“Are there men here who can comfortably change their baby’s diapers?” a prominent nutrition and wellness blogger on social media asked recently.
She has a huge following, yet by the end of the day, only a handful of men had responded in the affirmative.
This question was relevant, in the first place, because taking care of children seems to be a strange territory for men.
Mothers change diapers, breastfeed and give food, and bathe and clothe the baby. This work has naturally and culturally acquired a feminine identity and everyone is happy about it, with many arguing that a mother has a biological head start in caring for the child compared to the man and it is only fair and natural that she takes the lead role.
Going by this argument, men then only change diapers by chance, that is why it is news when a man knows how to do it.
But wait until a man takes the front seat in child care!
The above question reminded me of that cold morning last term. Nathan, my four-year-old son, was getting ready for his baby class pick-up by the school van.
On this particular day, he was required in school in a certain T-shirt.
I have been preparing him for school for a couple of weeks now and never was there a requirement to wear a T-shirt. And neither did I ever think it could be an issue.
Yet I was here stranded. The T-shirt was getting stuck, causing Nathan great discomfort, and causing him to yell and protest.
It was very frustrating. What was supposed to be just a minor procedure was proving difficult. Nathan finally forced himself out of my hands and insisted he won’t wear the T-shirt. I had to dress him in a different open shirt.
I narrated the incident to his mother in the US later in the day who chuckled at my naiveté.
“I never saw that coming, it feels so obvious…” she commented as she demonstrated to me the procedure of slipping a T-shirt through a child’s head from the back of the head.
I had shared my experience on social media and a reader had mischievously ridiculed me with a caution that “there is a method to it,” adding that men must feel ashamed for the many things they don’t know.
This T-shirt episode was a culmination of a series of frustrations I have encountered as a father playing the role that society takes for granted.
Nathan has three older sisters. In the course of their upbringing, I never learned how to dress or feed them.
I took for granted their toilet training and assumed it was natural and easy for the mother and anybody could do it. Yet here I was now.
By the time Jane was traveling, Nathan was just 3 and still using diapers.
I quickly learned how to change diapers—and that was the easier part. The main lesson is knowing when to change them. This requires special intimacy with the child, so as to monitor their feeding and bowel movements. Additionally, the changes need to be made promptly lest the child develops painful rashes.
This was a great lesson. That changing diapers is not just about the diaper, one needs to be psychologically and emotionally intimate with your child. The mind is needed as much as the hands.
I would never have come to personally acknowledge my wife and thank her for her sterling role in motherhood if I hadn’t experienced this. It had all looked mundane and obvious.
But, after staying with Nathan for one year, I am a changed husband.
Motherhood is a hell of a noble undertaking, which, unfortunately, is underrated, and sometimes abused, and ignored.
Every man with a successful family or children should appreciate his wife more.
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