babies, babysitting, breastfeeding, cultural expectations, family, fathers, mothers, night out, relationships
Last night, for the first time, Perfect Husband took care of Babby for an entire evening by himself.
Note that I do not just say “took care of Babby by himself”. Perfect Husband has taken care of Babby on his own many times – if it’s a weekend and Babby has had a bad night, he’ll sometimes take his son downstairs and even give him a bottle of pumped milk so I can sleep in and catch up on some lost sleep.
But the option of booba, if it is needed, has always been there.
Some friends were going to see “The King’s Speech” (awesome movie, I highly recommend it) and I was invited along, so I went. I left PH with 5 ounces of pumped milk and a slightly stressed look on his face.
Babby has been babysat often. We have a wonderful rota of friends who practically fight each other for the opportunity to sit him while PH and I go out to dinner or a movie. But I have never gone to a movie or dinner without one or the other of them! So last night, I did.
‘”Why is it that if a man goes out at night and leaves the mother at home, that’s normal, but if a woman goes out and leaves the father with the baby, he’s ‘babysitting’?” someone said when I arrived at the theatre triumphantly. People often do make this observation, and it’s true. Now, PH would never call taking care of his son “babysitting”, nor would I ever apply that term to my husband caring for his own son. It’s insulting.
But the spirit of the word persists.
Why is this? PH loves Babby as much as I do. He never complains about caring for him. He has given a bottle numerous times.
But when you come right down to it, I have boobas, and he doesn’t.
I think this leaves him with some deep seated feeling of inadequacy. I have the ultimate comfort at my disposal. I’m a manufacturing plant for the magical booba juice, and bottles simply don’t have the same warm, cushiony, human feel of a real breast. Every now and then Babby will latch onto his father’s bare chest, suck for a moment, and then cry in disappointment, and I think it breaks his father’s heart.
In a way, it’s not right to tell people that men should be equal partners. Not when there’s a baby involved, and the woman is breastfeeding. When you’re breastfeeding, which is the natural, instinctive, and doctor-recommended way to feed your baby, mother and baby simply ARE a unit. Until men learn to lactate, that’s just how it is.Telling us that it should be a different way just creates feelings of inadequacy on one side and resentment on the other.
I try to recognize my unique relationship with Babby, and I cherish it. I love snuggling with him at my breast, smelling the honey of his breath and feeling the tickle of his nursing lips. I love that I’m the first thing he smiles at in the morning (if you consider my boobas to be “me”, anway).
But there are times when I wish that I could focus on one thing that isn’t Babby for more than ten minutes at a time. Having an awake baby in the house is like having ADD. You can’t focus on anything else. There are days when Babby is in arms all day and I can’t even do a load of laundry or some dishes, let alone a blog post.
Time has suddenly become much more valuable.
When one only has an hour or so during the day to get EVERYTHING done, which does one do first? With a baby like mine, who rarely naps during the day for more than 20 minutes at a time and even more rarely without me snuggling him, a girl has to choose between personal time (a blog post? Checking other blogs? Facebook? A shower? FOOD? FOOD!) and productive time (a blog post? Laundry? Dishes? DISHES!) and rarely gets to complete whatever her choice ends up being. Food is warmed, and then cooled on the coffee table, and then eventually eaten by the Inexplicably Loved Cat. A plate is scrubbed, and then at the sound of a long, demanding wail, clattered back into the pool of soapy water where it will soak in its own filth for the next three hours.
Suddenly there is more time for reading (breastfeeding) and watching DVDs of Sex and the City (breastfeeding) but less time for personal hygiene (I often realize I’ve gone three days without a shower) or leaving the house (an entire week and sometimes a week and a half often go by, when the only people I have seen in the flesh are PH, Babby, and possibly a neighbour).
Suddenly the time involved in doing things like scrolling through sites like Failbooking, or writing in your diary or verbally abusive dog training book or sleeping for more than an hour or two at a stretch… are no longer a realistic part of one’s life.
One finds oneself oddly resentful of minor things like Perfect Husband being able to simply switch himself over to the futon in the den when Babby gets fussy at night, or finding from Facebook that friends have been out shopping or to the dog park together.
Next thing you know, your baby is almost five months old and a friend invites you to a movie and you realize that you haven’t been out of the house without either your husband or your baby in, well, almost five months.
So I went to the movie.
As I left the house, Babby woke up from a nap with a wail, and I felt horribly guilty leaving PH to deal with it.
When I got home at 9:30, Babby was asleep on his father’s shoulder. PH told me that the night was fine, except for the last half hour (his bed time is around 9) when he was in complete meltdown, rejecting the bottle and screaming inconsolably and inconsiderately at his Daddy, who was so desperate to soothe his baby. Twenty minutes of swaying to music knocked him out, though, and then he slept until midnight.
I think that qualifies as a definite success, don’t you?