatherless friends, hours after the baby is born. Or the uninspired, yet always a winner, “Welcome to the club,” from fellow forgotten dads.
What is a forgotten dad?
These are the fallen men who have been pushed aside by overbearing, albeit well-intentioned mothers and mother-in-laws. Victims to overtired wives, whose mouths say, “Just let me do it!” while their eyes scream, “Why do I have to do everything myself?”.
No one is born a parent; men, I feel, are less so. Little girls are forced to be nurturing from a young age. Their baby dolls and kitchen sets seem like a big conspiracy to groom them into mums and chefs for the family right from the start.
What’s more, women have the help of hormones that kick in after birth. You and baby magically sync up like a google smart home. You’re awake minutes before the hungry baby cries and you’ve now got super-sonic hearing. If you breastfeed, that’s it, you’re now a one (wo)man show, the complete life source for your child, independent of anything else. Who needs dad?
How to be a hands-on dad
Well, daddies, all is not lost. While most dads only fully embrace their role when baby gets older, there are a couple of things that you can do to be a “hands-on dad” from the get-go.
I come from a family where most if not all the fathers are “hands-on dads”. For example, my dad took care of my sister while my mother went back to teach the morning session. Back then, maternity leave was only a month. He’d bathe her, change her, and feed her before dropping her off at my Aunt’s place. She ended up saying, “Dada” first, much to my mother’s dismay. Both of us did. Dad took the opportunity of his alone time with us in the mornings to teach us phonetics!
Now, if handling a whole morning sounds too ambitious, start small. Make the formula, or warm up the breast milk. If mum is fully latching, offer to change the baby! Carry the baby at doctors’ appointments. Especially now with Covid where only one parent is allowed at visits, be that parent. Start small and build your confidence. Most importantly, remember that babies cry. It’s not always an indication that they prefer mum, though we’d like to think so.
As for the mummies, don’t forget that parenting is a team sport. Even though he might not do it the way you would, take a step back, breathe, and let him try. We deserve a break too.