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A Dad’s Perspective on the Mommy Wars

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I remember the moment I found out I was going to be a dad. In the weeks that followed, I could barely think about anything else. It was too early to tell our friends so I resorted to telling people on the train with me every morning. I even spilled it to the banker when I was depositing some checks. Meanwhile, I kept thinking of how amazing that moment would be when I’d meet my child for the first time.

The actual moment I heard Caleb’s voice was just as powerful as I expected. Holly and I were both in tears and I was beaming. But many parents won’t tell you what the moments that follow are like. It goes from unending joy to paralyzing fear as you realize you’re now responsible for keeping another human being alive and you’ve only recently mastered how to feed and clothe yourself.

This is compounded by the fact that this beautiful child also decided to begin his journey into the world at 3:30AM, just as your nighttime cold medicine has begun raging inside you. You’re excited and thanking God every 5 minutes for this new life, all while feeling extreme terror and exhaustion 24/7.

The Dad Club

That was my experience in the first week of being a father. Fortunately, I had a great group of men who encouraged and supported me in those early days. Several of my close friends also had children around the same time and it was like a special support group. We would high-five each other just for knowing how to dress our children without suffocating them or change their diapers without flinging poop all over the room. As long as our kids are relatively clean, breathing, and fed, we consider it a victory.

The Mommy Wars

But I’ve learned that this experience is not necessarily the case for moms. In our first year and a half of parenthood, Holly has been bombarded with messages that have left her feeling like less of a mom.

Without first stopping to learn why it happened, she’s been told how her C-section was a cop-out and unnecessary, just a procedure the doctor convinced us that we needed to make more money off her delivery. Real women deliver naturally.

She’s been discounted for taking an epidural. Real women feel the pain.

She’s been chastised for choosing to formula-feed Caleb. Real women breast-feed.

The most absurd has been seeing her get pitied for having a boy. I guess real women produce girls or something too.

I can already tell that this doesn’t get any better. I’m sure we will be chastised for putting Caleb in public schools. (By the way, I’m already on the email list for Wilmeth Elementary parents.) We will also continue to brave the competitive parents who are determined to show that their children are more advanced than ours.

Parents face so many decisions in how to raise their children and many times either option is legitimate and healthy, though rarely easy. The problem is when moms hold onto their personal choices as spiritually superior to their alternatives and make them a source of their identities. It’s the same trap we fall into regarding our own personal decisions on issues like alcohol or modesty. But in the end, it’s just your pretty standard legalism.

To The Discounted Mom

So if you’re a woman who has been made to feel like your mom-card is less valid than the mother next door, let me just say this: I was there when they performed an invasive surgery on Holly while she was wide awake to rescue my son from a life-threatening situation. As a man, I was just proud of myself for not passing out.

As impressed as I was in that moment, it pales in comparison to the strength and resiliency I’ve seen out of the petite woman I married four years ago. Despite sleepless nights and days where we’ve been covered in vomit, I’ve seen an almost disturbing calm in her.

Carrying another human around for nine-months aside, you are now partnering with your husband to disciple a new generation of Christ-followers. You have the ability to lay a spiritual foundation in your child’s life that no one else can. The memories of my own mom kneeling down over the couch to pray every morning still sticks with me today. Her love for my dad, my brother, and me was always evident through that single act. Whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed your child, it makes no difference in this most important goal. Don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise.

To the Super Mom

Despite all of the negative messages Holly has dealt with since Caleb was born, there have been several women who have meant the world to her. I’m so thankful for one of her coworkers who she carpools with twice a week. With two teenage boys of her own, she has been a constant encouragement to Holly, helping her sort through everything she hears from others. She has taken her expertise in motherhood and used them to humbly serve my wife. She never pressures her in making decisions, just helps her think through the options. Despite long days in the office, Holly comes home refreshed after their time together in the car. Your words are so powerful and can make such a difference in a mom who is still new to the game.

To Those Who Aren’t (Yet) Moms

You’re not forgotten. Whether you have chosen not to have children or the decision was made for you, please understand that your worth as a woman is not wrapped up in your parental status. I remember the pressure we felt from others in the years prior to conceiving Caleb. But if I had learned that Holly couldn’t have children before I asked her to marry me, I would have still put the ring on her finger and said ‘I do.’ I’m sure your husband would tell you the same thing too. Scripture recounts the stories of so many women who have been in your shoes, yet God used them powerfully. My prayer is that you and your husband have found a Christian community that can support and guide you through your situation, whatever it may be.

To Holly

I love you and I am so proud of the woman and the mom Caleb and I enjoy every day.

Posted in: Parenthood

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