I wrote a Mother’s Day blog post praising women for the truly awe-inspiring job they do — day in and day out. Now it’s time to tell the other side of the story:
The time, energy, and commitment to consciously raise babies create an energetic bankruptcy within a marriage. There is only so much attention to go around and moms are already in the red regarding energy reserves from raising the children. It’s the dad’s job to step in and support the mom any way he can to give her a break and some time to refuel.
But, what about the dad?
Who supports him? Who steps in to make sure he gets fed the emotional support, affection and attention he was showered with before children entered the equation?
I wrote a Mother’s Day post lauding my wife for all she does. It truly blows me away. But just because I am able to take a step back and appreciate all my wife does, does not mean my personal experience is all roses. I can be in awe of the job my wife is doing as a mom, while also trying to deal with the loneliness of life as a dad with babies.
Dads have immense pressure to provide for their family. We are under constant duress to scratch and claw our way up a professional ladder to provide our family with the life they deserve. That struggle never ends though because the professional world is a jungle that never sleeps.
Let down your guard and relax? — Lose your edge.
We are passively forced into a constant state of fight-or-flight. When we come home from work, we immediately start job #2 as we are expected to give our wives a break from the relentless responsibilities of raising babies all day. Mothers also need some adult conversation and someone with whom to share all the nuances of the children’s day. So, once the kids go to sleep, we discuss the kids. Our wives are maxed out. Long gone are the days of getting massaged at the end of a long day, or receiving the little surprises letting us know they’re thinking about us. Long gone is the fire in our wives’ eyes when the look at us. They are spent — mere shells of their former selves — and understandably so. But where does that leave us — the dad, the man.
Men need to feel vital. We need to feel important, masculine, wanted — like a king. But in the midst of raising babies, most men are reduced to supporting roles. It’s our job to bring in the money. No one cares how — just do it. It’s our job to be a loving dad who provides stability, safety and guidance. It’s our job to support and hold space for our wives as they are overextended during the early years of motherhood. It is a weird space to get used to, considering a man’s existence before children is centered around being virile, taking chances, and shouting as loud as we can from the tops of trees.
Men are stripped of everything they are biologically wired to be during these “early dad” years. Mother’s, on the other hand, are at least getting to express their biological calling to raise children. Yes, they are flattened during the experience, but at least they are being fed by the successful expression of their inner calling.
Dads often cease being men in today’s cultural shift towards a more androgenous mix of roles and monogamous relationships. I imagine working women who place their babies in daycare go through a very similar existential dilemma.
I can truly say I have never been filled with more love in my entire life. The addition of my two daughters has already provided more gifts than I ever thought imaginable. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I am not sitting here in regret, or pointing fingers. I believe this is just a natural temporary phase brought on by extreme circumstances. And the repercussions are unfortunate for a married couple. But this is no “Pity piece”. I prefer the point of this post to celebrate all the Dads out there who have been able to ride out the sometimes lonely storm of early fatherhood without looking around to be fed by an outside source. It would be too easy to turn to something or someone else for attention, praise, affection, or just being made to feel more like a “man”.
My wife and I chose to focus on the symbolism of the wedding ring when we got married. For us, the ring represented a closed circuit with an infinite center. It is natural for couples to periodically feel trapped inside the confines of the closed circuit of a lifelong marriage. But when we stop focusing on everything outside the ring, electing instead to go further into the circle, we find an expansive world filled with infinite love. It’s hard to see at times, especially when we are not on the same page as our partner. But it is a journey for a lifetime. It’s hard for any couple to navigate through a long life together. There will be times when each partner will have to let go of their personal needs in order to help the other get past a demanding period.
The key to getting through these periods is communication. My wife and I made a promise to each other to keep those lines open — but it’s difficult to do when we all know it creates more unrest than resolution in the short term. The alternative, though, is far worse: a widening chasm within a relationship leading to disgruntled partners who slowly begin drifting outside the ring for support. I am lucky I can express my feelings to my wife. I am lucky she is strong enough to hear my frustrations without getting defensive. It allows me to accept this transition from “King of the jungle” to “supportive husband and dad” — and actually wear it as a badge of honor. I am grateful for the chance to get to be that man for my family.
Congratulations to all you dads out there who have chosen the richness of a life filled with a loving family over the ego driven life of self-serving desires. And to all you mothers/wives out there: Remember to take care of your man. Treat him like a stud. Make him feel important, like the king of the jungle; it will feed him more than you know. Happy Father’s Day to all you kings who have traded in your ego for the richness of life as a dad.