September 23, 2019

Hanging Out With Moms and Why are Dads Having More Fun?

Dad at Play

I’ve learned some things from hanging out with moms and their kids. As we all know, if you want to spend time with mothers, especially new ones,  you’re going to spend a great deal of time with their kids.

Wading through the feedings,  cleanings, clothes changes and scoldings, I’ve gathered along the way an unedited (if slightly abridged) view of motherhood.

What I’ve learned most of all from spending uncensored time with moms and their kids is that I don’t want their lives or anything remotely resembling them. While I admire them immensely, envy them I do not. Okay, in many ways I’m in awe of them because, frankly,  I’m dumbfounded at how they manage, but I’m sure not interested in giving up the freedoms that they surrender.

On the bright side, I’ve picked up from moms (and some nannies I also got to know) some very helpful kid tips which I pass along to new mothers, who look at me in amazement, wondering how a kid-less woman could know so much about how to calm a colicky baby or the best breast-feeding positions.  I have to talk about something at baby showers after all.  You don’t think the ladies are talking about politics at those events, do you?

I also get a great deal of shock when moms see that I actually know how to hold an infant, and that I’m quite comfortable with them.  Well, I’ve held so many of them, that it has become second nature to me, but don’t mistake my comfort with a longing to hold my own.

By the way, why are their husbands having so much more fun? Oh, they’re often exhausted too, but it seems to me that they’re still willing to play more than their wives.  Is the parental division of labor not as equal as we had expected in this era of sexual equality?

Why, for instance, when guests visit us, are the men usually game for swimming and water sports, while their wives are often content to sit on the shore in case a little body might need drying, a mouth might need water or a nose might need blowing?

“You don’t even want to swim in this heat?” I quiz them. No, they seem to prefer the safety of shore. These are sporty women, women with whom I used to climb trees and party all night. What happened here? Is there some unwritten consent that mothers make not to have any more fun?  Must they always sublimate their family members’ needs over theirs?  Does anyone else out there notice that mom’s don’t seem to be getting much more of a break than in the 1950’s and 60’s?

Now, moms are also expected to earn a solid income and agree to multiple volunteer roles, in addition to being the household chauffeur, cook, doctor and maid (even if she has such employees).

We’ll explore more about all of this later.  Maybe those moms have something to say about the benefits of “surrendering” certain freedoms, and Dads, are you really having more fun than your wives, or do I have the wrong impression here?

Upcoming Posts:

  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel

Why I left my children

Woman in Motion by andorpro, on Flickr
Woman in Motion by andorpro, on Flickr

“My problem was not with my children,” author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explains, “but with how we think about motherhood.” Her poignant, smartly crafted essay, Why I left my children, is part of Salon.com‘s Real Families series. Her unflinching candor is especially powerful coming from the perspective of a woman, a mother, a wife. It’s an unfamiliar perspective, one that is easily and habitually vilified as she hastens to acknowledge. The redemptive arc of her essay softens the jagged edge of realizing — as a married mother of a three and a five year old — that she hadn’t wanted to be a mother in the first place.

I had no idea what to do with these bouncing balls of energy. Even feeding them, finding them a bathroom, was a challenge. It raised a little issue for me that I have neglected to mention: I never wanted to be a mother. I was afraid of being swallowed up, of being exhausted, of opening my eyes one day, 20 (or 30!) years after they were born, and realizing I had lost myself and my life was over.

She loses her marriage but regains her children and discovers her motherhood. It’s a tidy conclusion with a happily ever after vibe, but the essay concludes without returning to the mother-phobia hiccup. I suspect that I’ll need to read her novel, Why She Left Us, to learn more. Her fear that motherhood would/could exhaust her, swallow her up and erase her sense of self strike me as relevant and important (even critical) concerns.

I’m not a mother. Nor will I ever be a mother. I’m a happily married childfree husband. I’m a dog owner, storyteller, adventurer and unabashed flâneur. I’m a DINK. And yet Rizzuto’s perception that parenting has the potential to swallow up the self feels familiar, like it was conjured up out of my own twenty-something anxiety cauldron. A decade and change later, the ingredients are still there. How do I know? Because friends — parents, mothers, fathers — confirm and reaffirm the woes of parenting. They are exhausted. Swallowed up. Lost.

I know, that’s only part of the equation. “Having children is the best decision we ever made,” they always hasten to add. But it tends to come as an apologetic parenthetical after a laundry list of laments, regrets and frustrations. I don’t mean to diminish the splendors of parenting. They doubtless trump the petty concerns I’ve mentioned, and yet I’m not convinced. Frankly, I don’t want to be convinced. I’m okay with exhaustion, but swallowed up? No thanks!