If there is one thing I have learned in becoming a new father, it is to have greater respect for my wife.
Now if you have been following my blog at all then you know that I am a conservative -- I always have been and I always will be. That means that my first inclination is to nod to past experience and the lessons of history. But when it comes to childbearing, it strikes me that we in America are just now beginning to figure out how to do this right.
Maybe it's because hospitals just now seem to be making their facilities more celebratory and comfortable than utilitarian and medicinal. Maybe it's because in the baby classes that we attended my wife and I heard several return participants say that the curriculum had changed significantly in the past few years. Maybe it's because men from my parents' generation tend to not be familiar with the importance of paternity leave, or even why breast-feeding is preferable to the bottle. Maybe it's because only in the past year has the military decided to forgo fitness tests for new mothers and give them the time off work that they deserve.
It might be a combination of all these things. What I know is that we as men have historically not given nearly enough credit to the women who have carried, delivered, and raised us. I struggle to understand, particularly now, how any man could have witnessed a woman spend nine months going through three trimesters of chaotic body changes, watch her push through hours if not a full day of excruciating labor, observe her forfeit proper sleep for months if not years, and then have the audacity to tell this woman that she cannot vote. What were our ancestors thinking?
Combat is another one. If you've been in the room when a child was born, or even seen the film The Back Up Plan, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. With any birth there is no shortage of screaming, crying, spilled blood, frantic people running around, and collateral damage. For me it's the closest thing to war I've seen since Afghanistan. Any woman strong enough to push through this is more than capable of being a soldier if she so chooses. And yet we're just now recognizing that fact.
Of course, I love Father's Day and I will cherish this as my first. I look forward to seeing my dad set up his Bluetooth Death Star and I can't wait to see what my wife has bought me from ThisiswhyImbroke.com. But I'm under no illusions about my responsibilities versus hers. Every weekday I show up for my routine job, enjoy interaction with my network of friendly coworkers, and fulfill my responsibilities to further our department's programs. For the most part there is limited crying and not a lot of crap to deal with.
My wife's life is another story. Right now she spends her entire day in our home going through an endlessly repeating cycle of inserting nutrients into a small human who loves to spew them right back out from a wide variety of orifices. This isn't a pleasant process. After a day spent disposing of a cornucopia of smelly forms and textures, my wife doesn't even get to sleep much. Even when she does it's usually just for a few hours and then she has to either feed the baby or hook herself up to a contraption that looks like it belongs on a farm. She does this tirelessly, without complaining, and then I show up after holding a few bottles and change a diaper or two, and somehow I get a whole holiday in my honor. The true story is that, while at home on maternity leave, my wife is the one doing the real work.
I do enjoy Father's Day and I think we as dads deserve it. But this year, as I celebrate my first, I am also thinking about Mother's Day and its importance. I think we should reconsider it.
I'm convinced they deserve a week.