Sometimes, the way we accept the job of ‘Dad’ depends on our society’s definition of fatherhood. Here in Nigeria, fatherhood seems so easy once you succeed as the provider of the family. Though providing for the family is a difficult task in a harsh economy, it is nothing compared to what a woman does. If you put yourself in the shoes of women, you realise that fatherhood is easy. Women are miracle workers.
Since I became a father, I have studied what my wife does every day for the family:
She wakes up early,
Cooks for us,
Bathes our daughter,
Goes to work,
Comes home and cook again,
Squeezes time for her crochet craft,
Sleeps late, and restarts the cycle.
I CAN’T DO IT!
What makes me think I easily fail at the ‘dad’ job is the refusal to assist sometimes. Why do I refuse? Culture defines it. Parents, especially mothers, teach their children how to behave as men and women. You learn your duties from their words and actions. Father pays the school fees and gives money for food. Mother takes care of the children and makes sure food is on the table.
Few of them tell you how they put the money together to run the home. Those who let you know expose it when they fight, hence, setting a bad example. These lessons may differ from one home to another, but it is easy to learn from other parents even if your parents were different. The younger generation adopts these lessons, and the tradition continues: the woman suffers whether the man provides or not.
The Baby Saga
We fall in love, get married, become pregnant, and birth babies. It’s a beautiful process with many challenges rarely discussed. Babies are cute angels, but when they are cranky, it’s a madhouse. When my daughter gets cranky, I tell my wife to offer her breast even if she complains of sore nipples and tiredness from our daughter’s merciless suckling. She suggests alternative ways I can help.
But I seldom listen to her.
I just want her to feed the baby so she will stop crying. Maybe it is the fatherly instinct or the noise from her crying; I get confused when I think about it. It could be both. I worry about how I should help my wife as the man of the house, but the patriarchal culture has defined what I represent in a family relationship. Why should I change it even if it is a deliberate refusal to understand motherhood?
The 21st Century Challenges
The challenges of this century are changing how we perceive things. Man cannot do it alone. The truth is the man has never done it alone but modern day economic trials expose how much women do to better the home.
Women are doing more than cooking the food and taking care of the children, they are bringing in money, and splitting family budgets. She buys the foodstuffs. He pays the bills, and at the end of the year, they put resources together to pay the rent.
The tragedy, however, is that the woman now does part of the manly duties but the woman retains her duties. Maybe, men should rethink how to run the home.
Succeeding as a Young Father
Nowadays, I try to do more for her by washing dishes and making dinner. I change the baby’s diaper while she does other duties and diaper changing is a nasty job because baby poop is ‘atomic’. The smell has a way of sticking to the five senses. You see it, even after throwing the diaper away, and the smell stays in your tongue as if you tasted it. This sensation sends shivers through my body, but I’m happy to do it.
Succeeding as a father is to be helpful and do more than the accepted norms of the socially accepted ‘responsible’ father. It is easy to fail the job of ‘dad’ if I act the ‘normal’ husband and think helping my wife is a bruise on my manliness.
When I look back, I laugh at my foolishness. I improved as a lover and husband every time I supported my wife, a strong woman who carries a heavy load and needs help. Failure to notice may or may not result in constant fights, separation or divorce, but it makes it easy for me to fail my daughter because I fail her mother.
And I do not want to fail the two women in my life.