Much has been made in recent years about modern man's role in raising children. See, things have changed. Many men are choosing to be stay-at-home dads right from the start, and these dads chafe at the old cliche of the typical father, sitting in an easy chair, sipping a bourbon, reading the evening paper. Today's new-fangled fathers? Go-getters, the whole lot of 'em. They happily – and all at the same time! – attach their newborns to their chest, put their toddler in the stroller, take their kindergartener to school.
As for me, father of three?
Bring me a bourbon and an evening paper. I'll be in my easy chair.
Listen, I think it's great some dads take this very active role in rearing their children. I really do. Sometimes, it's 100 percent necessary, and for those dads who relish the challenge and rise to the occasion, I don't begrudge these guys their happiness.
But me, and virtually every other father I talk to? We're not that skilled at the day-to-day of raising children. And we're not that upset about it, either.
I can handle it – barely – when called upon, but I'm not anywhere as good as my wife. And I'm not talking learned skills like changing diapers; I'm talking parenting-from-the-gut, knowing, in your bones, how to get it done.
Case in point: The other night, post-dinner: Our baby is screaming. Our 3-year-old daughter is rampaging. Our 4-year-old son managed to hop the gate to the stairs and the water to the bath is running. I stood there, frozen, and loudly asked me wife the following question: “What do you want me to do?” Her answer? “Nothing. I got this.”
Within 15 seconds – and I'm not exaggerating – she had the baby on her breast, the 3-year-old calmed, and our son in the bath. She also managed to get me upstairs to bathe the kid. I don't even know how I got there. She just mom'd me there. She may have installed a holodeck in the foyer. For all I know, while I was giving my son a bath, another version of me was still standing downstairs in absolute panic.
If I had to handle the situation? It wouldn't have been over in 15 seconds. Probably would've taken hours for everyone to just fall asleep wherever they we sitting/standing/bathing.
So why is this? Why do I believe this? Why do I think women are better than men at handling the kids? I'm going to claim science on this one. From the dawn of humankind until the dawn of Brooklyn hipsters, child-rearing, across virtually all cultures, was the domain of women.
And it makes perfect biological sense. You see, after babies are born, they soon need to (according to Wikipedia) eat. As it turns out, women are equipped with the proper tools for this job. Men, alas, are not.
Interestingly, men do (again, according to Wikipedia) have nipples and so, using Darwin as my guide, it's not so far-fetched to imagine a time in ancient human history when men could also provide their offspring with nourishment.
But if that's the case, it's been bred out of us. Not surprising. I mean, can't you just picture it? There's Oog with his baby, plus a few toddlers running about the cave, and everything is OK until Oog gets distracted by a good Throw the Rock game on TV, and three hours later, there's a starving baby, the kids are missing and a village-wide stuck-in-amber alert is sounded.
Now listen: I'm no Oog. I can do it. I can do it all. I do do it all. I'm a present father. Believe me, in my life, there's no evening paper, no easy chair, no bourbon. (OK fine there's bourbon, but not until after bedtime, and then there's probably a two fingers too much of it.) So to be clear: I do help out, I do take an active role, I do change diapers and feed the baby and everything else.
But my wife is so, so, so, so much better at it all than I am.
And I know I'm not alone.
So to all the dads out there, don't feel bad because you're not living up to some false ideal of what fatherhood is supposed to be. Don't feel bad because when you hear your baby crying, your first instinct is “make it stop!” instead of “coo-coo, there-there.” Don't feel bad because when you try to make a ponytail for your daughter, it ends up looking like it was done by a corkscrew plugged into a wall socket. And don't feel bad because you say things like “make a ponytail.” What is it anyway? Put a ponytail in? Put a ponytail on? Ponytail her hair? I have no idea.
I do know I love my children and I'm a good dad, just not a SuperDad, and I'm perfectly, happily, wonderfully OK with that.
I also know, done right, an evening paper could be a pretty big hit. Roll it around your head, the plusses and minuses of it in the Internet age, and you'll see. It could work.