The Good Dad (#255)

When Andy and I were skirmishing negotiating over having a child, I extracted certain concessions. First, my husband would have to take Family Leave for 12 weeks and help take care of Baby D. Since California only covers 6 weeks of paid leave (a partial rate), we’d use my saving to pay the bills.

The idea of not saving money was almost physically painful for the son of Chinese immigrants. Dipping into savings might as well have been a mortal wound. (He never did fess up to his parents.) But I was adamant. Andy reluctantly agreed. We had no helpful grandparents to rock babies, make dinners, or do laundry within thousands of miles.

Besides, if Andy wanted the baby, he was not going to saunter off to work and leave me covered in poop and spit-up. He was gonna help.

Unlike me, with my half-dozen baby siblings and years of babysitting experience, Andy had no clue what he was really in for.

I had a hellish labor, a delivery by emergency Cesarean section, and a fever of 102. Baby D came out healthy and 9 pounds–it might have been more if he hadn’t pooped all over the scale and nurse when she first attempted to weigh him. Andy laughed at the poor, poop-covered nurse until he realized that since his wife couldn’t get out of bed, he’d he’d be doing all the diapering.

Diaper changes when your baby is born pooping are not easy. The amniotic fluid produces the fecal equivalent of tar (known as meconium) for days. Since we kept Baby D in the room with us as much as possible, Andy got a crash course in butt tar removal.

As I was too exhausted and battered to stand up, I couldn’t even offer advice (or as Andy likes to say, micro-manage the shit out of him). Baby D repeatedly peed on his father during diaper changes. I had to hold in my laughter (not out of kindness, but because it hurt my staples) until Andy’s use of the penis-covering washcloth became automatic.

Andy continued most of the diaper duties during his leave and beyond. When Baby D woke up hungry, Andy would change him while I arranged my nursing nest. Then he’d swaddled the boy up tight before presenting him to me for feeding. Even at 2 AM, Andy still helped. I usually didn’t even have to punch him in the arm to wake him up.

Sometimes Baby D needed a bottle after nursing. Andy readied bottles, fed the boy, and kept the bottles sterile. My husband became an expert baby-burper. When the burping was a little too successful, Andy developed solid bath time skills.

Andy continued the shopping and cooking. I recovered enough to micromanage, shaking my head at dinner one night and saying, “There’s a lot of broccoli. The last time I ate it, Baby D was gassy and fussy.”

“It’s broccolini,” Andy countered. “And it will be fine.”

“Just because YOU and your Chinese stomach can eat everything from fish eyeballs to undercooked chicken without any issues doesn’t mean the rest of us can,” I reminded him.

Andy sighed at me.

I picked up my fork and said, “Fine. But if Baby D complains at midnight, you’re the one walking and rocking him.”

The broccolini was good.

The three hours Andy spent walking and rocking Baby D in the middle of the night? Not so good. Well, for him. I put in ear plugs and slept.

It was six months before Andy tried serving anything from the broccoli family again.

*****

Andy remained a hands-on father even when his leave ended. Only about once a year did I have to remind him that since he wanted the baby, he’d better get his ass in gear, put down his newspaper/ cellphone, and play with his son or take him to get new shoes. Mostly I did not throw things when I did this reminding.

Mostly.

Andy is by far the best, most involved father I know. But we all know the Best Dad bar is about a high as the bar for a dachshund doing an agility course. I’ve got countless Mom-friends who do all the housework. They all the shopping and cooking. They do all the research, emotional labor, and all the physical labor of childrearing – often while also working. Meanwhile, their husbands think nothing of spending their evenings/ weekends biking, hiking, or at sporting events. They never pick up a towel. Their idea of watching the kids is giving the kid an iPad so Dad can do what he wants.

These same slacker husbands are gung-ho about having a second or third child because of course it has no impact on their lives.

A recent study of paid family leave in Spain showed that men who took family leave were less likely to have more children.

No fucking kidding.

Andy always said he wanted two children. Then came the New Hampshire trip when Baby D was about 18 months. I lost my birth control pills. Andy ignored the speed limit and got us to the only pharmacy within miles just before it closed.

The pharmacist explained that he could replace my prescription, but we’d have to pay out-of-pocket for it.

My frugal husband had his wallet out before the pharmacist quit speaking. “How much do you need?” he asked, desperately laying out twenties. “I’ll pay cash!”

He who fathers best, procreates least.

 

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

16 thoughts on “The Good Dad (#255)”

  1. There is a lot of truth here. There are more engaged dads these days but mostly the woman bears the bigger burden of chores and responsibilities (and yes, often while holding down a full time job). Kudos to Andy and happy father’s day!

  2. Tried my best to help my wife but it was near impossible with the thundergoat. Nathan on the other hand was so easy that I could take him around and everything like that to give mommy some rest.
    But what, only 6 weeks paid leave? Sure with thundergoat we had zero weeks as we have our own business but back in Finland when nathan joined us my wife had at least 3 months full payment and then 9 months with around 80-90% of the old income …

  3. Happy Father’s Day to Andy!!! Sounds like he definitely deserves it!

    I think I need that list of terms and conditions you gave to Andy before deciding to have a kid! I totally agree with you on all points, especially in regard to why men are so eager and happy to have multiple kids–cause they don’t bear the burden of the work!! I think my husband (and many others) are happy to share the burden, but they’ve been so oblivious to the “invisible” work that women and mother’s do that the only way to inform and allocate work is to write it down for them.

    Major props to Andy! Hope you two are having a lovely fathers day

    1. It’s actually very helpful to delineate expectations before even thinking about becoming pregnant. Will anyone stay home with the baby? If so, who?

      I actually had a ton of demands. And I hate to say it, but the fact that I was more ambivalent about a child worked in my favor. Andy knows that I know that he promised he’d do right by his son. And that kind of leverage works if your spouse is honorable. If Andy slacks off or becomes selfish, I am not above reminding him that he wanted a child and he agreed that the child always comes first. There have definitely been times when I’ve yelled, “What is the most important thing?!”

      That doesn’t mean we spoil our child. It means we make the hard choices and put up with the tantrums when Baby D doesn’t get his way. It means that even if Andy’s tired, he still plays bucket truck or wrestles with his kid.

      The hardest thing for Andy has probably been coping with a contrary kid who, shockingly, does not automatically do what his parents say. But that’s another post.

  4. I hope Andy had a great Father’s Day! My husband spent his first Father’s Day at work because they had a stupid event to celebrate their company’s birthday… But he’s pretty hands on (when he’s home, which sometimes is not too much). He had 2 weeks paternity leave during which he changed all the diapers and got up when the baby woke up at night. Even now, when he is home he is always on diaper duty. He also does baths, feeds and play and even skipped work during the first months when the baby had to get vaccine shots.

    I sometimes wonder how people can have more than one child. One is already exhausting. Maybe I will just forget everything in a couple of years?

  5. God you ladies are lucky…where did you find your husband’s? And can I get one? Only positive thing I can say about my son’s father is that he is financially secure, few times did diaper and help with formula when it came to my son. Other than that, complete disconnect during the time he lived in USA. He refused to get up during the nights to give me time to sleep, and few times when Zachary wasn’t feeling well, he never followed up on how his son is doing. I live With my parents and he lived by himself in Dallas ( I live in suburbs about an hour or so) he never texted or randomly asked me how I and Zachary are doing. I fear that my issues and deficiencies with him will make a very long comment.

    1. Found mine on the dance floor, overlooked and under-appreciated by other women. (Also hiding behind an unattractive beard.)

      We were friends and dance partners for a long time before we dated, though. I had a solid read on his character.

      Not on my future in-laws, though. There’s always something you won’t find out until you’re already committed.

  6. Hahahaha. But the real question is: Did he shell out for the pills because he didn’t want to procreate, or because he knew there would definitely be no sex without them?

    1. LOL, that is a valid question. I lost/ left my pills in the B&B where we stayed for our one weekend without Baby D while my Ex-Stepmother took care of him. I realized they were missing after we came back to Ex-Stepmother’s house. Since our child-free sexy time was over for the foreseeable future, Andy’s motivation was definitely “Avoid further procreation at all costs.”

  7. I’m glad to hear that Andy is such a hands-on dad. Happy Father’s Day to him. It just makes sense for both parents to be involved with the child.

    Unlike you, I didn’t think to discuss expectations before getting pregnant. Eugene always wanted to do his part, though. He was proud of knowing how to care for a baby since he helped care for his younger brother and sister. The thing I liked best was that he was a light sleeper, so when the baby cried, he got up, changed her, and brought her to me in bed. After I was done nursing her, he changed her again and put her back to bed. From the distance of many years, I remember the babies as being pretty easy. Maybe that’s why we had three of them.

If you liked this, let the white girl know!