The Mythical Paternal Instinct

I have a bone to pick with society.

We are a society filled with women screaming for gender equality. Women want to be seen as equals to men in all aspects. We want to be seen as more than baby making factories and taken seriously. I understand this. I agree with this. Women want to be able to be a mom, a physician, an attorney or whatever they want to be. I have no problem with this. But it seems like through all of this a double standard has been created when it comes to birth/parenting.

It seems like women have decided that pregnancy/childbirth/infant parenting is for the mother alone. It’s like a right of passage reserved for only women. Yes, only a woman can give birth, but we shut the door in the faces of men who want to be involved. (No, this is not about my husband being banned from the baby shower. I agree he’d be bored out of his skull once he got there.)  This is about the one too many freakish statements I’ve been told over the last 7 or so months regarding my husband.  I’ve been unsettled too many times during my pregnancy by friends who make statements like,

“I mean it’s nice, but I find it unnerving when a husband is so involved in a pregnancy. It makes me wonder if he has some weird motive…”

“There’s something wrong with a man who is that excited about being a dad.”

Or blanket statements reflecting their own marriages like,

“Be prepared to do everything yourself.”

“Sure your husband says he wants to help now, but just wait until it’s 3am and the baby needs a diaper change. You’ll be the one doing it.”

These kind of statements have been usually followed up with a backtracking statement like,
“But no offense to Justin. I’m not talking about him.”

Really?  Then why did you say it? That’s like when you insult someone and follow it up with “No offense.” If you didn’t mean it as it was said, don’t freakin say it.  Let’s keep our insecurities to ourselves shall we?

When I hear these things, I tend to cock my head to one side in confusion. Why wouldn’t my husband be excited to be a dad? Why wouldn’t he be just as over the moon about this as I am? We both wanted this baby right? We both were devastated by every negative pregnancy test while we were trying right? This wasn’t a one sided thing. If it had been, I would have remained on birth control.

Why is it strange that he’s been to every single scheduled appointment, that he gushes over every tiny article of clothing we’ve been given, or that he touches my belly every day without fail to say hello to his unborn daughter?

Yes, I acknowledge that there are plenty of men out there who don’t take an active role in pregnancy/child rearing but there is nothing wrong with a man who does. It doesn’t make them less masculine. It doesn’t make them strange or unnatural. I don’t know if it’s a hormonal or genetic thing, but that is something to be celebrated not condemned.

Let’s look at from this aspect.  When a woman abandons her child (the way my husbands mother did), she’s a monster.  When a mother hurts her child intentionally or neglects her baby, she’s terrible.  I don’t disagree with this.  But when a father barely involves himself in bonding with his child, or leaves the family for the mother to raise the kid, we all tend to shake our heads but shrug as if it were to be expected.  That phenomenon is strange to me.  Those people have problems.

Whatever happened to paternal instinct?  It’s a real thing.  It’s supposed to happen.  Science says it’s normal.  So why do we brow beat men who are trying to let nature take its course into thinking that they’re less masculine, or weird for doing so?

When it comes to pregnancy everyone immediately flocks to the woman. Yes, that’s where the baby is located, and the mother is going through all of the physical/emotional symptoms, but don’t count out the dad! How nerve wracking it must be for the dad during a pregnancy. He’s completely helpless. He has literally no control over the entire situation. He has to rely on the mother to take care of herself, and wait patiently for close to a year hoping that everything will turn out fine. He doesn’t get to feel the baby moving until much later into the pregnancy, and he has to stand by watching during the birth, hoping that the mother’s body does it’s job getting the baby out alive. At least the mother has some form of control. We make the decisions on what to eat, what vitamins to take, and making sure we tell our doctor if something seems amiss.

I really liked hypedad’s blog post about being an expectant father. Why does society always count out the dad?  Why is it weird for a dad to be so involved.

I don’t even want to ask my friend what she meant about fathers having a “weird motive” when they’re excited about being a dad.  I’m glad she didn’t clarify.  What on Earth could she have meant?  I’ll just go out and say it.  If you think a dad who wants to be involved in his daughter’s life has intentions of a sexual nature, then there is something wrong with YOU, not him.  Has society really twisted our minds that much?  How disgusting.  What other possible weird motive could that statement insinuate?  Sure she backed it up with a “Of course I don’t mean that about Justin.” but still.  Just making that statement alone is insulting in itself.

Or to the other statements.  To automatically assume that he’s going to leave me to do all the work in the middle of the night.  Or that I’ll be the only one feeding her, changing her or snuggling her.  Just because you had an absent husband doesn’t mean that I will.  Maybe there’s something wrong with your man.  Not mine.  I know plenty of friends who have very involved husbands.  Their marriages are healthy and happy.  These men are football loving, beer drinking, video game playing, all American dudes.  So where is the problem?

Justin is excited to hold our baby girl.  He’s excited to have tea parties with her and he’s not afraid to admit it.  He wants her to be smart and love legos the way he did growing up so they can build castles or space ships together.  He wants to send her to science camp, watch her paint with mommy, and see her grow right before our eyes.

If you think there’s something wrong with that, then maybe you have problems.

End rant.

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