In the last 2 years, a whole bunch of dudes I know have had children – well, their wives/girlfriends have anyway. Outwardly, they’ve all handled about the same. They’ve punched the air and/or uttered a bewildered “WHAT?!?!” at the reception of the news that their progeny will be entering the world in 9 months or so. Whether that fist pumping and screaming was the result of anger, shock and shame or joyous expectation depends on the man. All confessed a certain burden of fear, however, as well they should. Having a baby brings a host of responsibilities that no one can ever fully or adequately prepare for. In my estimation, it’s easier to prepare to go to war than for the birth of a child.
Having a baby is completely life changing, and the modern world does not make that metamorphosis easy for the modern dad. The average men’s magazine hardly ever broaches the topic, and parenting magazines examine the aspect of child rearing from the mother’s perspective. They talk about how her body changes, her mood swings, how to handle the stress of the day…even how many pairs of black trousers she should stock her closet with.
But what about the men? The rules for dads have changed so drastically over the last 50 years, that these budding young fathers really can’t go ask their dads for advice, can they? If you’re over the age of 35, think about your dad/granddad. You know for a fact that he’d rather pull his toe nails out than change a diaper – it just wasn’t going to happen. Not only is today’s dad expected to change diapers, he must also note their size, where he can get them on sale if needed, and provide a ready dissertation on why the contents of said diaper are not of the consistency they normally would be. After all, he’s also equally responsible for feeding the baby too, isn’t he?
Well Modern Dad; it’s Malaka to the rescue. Here are a few tips that will make your life infinitely easier. There is simple equation to remember in child rearing: Happy Mommy = Happy Baby = Happy Daddy. At the onset, it might look like Daddy is the tail end of the equation, but the opposite is true. You sir, are the alpha and omega. Mom cannot be happy unless you make her so; and despite all this new age “I don’t need a man” garbage floating around the culture, the contrary is the truth. Daddy is the glue that is holding this popsicle stand we call a family together.
The root of all your future bliss lies in how you treat your woman during her pregnancy. Trust me on this. If you act like a total prick after you’ve pricked her with yours, you are going to be a miserable man. A woman’s mind after carrying a child is like a steel trap – nothing gets in, nothing gets out. If you give her a hard time, she’ll make sure you pay. Even the sweetest of women has this as an ulterior goal. The worst of us will outright take your kids while you sleep, while the more considerate of us will wait politely wait to announce what a donkey you were during the champagne toast at your 86th birthday. Either way, it’s coming. Here’s what you can do to avoid all that:
Read the frikkin’ book: Read What to expect while you’re expecting if she asks you to. Read ahead a couple of days if you need to. Shoot, take it a step further and send her Twitter updates and let her know what’s going on in her body today. She’ll be amazed. Why? 1) Because you look like your taking an active interest in her well being and 2) that you’re totally excited about this pregnancy. Of course you’re not excited about the pregnancy. It’s a phenomenon that women experience and their mates suffer through.
Get your mind right: Your girl/wife is that the same woman you met and married before you got her pregnant. That cologne you used to wear that drove her crazy will now ‘drive her crazy’. She may inform you (very irritatedly) that you stink. Don’t take offense – take a shower and don’t reapply anymore foreign scents. You may annoy her just by doing things you need to do to live. One of my friends was banished to his bedroom during dinner time because his wife couldn’t stand the sound of his teeth clanging on his spoon as he ate. He finally gave up trying to keep his teeth from touching his silverware and opted to eat alone. But take heart, your beloved will be back to her old self in a year or so if you can hang in there.
Lots of sex, no sex: Figuring out a pregnant woman’s libido is like trying to crack the Davinci Code. In the first 3 months, your very presence may repulse her. 2 weeks later, she may rip your clothes off at the door. Your job is to know and understand you’re putty in her thighs – conform. Yes, you are a piece of meat. The tables have turned. Deal with it.
When the Baby comes
So, you’ve lived through 9 months of hell and didn’t run out for a carton of milk, never to be seen again. You (don’t) deserve a medal. After all, “it takes two hands to clap”. She didn’t make this baby on her own, and should not have to take care of it on her own. Welcome to a world of poo, vomit and sleepless nights!
Your baby: Your child is perfect. God made babies cute so that we wouldn’t run out on them. His/her arrival signals the beginning of real change in your life, Modern Dad, because you will be totally involved in all things ‘baby’. You will have many sleepless nights, and not because you’ve been out partying till 5 a.m. You know how you feel on Monday when you’ve pulled an all-nighter in the club the Sunday before? Now wrap your mind around the notion of going to work and feeling Like. That. Every. Day.
Why the house isn’t clean: Your otherwise neat girl/wife has let the house to CRAP. You walk in the door, and wonder why nobody let YOU know there was a tornado rolling through your hood. For the sake of peace and harmony, go ahead and plug in the Dirt Devil and tackle at least part of the mess. You will be a hero.
Why your girl/wife isn’t clean: The worst thing you can say to a woman who has been cooped up in a house with a new infant all day (for 6 weeks) is “you stink”. She knows she stinks. She hasn’t bathed in 2 days, and every 2 hours some kid wants to suckle on her sore nips. You’d stink if you were in prison and only manages to sneak in an ablution 3 times a week as well.
You and your baby: The first time you get left at home alone with the baby DON’T PANIC! It will truly be ok. A baby needs only 3 things: A full belly, an empty diaper and loads of sleep. Make sure you have provided all 3 of these things, and you can sit back and watch the game all afternoon. Women are multi-taskers; men are not. You can sit there and mindlessly hold the baby and watch the tube all day. It really isn’t a problem. Only an exceptional women could ever waste her day like this – which is why your house always looks like crap…she’s doing too much at once, capice?
All this love!: In the very distant future, when you’re sitting in front of your lap-top, your Wii, watering the grass…whatever your fancy is…you’ll be interrupted by 5 little fingers tapping you on the forearm.The mouth attached to this arm will inform you of the following:
“I love you, Daddy.”
If you’re a regular guy, you’ll say “I love you too.” If you’re Kwasi Gyekye, you’ll stare blankly at your child for a moment and give him/her a big hug instead. 20 years LATER, you’ll soften up enough to say “I love you” back. All that matters is that the kid knows.
Take heart new fathers, all will be well. If my eloquent eposition did not answer any or all of your questions, seek out a fellow modern dad. I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your questions with a nodding of his head and a few gruff grunts, just as your dad would.