Does Baby ALWAYS Come First?
In 2005, the author, Ayelet Waldman, wrote an essay for the NY Times declaring that she loved her husband MORE than she could ever love her children. All hell broke loose in the mom universe. A mother of four, she asserted that if one of her children died, she could get over that, but without her husband, her life would “have no joy.” She could not “picture a future without him.”
Waldman was invited to appear on the Oprah show (naturally!) to explain herself. That fueled the fires even more. “Oh Puh-leeze,” I thought to myself. “EVERYBODY knows nothing will come between a mother and her child—especially when it’s her first baby.” Besides, “Dad’s grown. Can’t he take care of himself?”
Oops! We know where a man seeking attention might end up. So I straightened out my knee that had tucked up under my butt, and planted my foot firmly on the ground. Moms are definitely fiercely protective in the first month or so after a baby’s arrival. But over a longer arc, babies and mommies need more than their one-on-one bond. After all, Baby is evidence of a desire between adults to grow and deepen their own relationship.
Right from the start Dad needs to be on point and in the mix. To paraphrase Chris Rock, “I hear girls say they don’t need a man to help raise a child. But that doesn’t mean it’s do be done. Heck, you can drive a car with your feet if you want to; that doesn’t make it a good idea!”
My point is that the idea Baby always comes first cannot be interpreted literally. Here are a few things to consider:
- The phrase “baby comes first” should be defined as a state of preparedness where baby’s needs are managed such that Mom can confidently relate to other adults, especially Dad.
- It’s a false choice to say if baby comes first, Daddy comes second, third, or is not even on the radar. This “choice” comes up because Mom is exhausted (Yes nursing is work!), and Dad wants her attention. So here’s a solution recounted by multiple sources: Mom’s door will open if Dad can keep the household together. Mom can catch a break if she gives Dad a little attention. I need not be more specific.
- In our child-centered universe, we may confuse the world of children with the world of adults. There is no choice between the two. Therefore Baby may be first among the children when it comes to supervision and care. But Mom and Dad are first to each other. Children may learn from your example.
And as for Ayelet Waldman? It turns out that she loves being provocative, so her saga continued with her 2009 book, Bad Mother, a bestseller. And her husband, the amazing writer Michael Chabon. A standard bearer for an engaged Dad who works, does child care, housework, and still pays tremendous attention to his wife. They are intertwined in their work, their parenting, and their relationship. No wonder he’s her #1.