I talk often of the role of mothers and how it is undervalued in our culture. The recent Father's Day was a reminder that, though men and their monetary contributions are valued, we as a culture often don't value the other things they do as dads. I noticed the other day how many kids I know who do not have a father in their lives. They are not just missing out on the financial contributions, they are missing out on having a daddy.
And sometimes, even when dad is around, we do not know how to include him in all that tiny baby bonding. I had a student recently ask me how her husband would be able to bond with the baby when it was brand new if he did not take over some of the feedings. She recognized how special feeding a baby is, and did not want dad to miss out on that bonding time. However, breastfeeding is something mom's do not need to interrupt just so dad can love his baby.
Daddy makes a great pillow.
He has not milk and no boobies. Because he does not have these things a tiny baby can snuggle up on that soft hairy chest and just relax without searching around for a nipple. It gives mom a little break and snuggle time with dad. (I know my hubby always appreciates a chance to nap without me nagging him about it.)
Daddy makes a great bouncy chair.
Daddy holds a baby differently than mommy. Mom is soft and gentle. She pats and coos. She rocks the baby and nurses it to sleep. Sometimes mom's are so gentle they have a hard time watching dad hold the baby with his big tough hands. But- if I sit back and relax, I realize that babies love to be held by daddy. They love to be patted (pretty hard in fact) by those strong hands. They love to sit on daddy's knee and bounce like crazy. A bouncy daddy lap is a great place for a baby to go to sleep. (And he needs no batteries.)
Daddy can sling a baby.
My hubby is a pretty big guy so he never fit the slings I wore, but he liked to wear our oldest baby in a Bjorn. Baby boy would fall asleep happily with daddy at church. And there is something really cute about a 240 pound body builder wearing a baby to sleep. (Nobody pokes fun when daddy is so tough either.)
Daddy can change a diaper (even a cloth one!)
You don't have to look over his shoulder and tell him what he is doing wrong. He will figure it out! My husband is a great diaper changer (though his skills are getting rusty lately...) And- he even can figure out the cloth diapers, and I do the tricky pre-folds. Diapers have to be changed all the time, and if daddy does some of it he gets lots of time to bond with baby.
Daddy's and babies get smelly.
Which is why they enjoy a shower together! Because daddy is so hairy, I swear he is probably less likely to drop that baby in the shower. This was always a family affair in our house, with one person holding, and the other ready to put them in the towel and dry them off.
Daddy needs exercise.
And so he can push baby in a stroller. Plus, getting baby outside in the fresh air can calm them down, and give mom some time to rest or tidy up. This is also a nice little family event. Well, it is a nice quiet family event when you have one, when you have three kids usually somebody is screaming. But we can talk about that later.
Father's Day is a nice reminder of the wonderful men in our lives who stick around and try their best. I am grateful to have men like that in my life because I can see how much my children need them, and I know that it allows me the chance to be the kind of mother I want to be. I think I should go tell those guys thank you...