Daddy Dearest

November 26, 2008 12:00 AM by

Lately it seems like every mother I know is having issues with her husband and shared responsibility.

Even I, who have always been entirely 50/50 with my husband have seen some big changes since our son was born.

With our daughter, my husband was an equal partner–I swear he changed more of her diapers than I will change in a lifetime. But our son loves his mommy and refuses bottles and cries when I am away and that seems to be just fine with his poppy who is busier than ever with our toddler and with work.

I understand, of course. He is finishing his PhD, working full time and raising two children. Plus, little Alan seems to hate everyone but me. But there are limits and at 4:30 in the morning when I have been up with Sir Nurse A Lot for two hours, I need help from the man of the house.

It seems the newborn phase is very hard for men. I can only speak for my own guy, but it seems that my loves-to-fix-it-always-finds-a-solution engineer husband is stumped when it comes to our little one and he finds that infuriating.

The first few months involve little reward and much work—diapering, re-diapering, bathing, feeding, dressing, undressing and soothing, lather, rinse and repeat. The process is tiring even for the best of us, but for the husbands of nursing moms, it is even more difficult because they get all of the work with very little of the hormonal cocktail reward that comes via nursing eight times a day.

New motherhood is an initiation into a new kind of womanhood, a shared bond with generations of women before us. Sometimes it is easy to leave the men behind, but they have to help, even when they are begging to be left behind. Raising a baby is hard work and in families with two parents, both need to be on board the childcare train.

Shared responsibility looks different in every family. In mine it means we share the 2 a.m. wake-ups and poopy diapers. It means I trust him to dress our daughter and try not to cringe when he puts her in orange pants and a pink top. He is her father and he is just as smart as I am when it comes to parenting and if he thinks that matches, fine (even if it doesn’t).

For the dads, this means sometimes feeling useless, but always persevering. The rewards will come. Case in point: my 22-month-old daughter would choose her dad over me any day of the week.

Consider the early diapering, swaddling, bouncing and shushing the little investments that lead to the big pay out. Even in this bad economy, there are opportunities for windfalls.

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a freelance writer whose monthly column runs online at The Family Groove. Her work has appeared in Pregnancy, Runner’s World, Self and many other publications. She lives in Boston with her husband, daughter, son (and a cat and dog).

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