[These comments were written in response to commentator Gwen Macsai’s Advice for New Fathers, broadcast on Father’s Day, 20 June, 2004, on NPR.]
These comments are rather belated, since I only just listened to the commentary by Gwen Macsai on advice for new fathers.
Thank you, Ms. Macsai, for providing such hopeful and helpful insights into fatherhood on this, the Father’s Day just after my son’s first birthday. Never before had I realized just now selfish and inept I was as a father, and how thankful I should be to have my ever so much more intelligent and loving wife save me from raising my son. All new fathers share an insecurity that we’re not up to the task, and that we’re doing things all wrong. Now, we’re certain of it. Thanks for clarifying.
There seems to be a popular trend in this country to portray fathers as bumbling fools, whose clumbsy attempts at adulthood are as endearing as they are frustrating. As a father, I readily admit that I’ve made – and will continue to make – sometimes baffling mistakes when it comes to fatherhood and marriage. I’m sure my wife would happily bear witness to my confession. However, contrary to the implication of your comments, I’m quite capable of learning from my blunders, and, on occasion, have been known to do something correctly. All by myself.
Fatherhood is intimidating, and becoming a new father is one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me. As you point out, mothers have an extensive support network of books, classes, and instinct to help them through the transition to parenthood. A new father, though he may read the same books and attend the same classes, will always feel a sense of isolation from the experience. We certainly feel unprepared when our wives are writhing in pain, and there’s nothing we can do. We know we’re in over our heads when we first see our newborn children, small and helpless, knowing that the sole purpose of our lives has just been placed in our hands. The last thing new fathers need to hear is how stupid we are.
I understand that your commentary was meant to be lighthearted, and that you understand what being a father truly means. You are a woman, after all. However, your comments were solely about how a father can least annoy his wife, and how much more tiring it is to be a mother. Nothing about the wonder of being a father, or tremendous responsibility fathers have toward their children. Nothing about the joy of holding your son for the first time, or the pain of being apart from him and your wife during the day.
Mothers have a day. Truth be told, mothers have the entire year.
Father’s Day is more than a counterbalance to Mother’s Day; more than, ‘They have their day. Now we have ours, too.’ Next year, think more carefully about what fatherhood really means and what fathers need to hear on Father’s Day. Better yet, ask your dad.
Saint Louis, Missouri
p.s. Woe to me if I were to ever write a Mother’s Day commentary about the faults of mothers.