Letting Men Into the Experience
We've said countless times on this blog that women who want to share in the work of parenting with their partners need to let go of running the show at home and with the kids. Don't make more than your share of household or childraising decisions, don't direct your husband or belittle his way of handling the kids or chores, etc. In fact, we've said more than once that there are only a couple of things that you can't share as a mom: pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
Well, maybe you can share these too. Not physically, of course. But sometimes the most important things aren't confined to the physical. Take pregnancy, for instance. It's pretty common for pregnant women to kind of fold in on themselves and take in all the changes going on in their bodies - the wonder of those first fluttering movements, the cravings and repulsions, the careful eating, the strange aches and odd proportions and unique clothing requirements. Sure, they might involve their partners peripherally by letting them know when the baby is kicking or inviting them to join in at an ultrasound visit. But they typically focus on the pregnancy as theirs alone - later, the baby will be shareable.
All of this woman-focused baby-making is understandable. Yet, in a very small way, it sets the tone for the future - or at least it can. "My baby" can become a way of thinking that extends past birth. And it allows the woman to slowly become better prepared, emotionally and mentally, for motherhood over 9 months - while her husband can more easily ignore the enormous life change in store until, say, he attends childbirth classes with her. Or maybe until the day their baby is born.
Joe Kelly, aka The Dad Man, advocates in a recent blog post that men and women think of their baby as 'theirs' from the first moment they know they are expecting. He suggests using language like "we're expecting" and even "we're pregnant" rather than "she's expecting" or "I'm pregnant." You may object - in fact, I can see pregnant women out there rolling their eyes and saying, "Hold it right there, honey...we're not pregnant...I am." And then sending their husbands out for mocha fudge brownie ice cream. But Joe is onto something. Yes, for the next few months, a baby is growing inside of one of you and not the other. But if you want that baby to grow up in the equal care of both of you, perhaps the experience of anticipation can be a primary focus for now...and this can be fully shared.