There’s a father in here somewhere
MANILA, Philippines - Father’s Day is a little strange for me. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m a father. I have two young kids to prove it. But some days, I just don’t feel like one.
It’s not that I don’t want to be one. I do. I care intensely about doing right by my kids and raising them to be decent, honest, loving and kind human beings. Also because one day they’re going to be teenagers and I’m going to have to live with them.
But the truth of it is, it isn’t that simple. Parents aren’t born fully-formed and with super powers. Most of the time we’re grasping in the dark, buried under pages of Google, babycenter.com and WebMD. We learn on the job. And we can make some very spectacular mistakes.
It’s during these times when I turn right instead of left that I feel I really don’t want to be at the center of Father’s Day.
When our first son was born, my wife had difficulty breastfeeding. We worried that our baby wasn’t getting enough milk and it caused her a lot of anxiety and stress. Our doctor at the time advised us to supplement her breast milk with formula to avoid jaundice. We took his advice and headed to the supermarket. Had we consulted instead with a breastfeeding expert, we would have learned that breast milk actually helps prevent jaundice. But the past is the past.
Over the course of the next few weeks we relied more and more on the formula. It was convenient. It gave us more time and more freedom. It was easy and painless. We were out of the woods. Only later would I learn that it would come at a cost.
Recently a friend pointed me to an article about breastfeeding. Like most people, I know breast milk is best for babies but that’s about it. There’s actually a lot more to it than what you hear on TV.
For one thing, breastfeeding is not just about the mom but the dad as well. We play an important role in helping a child feed from the mother. When my wife began breastfeeding, I could have been more supportive to her emotionally. I didn’t understand the anxiety and turmoil going on inside her and made no real effort to read books, articles or research to further my understanding on the matter. I used the words of our doctor as a crutch and soon found ourselves completely shifting to formula.
The solution though isn’t that complicated. Hard maybe, but not complicated.
Doing whatever you can to support the mother, whether it be propping up pillows, doing her share of the household chores, taking care of your older child or even just giving her more time to sleep may seem small and insignificant but what you’re really telling her is, “You’re not alone in this. I got you.”
Sometimes you just need to be the cheerleader and not the starting point guard.
I always knew that giving my baby formula wasn’t the best choice even when we were mixed-feeding, but after learning about all the positive effects on a baby that’s completely breastfed, well, I felt like I had made another one of those spectacular mistakes.
I mean, just look at this:
Or this if you like big letters:
And when they say breast milk is best for babies, these are why:
- Less likely to have allergies
- Less likely to develop diabetes
- Less likely to suffer from lower respiratory illness like pneumonia
- Less likely to have gastrointestinal infections
- Less likely to have ear infections
- Less likely to develop asthma
- Less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
The benefits for mom are just as crucial:
- Less likely to develop breast cancer
- Less likely to develop ovarian cancer
- Less likely to develop diabetes
- Less likely to develop osteoporosis
[Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
If you think about it, we put so much money into formula and ultimately, it’s our kids who end up paying the price. This great divide becomes even more evident when you realize that breast milk is 100% free.
Thankfully, our child is healthy and happy. Yet the feeling that we could have done better remains. We should have. That’s our job as parents. That’s my job as a dad.
My wife is now nursing our second child, completely breast-fed. It’s a little easier this time around. There are still times when stress affects her milk supply and we have to ask for extra breast milk from family and friends who have been incredibly generous and wonderful.
She tells me that my just being there physically and emotionally helps a lot. We end up laughing more about what a grueling marathon breastfeeding has become rather than crying through it alone.
So yes, there are still days when I don’t feel like a dad. Hell, there are days when I don’t feel like an adult. But somehow kids have a way of knocking some sense into you. Usually by running full speed at your groin.
But I thank them for it, even when I’m crumpled on the floor, clutching the family jewels so to speak. It makes me want to learn more and do better. And with each step forward in the process of becoming dad, my kids are, unknowingly, shaping me into the father they need me to be. That’s something I can celebrate. - Rappler.com
Baby booties nestled on top of parent's well worn leather shoes photo from Shutterstock
Marc has worked in a call center, a bakery and an ad agency where, as a creative copywriter, he worked with some of the most brilliant and bipolar people he’s ever met. These days, he writes about his experiences on becoming a father and trying to raise his children in the ever-shifting landscape of parenthood. Find him at thefatherland.blogspot.com