This article was linked on my Facebook newsfeed this morning:
Anti-child, anti-woman bull crap.
Now hear me out: I value a healthy marriage. I value my husband’s needs, and I need him, too. We have a weekly date night, and it is SO very helpful. But this?
“‘We tend to focus more on our children than our marriage, which is a formula for disaster,’ according to Michele Weiner-Davis, author of divorcebusting.com and The Sex-Starved Marriage, who said the best thing you can do for your children is to put your marriage first.”
First off, the blogger (Julie Relevant on foxnews.com) takes words out of the mouth of the author she is quoting and twists them into something entirely different. You don’t need to take a course in logic to know the difference between not focusing more on your children than your marriage and putting your marriage first. This is actually a very important distinction to make: not giving preference to your children over your husband is not the same as giving preference to your husband. Obviously, the appropriate thing to do is balance as much as possible and not give preference to either. After the birth of our first child, my husband was actually under the impression from several different childbirth educators, articles, etc., that I should be placing more value on our relationship than on my parenting relationship with Gwenna.
You can imagine how that situation went, infused with postpartum hormones and slack-jawed disbelief from my end.
The Mama Lion inside of me roars out with indignation at the thought that any human being could fancy themselves more important to me than my own children. I assume that this notion that the husband comes first must have originated in a man’s head.
Luckily, there are men who have come around from what I can only imagine is a turn-of-the-last-century point of view (I have no idea how this ideology began, why, or a good plan to figure it out; I’ll leave that for later):
“Attachment Parenting is all about balance – finding the right balance between fostering a close relationship with your child and maintaining a close marriage relationship. These two sides do not necessarily have to be at conflict, especially if BOTH parents nurture an attachment with the child. When a mom and dad are fostering a close, attached relationship with their child, this naturally brings the parents closer together as well.” – Dr. Sears, from askdrsears.com
My husband, wearing Gwenna in the Moby Wrap while she naps. Attached Daddy.
Here is a pediatrician- a doctor who knows about the biology of children and has observed the biology of mothering with his own sizable family- who is suggesting that not only should you not give preference to your husband over your children, but your husband should be very involved with the children as well.
Dr. Sears includes a section in The Baby Book about balancing your marriage and your kids along with the rest of your life. He suggests keeping newborns in a sling on date night, and sending older kids to Grandma’s or the sitter’s. He acknowledges how important it is to give yourself time to breathe and bond quietly with your spouse while not downplaying the importance of having such a brand new baby close to mommy. Now that is a real man.
Perhaps I should explain in more detail why I am so annoyed by this notion of the husband coming first: it’s because it’s stupid.
Anyone who has ever had a child, and even moreso anyone who has ever nursed a child, knows that mothers of newborns have enormous hormonal reactions to being separated from their baby. These attachment hormones fluctuate with the level of attachment a mother chooses to foster or to deny- and attachment is quite a healthy function in new mothers. It’s probably appropriate for me to mention that, as the baby grows and nursing becomes more spaced or the baby weans, these hormones ease, and a mother begins to enjoy her sparse time away from the little ones again. But back to the healthy, appropriate function of attachment: there is an entire branch of science dedicated to tracking and deciphering the ramifications of whether or not a baby has a strong attachment with a caregiver. Most of what you will find, should you choose to pursue more information on the subject, is that having an attached, present parent during early years is intensely related to how that child will act and perceive events and relationships throughout life.
Anyway, why am I focusing on newborns and new mothers? Because this article, like many many many others, was geared toward women who are concerned about changes in family life after a new baby arrives. This article, and all the others like it, gives an inexperienced mother the impression that she has to stifle those feelings of attachment and need to be by her baby’s side in order to “do the right thing”, which, on Fox News, is apparently making sure the husband is always happy and has a sandwich and sex whenever he wants it.
The bottom line is that this approach is not very scientific. It completely ignores the importance and value of a strong attachment between parents and children. It doesn’t shed light on the fact that families can create very secure attachments between each member through spending time together as a group. It doesn’t mention that a woman’s love for her husband likely grows exponentially in the days and weeks following her baby’s birth, and vice versa, if the birth was a good experience. It doesn’t give advice for fathers to bond with their babies and get the heck over themselves, because you know what? Mommy can’t have sex for a few weeks after birth anyway, and that has zero to do with how much she wants him. It doesn’t tell women that they shouldn’t ignore the strong urges to nurture their babies, and they shouldn’t feel pressured to go out for a night without the baby when, for good reason, all they can think about is the baby. It doesn’t tell women that they shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to meet their husbands’ needs during the postpartum period, because her body has done an amazing and transformative thing and needs to recover.
So can we please address these things? Can we acknowledge that men can have insecurities, and a woman’s duty to her man who might have these insecurities is not about pawning her new baby off on relatives she might not totally trust in order to calm his feelings? How about we start talking about these things? How about, before we write blogs on foxnews.com about how a woman should act in the postpartum phase, we make sure we’re not twisting words around or perpetuating some ill-formed idea that a man can only feel loved by his wife if they are not around a baby?
Also, I’m not saying date nights are bad, even if you take a date night the very first week. I just would prefer that mothers not be surprised at how guilty they feel about doing something that some “expert” on foxnews.com told them was the right thing to do. Those hormones don’t play, and there’s a reason for that.
Alright then. Off to bake.