What A Boy Wants, What A Boy Needs

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In the last week, I have received two emails from men I don't know. Much to the chagrin of my inner seductress, neither of them propositioned me, showered me with compliments, explained how they were erecting altars to my stellar wit and unmatched beauty (how come those emails are so rare?!?). Instead, they divulged secrets. The writers were different in tone, nature, and level of ability to spell-check, but they were both making confessions. You see, these men have a deep dark admission: They like to read "Devis with Babies."

I started to think about all the forums we have as women to communicate and learn about parenthood. There are countless magazines, tv programs, and movies centered around motherhood. The "Mommy blog" is an entire genre of web space. And of course there are the mimosa-sodden brunches and the into-the-wee-hours dinners with girlfriends over conversation about everything from "That Mom" at the preschool who bakes in her sleep; to how our breasts are never going to look the same; to how our relationships with our husbands seem to continually change.

What do our husbands have in the same vein? And, is it just me, or does it seem like they would benefit from more? Why were the two emails I received from the men who read this blog sheepish? I bet they aren't sheepish about reading Maxim.

It seems to be this great irony that, just as many of us Devis are taking lateral steps away from the rocket-ship pace of our pre-child careers, our husbands' jobs and work-related lives are moving into warp speed. The husband who isn't juggling a 10 hour day with various networking meetings, conferences, and client obligations is an exception at this point. While we the wives are slowing down, trying to learn how to "savor the moment," taking a page from all the books that tell us, yes, the first years of motherhood are difficult but blink and you'll miss them--our husbands don't seem to have time to blink. Some of my favorite moments of motherhood thus far involve sitting around with a bunch of friends and swapping stories about our kids. Like how my friend J's son is currently enrolled in a Jewish preschool and knows as much about the High Holidays as he does about Diwali. Or about how L's daughter is on a two-week strawberry-only-diet. How L's new little one's first smile was to his brother, who then proceeded to spit on him. Knowing these little nuggets constitutes part of the glue of friendship between moms, no? They are the stories I tell my husband when he asks how everybody is doing, what our friends' kids are up to.

The books, blogs, articles on fatherhood, as far as I can tell, present an anecdotal, post-modern approach to the topic. They aren't about great activities to do with your family, or, say, how to tell your son stories about your work--they are about how you can wear your rock concert tshirt and be cool while pushing the buggy, or how sex with your wife changes after a baby. There's a lot of "edge" but nothing...well...non-edgy at all. Do men always have to be snarky? My husband could probably win snarky competitions (except against me!) but he is also--in my absolutely objective and scientific estimation--the best father in the world...or at least in our household...! And I know for a fact that many of the dads I know love to talk about their kids and--quel horreur--have questions about them that, perhaps, could be answered, vetted, discussed. With other men.

Does this happen?? Should it happen?

Do we even care?

We complain about our husbands. Alot. But as far as I can tell most of us really love the guys--like really do. And sometimes I feel bad for them, collectively. Even amongst the closest groups of friends, there seems to be this extra zeal to the friendship between the women. At this point of our lives--the early motherhood years--I attribute this, at least in part, to the fact that we know so much about each other's daily lives--the minutia, the mundanity, and the wonder in between. I'm not sure our husbands can say the same. And it's easy to say that they never had friendships where they did know this level of detail. But you know what? Neither did I. Motherhood changed that and I'm wondering why fatherhood didn't.
21 comments:
Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT discussion point, something I think about when I am not nagging my husband to spend more time at home! I am not sure whether dads want or need the same social approach to motherhood that it seems most moms choose and benefit from. But it is interesting that none of the dads I know have even tried this approach. My husband has boys nights out that involve the same thing they involved when we were in college: Beers and girls. (How I feel about this is for a different post!) Sometimes I feel like this is okay and why take away an innocent night of fun from him. Other times I wonder why, when time is so limited, he chooses to spend the time the way he does. And then bemoan how he doesn't know what's going on in his friend's lives. Okay not bemoan--he would be aghast at that word choice. But I know he feels some sort of disconnection.

Jasmine said...

At the risk of sounding cliche: Men are just different. I am not sure they would even want the forum or opportunity to sit around and hash and rehash the cute/frustrating/hilarious/mysterious things their kids do. I think if they had more time for video games and ball with the guys they would be just fine.

Jasmine said...

(By the way I'm not a hater and I'm not trying to be simplistic, but seriously, ask around and I am betting, if given the choice, the average Indian daddy would rather play some sport than get lunch with a buddy. You guys should bring on a guest Dad blogger!)

maxi said...

great post. Definitely makes me think about how my husband will deal with fatherhood (I am 7 months pregnant). Also can I say how happy I am to hear you talk about mimosas and dinners with friends. So many moms I know just end their lives as they knew them once the bundle of joy arrives and I really hope not to do that.

Love the blog. Noticed most of the posts are about mothering toddlers. Would love to hear your take and "unmatched wit" (I mean it!) on pregnancy and early motherhood?

shilpa said...

My husband's warp speed seems correlated to becoming a father. He's always been busy, juggling 3 full time lives while I could barely handle one! But now, the intensity around his professional life has increased. He takes it more seriously, as if working harder is his way of taking care of his son. I'm allowing myself license to step back in my career, happy to kick my legs on the activity mat with my son instead of reading the latest industry blog post. While he finally signed up for research projects he put off for the last 4 years. I'm proud and angry at the same time, trying to reconcile motherhood and wifedom seemingly alone... I would love a forum where dads could analyze their shifting roles where I could "sheepishly" read from the sidelines!

monica said...

There is so much to say on this topic. Pre-kid, many wives feel they are on the same page in life with their husbands, advancing their careers aggressively while similarly prioritizing family. Post-kid, men often feel the need/pressure to become turbo-charged with their careers while a woman's priority becomes work/life balance and spending more time with the kid. It's not the same for all couples, but most I know, especially the Indian ones. But I also think this is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as the husband is happy and still loves spending time with the family and prioritizes them, and the wife is happy either working or staying at home, it can work.

Vinita said...

What a fantastic post, it raises so many issues I don't even know where to begin. Do you think this trend is unique to Indian dads? Do you think it is something in how they were raised? Because so many Indian men I know get the "provider" switch turned on not when they get married but when they have kids--hence the time crunch no?

Shilpa, I'm with you, I want a glimpse into the male mind as well! I suppose we're always going to want to know what it's like on Mars from our Venus vantage point?

And YES, do men always have to be snarky??? I don't get it! I was talking about this with my husband the other day, about how sincerity and humor that is "quaint" or even "precious" makes many, many men uncomfortable. Where does that come from? My husband wanted to send out a holiday card with our kids dressed up as the parents and us dressed up as kids. I know it's not a good example of snarkiness but it's what popped into my mind: Why can't we send around a regular picture of how we are a family, without irony, that displays how much we love each other??

Neesha said...

But I think the question here (to Monica) is whether the dads can be truly happy when they don't have the analagous "parenthood" set-up most moms have. The internalizing of all the details. Is it the same happiness? Or in 10 years will our happiness as moms be ununderstandable to our husbands because they weren't on the same journey as us? (Whoa. Philosophy 101??? :))

Anonymous said...

I think I get what you are saying Neesha. Mainly that the choices we are making now, especially those about child-rearing, are going to heavily affect our identities and our marriages over the next years. And, if these early years are any indication then the stuff of motherhood is obviously going to be a central component of what we become. So then, how will our husbands, who more often than not, are choosing different routes, relate to us and us to them? It's all circular really, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

(Btw, I think the idea of a photo card with the parents as kids and vice versa is sort of brilliant! Sorry!)

Siobahan said...

You know, I read a lot of "mommy" stuff and I think this is one of the first times I am reading something sympathetic towards our husbands! That is telling in and of itself isn't it??

THAT being said, I can relate to the people who say they are part proud and part angry with their busy husbands. The coincidence of timing that makes the mother in the home more and the father out of it more is just unfair, isn't it? I crave adult conversation and companionship more than I ever have (I am a mother of a 10 month old and I work freelance from home) at the same time that it is the hardest to find. And the thing is: I would LOVE to have my best friend back. Er, that is/was my husband. Which makes me wonder if these new moms I am meeting and befriending are somehow meant to take his place in the best friend sphere? I mean, like you said, they are the ones who currently know the details, the mundanity, the minutia of my life. Like he used to. I don't mean to sound all sad--I'm not. Just sort of thinking/writing out loud. Great post.

Sid said...

Hello Devis, it is a MAN here. Had to comment. Don't really have anything in particular to say, except that I have been checking in on this blog since I learned about it (through Sepia Mutiny). I really like it. Not necessarily every post, but many of them. In the same way I like to read my wife's fashion magazines. So I get it that yall would like a glimpse into the male mind. I am offering my services. Ask away! I am 33, married, Indian. My wife is pregnant with our first child.

Do want to comment to Jasmine: I want to play ball AND talk with my friends. Sure, I have no pressing urge to "do lunch" but I do like to feel like I know what is going on in my friends' lives and I am often aspiring to do better in that realm of my life. I actually thank my wife for this, I am amazed at the depth and number of friendships she can maintain. For me this often often times falls through the cracks.

I like the blog. I'm not sheepish about it. Don't need as many recipes and tips on lipstick but I have a feeling those aren't really for me anyway. Was that "snarky"?

boukman70 said...

Well, Sid beat me to the testicular punch, but I thought I'd weigh in as well. Though I'm not an Indian dad nor know any (I'll have to call my boy Amit and tell him to gits ta crackin'), I can pretty much cover all the other ethnic/racial bases, if you'd like.

I'll say the "provider" mode for fathers is not ethnocentric in the least. For the men I know, you first become overly-protective and -concerned when our womenfolk become pregnant. And then we realize that life has started for real (as one friend put it, "You can never again say to this woman, 'I never want to see you again,' because you're tied to her forever now") and you feel a need to provide. Most of my friends have described pregnancy as the moment they realized they had to get their life in order. I do not know if this is a hard-wired response or socialized, but it is definitely real and universal--for the fathers who give a shit.

The fathers I know, we all talk about fatherhood--constantly. The one difference in the sexes that I've noticed is that women can talk for hours about how to care for children, and men can talk for the same amount of time on how to raise their children--schooling, neighborhoods, discipline, etc.--more of that provider stuff. But we do also talk about tending and caring for the kids, changing diapers, the funny stuff the kid did that day, etc. I don't know, maybe I know more PC guys than yall do (more than likely, you're just not privy to our private conversations), but fatherhood conversations run the gamut.

I guess our support structures aren't as elaborated as women's are, or maybe we just express these things differently, I'm not sure; but I can assure you, when we're in the bar, talking about sports, how we wish we would've gotten laid more in college, caught a really cool STD, "look at the ass on that one," we're also talking about what our wives are going through physically, emotionally, etc., and raising the young'uns.

In closing (yeah, I know, finally, right?), I will say, as a stay-at-home-ish dad who takes care of his little girl 11 hours a day, I am a strong proponent of longer maternity leave and paternity leave because I think it's a real blessing to be a part of our children's lives. But bills have to be paid, right?

Jasmine said...

Hey there Sid and boukman. Maybe I should have my husband hang out with you guys! Haha.

Radman said...

i thought i did shower you with compliments. just my take: after having a kid, dont go all mommy and housewife on us, that is not why we married you in the first place....

Anonymous said...

But Radman...at the risk of sounding dense: We ARE mommys! When we become moms things necessarily change right???? I understand your point I am sure: Don't change completley. But not changing at all would be just as weird no? And, in the spirit of this post, don't you think you change too? Get "all daddy" at least in some ways? Or shouldn't you?

Sonali said...

Boukman70 it is refreshing to hear you say that you and your friends talk for hours about how to raise children. My husband could certainly hang with you on the wishing you got laid more in college but I have a feeling he would zone out when it came time to tell cute stories about kids! We have 1 and 1 on the way and he is a good dad but I think he resents how much of our life now focuses on the kids. Do you ever feel like that?

MD said...

I just forwarded this to a bunch of guys I know who are dads. We will find a time to sit around and talk about it over mimosas if it will make you women happy! In all seriousness, I appreciate this. There is quite a bit of, ahem, male-bashing in the woman's-blog-arena and this is not that and, in fact, the opposite, so thank you. And, for what it is worth and as far as I can tell: The guys I know who are dads are really happy with their choices.

boukman70 said...

Sonali,

I have to admit, as a writer, I sometimes miss all that free time I used to have and there are some re-definitions of our marriage that we always need to work on, but, no, I don't resent or regret a thing. I mean, it's not like I slipped and fell into some punanny. I impregnated my wife. It was a conscious decision we made to have our daughter. So, whatever problems we have, we brought upon ourselves. I can't complain about that. Besides, she's cute. :)

Radman said...

absolutely, you change. the minute you have kids, you are forced to relinquish certain selfish moments, tendencies, and activities. i'm just saying that it is very natural to get
"into" the role of mom and dad. the hard part is to sustain the role of husband/wife/lover/friend....

deepa said...

This post has definitely hit many-a nerve. I was at a party this week and lots of girls wanted to talk about what we have now dubbed "this irony of timing." I'm working on getting a roster of menfolk together to give their point of view on this topic, as well as other topics related to marriage and children--if any men are reading (secretly or not) and are interested, please let me know! deviswithbabies@gmail.com.

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