Here’s a theory that turns modern conventional wisdom on its head: men who are attentive and supportive to their partners during pregnancy are damaging their fathering skills.
Dr Jonathan Ives, head of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Birmingham, claims, and I’m paraphrasing here, that pregnancy and childbirth emasculate men.
Since there’s not a whole lot for men to do by way of gestating — or pushing the little bugger out or submitting to surgery — men have some kind of existential crisis, wonder what life is all about, hate themselves in the morning and all that after the baby is born. So they turn into crappy dads.
“Having begun the fathering role already feeling a failure may destroy his confidence,” Ives said. “It can then be very difficult for him to regain faith in himself once the baby is born and move from that passive state to being a proactive father. His role in the family is no longer clear to him. He effectively becomes deskilled as a parent and this can lead to problems bonding with the child.”
Sure, I suppose. If said father happens to be a big baby!
Ives, along with Dr. Heather Draper from Birmingham’s primary care clinical sciences unit, believes that men are being set up to fail as fathers, what with expectations that they’ll join in on the prenatal classes, show up for the birth, hold hands, wipe sweat and, oh, I don’t know, get to be one of the first to sniff and snuggle and count toes. But whatever! Horrible stuff, these supportive partnerships!
Ives and Draper think society needs to be more realistic about what they expect men to do during pregnancy and birth. (Now who’s piling the pressure on Dad?)
Let me take a stab at realistic: I think most kids today would pick their modern fathers over the cigar-smoking in the waiting room ones. Because weren’t those also the ones who worked too late, drank too much, never made dinner and only said “I love you” once during a child’s whole life?
I think dads, by and large, are actually relieved that they don’t have to pass a newborn child through a normally rather small orifice and that giving baths and changing diapers and reading and shoulder-rides, etc., more than make up for their inability to carry a human fetus to term.
I’ve written before that dads should get a pass on being their for the birth if that’s what they and their partners want. But let’s not force all of man-kind to choose between showering love on the babies’ mothers and showering love on the babies themselves. It’s not a job, Dr. Ives, just love.