During Mrs G's pregnancy, I had done all the right things... gone to Lamaze; read the "what to expect..." books; made the baby's room ready (Well, I painted and lifted... Mrs G did the planning); and went to the appropriate appointments. I had all of the right gear, too!
I was ready.
Soccer Girl(SG) arrived a few weeks early, but no worries, she was (and still is) supremely healthy and hearty (and by God, my kid can eat!).
I took three weeks of leave from work so I could be with Mrs G and do as I said... be a full participant. We learned a lot, and did pretty much all of the right things. We even took turns sleeping with SG in the glider chair that my dad gave us, because SG wasn't even THINKING about sleeping in the crib, yet.
Well, those three weeks came and went and it was time for me to go back to work. Mrs G would be out for another three or four weeks, but this way, if I went back to work, I'd have more leave on the books so I could take off at need.
Since I was back at work, Mrs G, obviously had to pull more of the freight with the baby stuff, and I would return home to find her wiped out. Seeing this, I started taking SG to the local mall so her mommy could sleep, read, recharge or whatever for a few hours.
One evening, as I was walking through the mall with the stroller, SG started to cry... so I checked the diaper (it was clean/dry), I checked to see if there was anything poking her, and I figured she was just hungry. Well, no worries, I sat on a bench and prepared one of the several bottles that I had brought with me.
(No, that isn't me)
The bench we were sitting on was right outside of the Payless shoe store, and while I fed SG, the lady working in Payless stood at the entrance of the store and looked at us and smiled. Being a proud father, I smiled back. She looked up one end of the hall and down the other like she was looking for something and then walked over to us and said: "Where is her mother?", to which I replied (proudly) "At home, having a nap" The woman, in her mid-thirties I'd guess, looked shocked and said: "She LET you take the baby out... ALONE?"
I guess you won't be surprised to hear that I took great umbrage (don't you love that word?) at her question and the tone in which it was delivered. I told her that I knew what I was doing and my wife needed the rest, or words to that effect. Then she pushed all of the rest of my buttons at once, by saying: "She is a lucky lady to have dad babysit for her!, I'd never let my huband do that"
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!
I was pretty mad but refrained from telling her to go... er, jump in a lake. I told her that I wasn't babysitting, I was PARENTING, and if her husband didn't do any of the parenting of their babies, perhaps she should have found a better man. Oh, and what's with this crap about "letting" a father take care of his kids??? What? since when do I need permission?
It only got worse. As our evening strolls in the mall went on, I would often see other parents, all moms, walking with their babies. As much as I liked to talk to them about baby stuff, I eventually had to stop talking to them altogether, because if one more of those
I used to hear it so much, and sometimes still do, that I want to scream "I'm not a babysitter. I am this child's father! What is wrong with you people?" and then punch the offender in the face.
I'm still sensitive about it... when SG and I go to the mall or bookstore or someplace else, women get all googley-eyed because we are having fun together. I swear, I am sick of the "aw, that's so cute routine" routine.
I suppose some of you are probably laughing yourselves silly about this. I suppose there are some who would read this and wonder what business any man had being involved in their kid's life to that extent. Well, I am here to tell you that I don't think it's funny.
What kind of man can't take care of his children? I don't mean support his children... I mean take CARE of them. Feed them, clean them, and do all of the other million things that a baby needs. Men who can't, or worse, won't do those things, in my opinion, are beneath contempt. Indeed, I don't think they are real men at all.
Ladies, if you are single and reading this... take a little advice from your ol' Uncle Gunfighter: If your potential husband seems even slightly unwilling to be a FULLY participatory father... dump him immediately. He isn't a real man. Additionally, don't be a barrier to your husband's full participation.
Men: Take the time to be full participants when your kids are infants. It will be an incredible experience that will make you closer to your kids later on, and to your wife.