For time immemorial, childbirth has been associated with women. After a baby is born, a greater part of the responsibilities of a new life automatically steers towards the mother. Many-a-times, a mother is expected to handle all the responsibilities of the child. While a lot of fathers, across the world, are trying hard to change this scenario, we still have a long way to go before both parents become equal partners after childbirth.
A 29-year-old father of 3 children called Ted Gonder, took social media by storm when he attempted to break the glass ceiling by enlisting 5 things a man can do to help his wife after childbirth. In a now-viral Facebook post addressed to his “childless self,” he shared tips to be a “supportive partner.”
“I’m now 29 and have 3 kids with my wife Franziska who carried and birthed them all like a pro. Here’s what I would tell my childless 24-year-old self about how to be a supportive partner during the “becoming parents” phase:
1. Wifey carried baby IN her belly for 9 months. So you carry baby ON your belly for 9 months every chance you get. Not only does it help her recover but it bonds you to your kid more than imaginable.
2. Wifey is breastfeeding and–while beautiful and fulfilling for her–it’s exhausting. So you change EVERY diaper you can. From diaper #1 onward. You will get over the grossness fast. And you will prevent imbalances and resentment in the relationship; in fact, when all your wife’s friends are complaining about how absent and unsupportive their husbands are, your wife will be bragging about you.
3. Make her the decaf coffee every morning. Even if she leaves it cold and forgets to drink it most mornings because she falls back asleep while you’re working or (later) taking the kids to school. She was up all night feeding the baby so help start her day in a way that helps her reset.
4. Tell her she is beautiful and help her see that in moments when she is feeling most self-critical and hopeless about her body. Remind her of times when she achieved goals in the past. Remind her she is a superhero. She literally just moved all her organs around and gained 20 kilograms to give you a child that will be a gift to you for the rest of your life. Help her see past her body image issues and stay focused on a positive goal, one day at a time.
5. Take the heat. Hormones are crazy, both pre and post-birth. She won’t seem like herself every day and sometimes she will say things she wouldn’t say if she didn’t feel like she was hungover, caffeinated, and on steroids every day. Remember your job is to be her rock through all of this, so toughen up and keep perspective when her tongue is sharper than you know her best self intends. Normal will return soon and you want her to be grateful that you kept it together when she wasn’t, not resentful and disappointed that you hijacked her emotions by making her problems yours.”
In an interview with Good Morning America, Gonder explained that his experiences of co-parenting his children with his wife and understanding the nuances of parenthood through the process drove him to write this insightful post which has been widely loved by the netizens with over 71K likes on Facebook alone.
“I was lucky to spend several weeks on paternity leave. In between changing newborn diapers and playing with our 1 and 4-year-olds,” he said. “Those few weeks provided a chance to reflect on how much I’ve learned on the beautiful battlefield of parenting in the first few years. My incredible wife has birthed three kids in 5 years and we’ve co-parented every step of the way, so a lot of my biggest learnings have been about how to be a supportive partner before and after birth.”
He added, “It’s been hard for me to find good dad advice along the way,” he said. “So I decided to write about what I’d tell the younger version of myself.”
He revealed that, like many others, his emotional post has been appreciated by his wife. “We’ve talked about many of these points with friends over the past few years, so I think she appreciated me sharing them in writing,” he stated. What is also rewarding is the fact that people, mostly women, are reaching out to him to laud his noble gesture.
“Encouragingly, the most common comments have come from women tagging their male partners thanking them for being ‘their rock.’ I think this says something about a growing group of men today who have the courage and strength to think beyond their traditional male role toward how they can be a true ‘family co-founder’ with their wife,” he said.
However, if history is any proof, a gesture of change has always met harsh criticism and flak from a section of people. Something of a similar sort happened to Gonder’s post as well. “I think a lot of people also shared the post because they’re outraged that so many women go through pregnancy, birth, and recovery totally alone when their male partners could be doing more,” the father-of-three said. “Many reflected on how a lack of supportive partner during this crucial phase planted seeds of resentment that ruined their relationship and family later.”
When asked if he would want to change anything about his journal, he refused, instead, he said that there are certain things he would like to add. “Initiate the conversation early about household roles — breadwinner or homemaker or both,” he said. “Take the pressure off your wife to explore what role each of you wants to play as you become parents. Relieve the topic’s tension so it doesn’t explode on you later. Push each other to think about a family vision, considering both of your desires equally, then work backward from that shared vision to plan how you’ll manifest that reality together.”
As concluding thoughts he shook off another stereotype by saying, “Don’t listen to people who say you’re ruining your life by having kids young.”