Monday, July 12, 2010

Transference of Love or The Misery of the American Male Perspective on Marriage and Children

As luck or karma would have it, I recently perused 2 seemingly different pieces of literature (I'll use the term loosely). One was an article in the July 12, 2010 edition of New York Magazine, the other was a recent interview in the New York Times magazine section. Hold on to your hats as I weave these two together. Friends, sit back and pour yourself a glass of wine, or seltzer, or maybe for old time sakes, since I’m writing about magazines, go for a Cosmo.

The New York Magazine front cover starts us off with the following headline: I Love My Children. I Hate My Life. The premise: children are tough on relationships, burdensome, loads of work, real life buzz-kills. Mothers are less happy than fathers, and single parents are even more miserable than the mothers is the general theme. This seems redundant to me, but I’ll let that go. Ok, maybe I can’t. Aren’t most single parents mothers? Or most custodial single parents mothers? Most is the key term here. Most mothers single handedly parent? Ok maybe I'm pushing it... One man who was featured and complimented for his frankness states “I already felt neglected, and once we had the kid, it became so pronounced. It went from zero to negative 50.” (This is a good time to stretch and yawn and take a sip of your refreshing beverage.)

This little gem is my all time favorite from the article. I almost want to laugh out loud or slam my fist on the table like the scene chewing part of Jaws when Robert Shaw, aka Quint talks about his adventures with the Great White. So, let me recap: I (he) felt neglected. We (they) had the kid. I am just wondering. Just a little wonderment regarding the female experience at the risk of generalizing such a shared and common female experience. When he was feeling neglected, what in Gunga Din's name was she doing? Let’s see if I can recall any of this long ago experience. Oh I remember. I was working at a job full time. I was sick and nauseous followed by vomiting and dry heaving. I was stretching my skin to proportions that were not ever possible before, and unfortunately not ever capable of fully returning to again. I was sore and swollen, leaking and crying. I was elated and frightened in the same breath. I was tired all the time at some points, most. I was preparing a room and purchasing more equipment then I ever needed, to complete a variety of tasks I was uncertain of, all for the opportunity to love and care for an infant that was mutually desired.

Oh just kidding. I’m such a joker. We women like to kid, we joke. I was pretending to do all of that just so I could avoid spending time with another adult that I loved. The very adult that I chose to have a baby with. I never expected he might have felt neglected. I thought all of those carefully performed hi-jinx would be a turn on. Oh c'mon men love when women vomit. Actually, the books us gals read during pregnancy all warn us of these feelings that men have. What to Expect When You’re Expecting dedicates a section to this. I think the section needs to be revisited and perhaps the men folk can see what they might want to do to help understand that the needs of a developing infant will absolutely trump the needs of a full grown man. That should be a little easier to get at this point in the development of the species, or lack there of. Anyway, the article does end up providing some hope and the need to look at the lifespan and not the moment to moment level of demands, neglect, and frustration.

This is a nice segue to the New York Times interview. You may want to tighten up your lingerie or let it all hang out at this point. Hugh Heffner. Need I say more? First, and again note the frankness; when asked about bachelorhood versus family life offering a better chance at happiness, Mr Heffner responds that he was not happiest when married. (That is soooo surprising, don’t you think?) He goes on to say, “Part of the problem, quite frankly, is that when you get married, the romance disappears and the children arrive and the love is transferred. It shouldn’t be that way, but too often it is transferred to the children." Damn those little needy infants. Why can’t they just get up and go to work and allow the couple to carry on the way they want to! Who started this trend? Some selfish baby no doubt, plotting to make men feel unhappy and neglected.

I’m sorry. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Is it ok to state, frankly, these two particular men (and there are others, you betcha), are a bit shy of understanding the concept of parenting and the disproportionate physical and emotional demands placed on the mother before, during, and for quite some time after the birth of these babies? Can we start informing our sons that they were not made single handedly by Mrs. Robert Shaw as she was simultaneously beating a Great White Shark and fixing a few martinis while giving her man a foot massage? Can we break through this bizarre fantasy and help men understand that this is meant to be a shared partnership and since they can’t do too much along the lines of birthing and nursing at the very least they may be able to learn how to provide support and attend to their partners needs?

Really, we still have to have articles and interviews blaming women for neglecting their men for some fly by night infant? Jeez, everyone knows they don’t stay infantile forever, well they don’t have to. And some of them can even grow up and learn how to get dressed in their big boy clothes instead of remaining in their pajamas or bathrobes all day.

My experience with parenting: Work? Yes. Burden? No. At times, unpleasant, but overall, amazing and incredible. I would do it all again but I am at the other side of the lifespan and enjoying time with friends, my children, and my husband. I might even take up shark hunting with some of my free time.


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