Dear All Things Considered:

[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.]

Dear ATC:

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.

Jared Gilbert
Saint Louis, Missouri

p.s. Woe to me if I were to ever write a Mother’s Day commentary about the faults of mothers.

6 Responses

  1. Janet
    Janet at | | Reply

    Great letter.

  2. Mickey
    Mickey at | | Reply

    Well said, well done, oh and Iknow I don’t have to say it but I want to, YOU ARE A GREAT DAD who learned from his dads. Bravo

  3. Genevieve Wagner
    Genevieve Wagner at | | Reply

    Hi! I’m not sure if I’ve introduced myself to you before or not, so I’ll do it again to cover the bases. When I friend of mine from college was expecting her first child, someone told her about your journal as a new father and how awesome it was. As my husband and I are now expecting our first, I especially appreciate your commentaries to try and understand what goes on for him. One thing the two of us have often talked about is how society sees fathers as idiots… or maybe more clearly I should say women feel they can get away with saying these horrible things about men. I don’t know when that became accepted, but I applaud you for writing what you did. I wish more men would complain about this behavior as well.

  4. Beth
    Beth at | | Reply

    Once again — great writing….and an important message for people to ponder! I’m proud to be your sister!!

  5. Aunt Robin
    Aunt Robin at | | Reply

    It is apparent the commentator Gwen Macsai is just that….a “common-tator”! The fact that all posted comments are positive in your favor, not to mention ‘ALL’ were submitted by ‘women’…well, pretty much sums it up!!

    Jared, for those of us who have watched you grow from a child, boy, teenager, man, husband and now father, respect and admire your direct, humorous and best of all ‘eloquent’ approach to fatherhood!

    I’m curious, do you own any remotes?

  6. Grandpa Gilbert
    Grandpa Gilbert at | | Reply

    Jared…..I agree. There are alot of jokes about how men fail at Fatherhood. But God would not have given us that awsome responsibility if we were not up for the challenge. We all fall short in everything we attempt. As your Father there are many things I wish I would have done differently. It is always easier to be smarter after the fact. But I have never wished not to be a Father. Part of the joy of being a Grandparent is learning about Parenting from our children. Stay the course Jared & Kelly. I’m really enjoying the show! Love, Ian’s Gandpa.

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