The Joys of Fatherhood

(An Ode to Mothers …  )

I greeted the announcement of her intention to breast feed with eager, if sceptical anticipation – a bit like realising you have the six lotto numbers but you can’t find the ticket.

Remembering the proverbial female prerogative, and fearing that she might change her mind with no more compelling rationale than the fatuous compulsion known as a woman’s logic, I scoured the local library and searched every bookshop in town, arming myself with facts, figures and elaborate statistics to reinforce her judicious decision.  Thus prepared, I pontificated ad nauseam about immunity and nutrient values and the bonding created by the comfort of maternal contact.

Friends (I use the term loosely) recalled harrowing tales of perpetual insatiable feeding and the agony endured by mother if the child has a tooth, as they invariably do.  I counter-attacked with repeated recitals of my hastily acquired snippets of scientific wisdom, trying desperately to rubbish the aversive outbursts of these witless wallies.

Despite the negative leanings of these tactless tales and thoughtful tips, we agreed (she decided) that breast is best.  And so it began …

It goes without saying that I had my own ulterior motives for this apparent altruism.  I had planned on peaceful and undisturbed slumbers, since I could not really be expected to feed the little darling, lacking, as I do, the elementary equipment. I prepared all the things to say to make sure herself wouldn’t change her mind about the natural approach as I anticipated restful nights.  The simple function of child-rearing was well in hand.  Or so I thought.

Alas, it was not to be, conspiracy rules.  Mother and daughter have put their female heads together and targeted me.  I now know for certain that feminists are not made, they’re born.

The little angel arrived and our lives changed totally, unalterably, sleeplessly and catastrophically.  No, she hasn’t given up breast-feeding, far from it, she thrives on it – they both do.  I mean I haven’t had the restful nights – or days for that matter.  Herself has taken on the role of “middle man”, so to speak.  She feeds the little darling, and I feed her.  It falls on me to make tea and toast, check the heating, get all the mother and baby paraphernalia ready, and, to ensure a relaxed and stress free feed, change the nappy.

I really don’t know how they do it.  The little angel (not the term I always use) wants food every two hours, twenty-four hours a day.  This mightn’t be too bad, especially as she sleeps for as much as three hours (once), except that it’s an hours work in every three.

Between the long and laborious process of feeding (long for her and laborious for me) and changing nappies and trying to get her back to sleep again, it’s the full time job that equates to the Herculean labours of deep-sea divers or professional cyclists.  The mother’s role is a full time job, so full that she needs a full time assistant and that’s where I come in.

I do try.  I get up in the middle of the night to carry the little pet from her cot and I bring her to the dinner table, who is comatose in the bed and wakes only after I thump her with an intensity that could get me locked up.  I change the little one’s nappy and play with her and do all the things a father should do, even wants to do.  I probably don’t do them very well or often enough but I think I can say I almost do my best.

The process endured by women to give birth would kill a heavyweight boxer and is matched only by the tribulations endured by males by merely by being present at the birth.  Goodness knows what would happen if men had to endure the process of delivery – probably the extinction of the species.  But our women folk make the best of it while they can.  A few hours hard labour in the maternity ward and then it’s holiday time until the kids are ready for school.

Maybe a swap really would be worth a try …

© Ronan Quinlan

(first published some years ago)

 

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