My Place in the Family Unit
I’ve had cause to stop and think the last couple of days about the shifts in the division of labour in our household since the birth of Baby Dog. In the first few days of her life, we were pretty much equally useless. Neither of us had ever cared for an infant before. We’d never burped a baby. We’d never changed a diaper. And definitely neither of us had ever done any breastfeeding. We were quite happy for those first few days to leave the nitty gritty up to the nurses who knew what they were doing.
In our first days at home, we fell into a routine which divided the work of caring for the child about as evenly as it could possibly be in a situation where only one of us actually gave birth and is an actual food source. Baby Dog’s cosleeper went on my side of the bed – which was really the only place it fit anyway. The idea was floated to switch sleeping sides, but I’m sure you understand that was just crazy talk. I was the first responder for nocturnal infant issues. I would assess the situation, do triage. If only a diaper change was indicated, I’d do that. If it was feeding time, I’d set baby up with Mama Dog and sleep while nursing took place. When nursing was done, I’d burp the baby and put her back to bed.
As Baby Dog was going through her most colicky stage, I was the designated Putter to Sleep. As detailed in earlier posts, I was the shusher. I was the swaddler. By that time, Baby Dog was generally down to only one feeding per night, so we split things up that way. I would put in the time getting her to sleep, and Mama Dog would be the one to get up in the middle of the night.
A month ago, I went back to work. Right around then Baby Dog was starting to fall asleep at night without the swaddle straightjacket, and since I no longer had the option of sleeping in, I was excused from interrupted sleep. Ever since – ever so gradually – I’ve noticed that we’ve been turning into a Traditional Family. Yr. humble paterfamilias goes to work, earns the daily bread. My darling hausfrau stays home and cares for our child. More and more when we’re together at home, I find myself deferring in the area of childcare, because that’s her thing. Don’t get me wrong – I still help. I’m home on Wednesdays and on the weekend. I change diapers. I read stories, do burping, mind the baby while Mama Dog goes shopping or whatever, do the occasional bottle feeding, play peek-a-boo and this little piggy, kiss the fat little cheeks and tickle the plump little tummy. As recently as a week ago I’ve done shushing duty. But for the most part, especially compared with how things used to be, I’ve become the dad who goes to work and Mama Dog’s become the mom who takes care of the baby.
If these seems like much ado about nothing, please bear in mind that for years I figured that when we finally had a child, I’d be the stay-at-home dad. Well, this is the way it is. Things happen as they do. The important thing is our wonderful baby girl. But here I am, putting myself on notice, and I hope you’ll all help me remember to stick to it. I mean never to shirk at home just because I spend the day at work. I mean never to be less than fully engaged with my wife and child. I mean always to be the only father she would ever want to have.