Saturday, June 29, 2013

Out of Sight, Out of Trouble (Mother & Baby - July 2013)

This month's issue of Mother & Baby carries the first article that I have penned for them. I had fun writing it and I'm reproducing the original version here (rather than the one edited for the magazine), I hope you enjoy it too!

Every so often in conversation, an expectant father will tell me how he plans to take weeks of leave upon the arrival of his new baby, to take good care of his wife. Instead, I tell him to stay in the office, and stay out of trouble.

It is not that I am a heartless husband, really. I was once like that too. I was with my wife every step of the way as we set up the baby room, attended ante-natal classes and packed the overnight bag weeks in advance of the expected due date. I pampered her with an additional night’s stay in the hospital (this is expensive but highly recommended if you can afford it), while I activated the confinement Nanny and installed her in our home to await the return of the Princess and the pea.

And that’s where things started to go downhill. I tried to be attentive to my wife’s needs, but often I found I was out of a job. They say that the Nanny is there to look after the baby while the husband’s job is to look after the wife. In practice, there isn’t a lot you can do for your wife if she is able-bodied. The mother’s main job is to feed the baby and rest as much as she can. The Nanny is in charge of cooking, cleaning, keeping the baby clean and tending to him when he cries. The husband, well …

“Why are you just sitting there?”
“Don’t you have anything to do?”

Something inside me would say, “But I thought that’s what we hired the Nanny for…” If you suddenly have an extra person in the house, you can’t expect him to be busy all the time! Of course, I said none of this; that’s why I am still here to write this.

We know the wife is always right. And never more so than after she has just given birth to a baby. In the shadow of this feat, there is no point quibbling over trivial things like right and wrong. Obviously she is exhausted from the delivery and caring for the baby, so it does not help to see other people idling.

So I would take the dishes on the drying rack and wash them again.

When my second child came, I learned my lesson well. In addition to a Nanny, this time we had grandparents staying with us too. There would surely be more helping hands than chores, and nowhere to hide. So the moment my wife returned from the hospital (again, an extra night’s stay), I went back to work. Out of sight and out of trouble, I would return every night of course to help tend to the baby when she cried at night, bringing baby to my wife for feeds and back to the cot again. That was something I could do, and I was very happy to help.

Most importantly, the day came when all the extra helpers had to depart. And that was when I started taking my leave, to play my part like a knight in shining armour when my help at home was most needed. And this time, I certainly wasn’t idle!

It’s not the most intuitive, but it pays off to carefully schedule the help available for a new mother. Having everyone around in the just the first few weeks means that many extra helpers will have time on their hands, and the mum will suddenly find herself helper-less and overwhelmed when they are gone.