Tuesday, 21 January 2014

YOU CAN'T BE TOO SAFE


A week into the job, and I sense men have a long way to go to prove our abilities as full-time parents. When one’s local maternal health nurse is skeptical of the man’s ability to take on the role as primary carer on the home front, one suspects the road ahead is bumpy.

Our maternal health nurse seems old school. It’s rumoured she crafted her firm hand for childrearing while tending to the five babes of Tsar Nicholas II. No love is more compassionate than tough love, it would read in Cyrillic above her health centre desk had her Russian experience been true. Her advice to my wife was once: “if he keeps crying and doesn’t sleep during the day, just leave him in his cot and go for a walk around the block”.

The concept of the stay-at-home dad seems taboo to her. At Freddy’s six-month check-up my wife gave her the exciting news that she was returning to work earlier than anticipated, as a position had opened up for her that she didn’t want to pass on. She confessed it would be difficult emotionally to leave her young boy at home, but she was content with her decision, for I had decided to take a year away from “the office” and would be staying at home.

“I don’t mean to burst your bubble,” the nurse said. “But men aren’t great at staying at home with the babies. They tend to want to watch television all day. They generally realise after two weeks that they would prefer to be going to work each day.

... Freddy and blogger learning
about "safety".  
“And does he know about safety?”

Last week, week one, I ventured into the health centre to meet our maternal health nurse. Sure enough, I was quizzed with skepticism. A patronising “I see,” was how she accepted my answers about Freddy’s sleeping routine, diet, teething and general behaviour.

I tried to confidently allay her fears that, after the consultation, I wouldn’t return home to watch the Australian Open tennis broadcast all day (although, in a week of 40-degree heat, and being confined to the air-conditioned living room, I admit, the TV was on for part of the day). I’m not sure it worked. As I packed the nappy bag to walk out of the clinic she said: “You DO know about safety, don’t you?”

I see her role to be alert for changes in domestic environments and an increase of risks to the child, but encouraging of co-parenting and the sharing of all child-raising responsibilities. Of all the people in the community I would have thought positions like hers would be the least disapproving of dads who want to or are able to be stay-at-home dads. I accept that this is not the norm, but the norm it can become if medical professionals like maternal health nurses promote and encourage more fathers to spend time as the primary carer.

Has anyone else experienced something similar?

2 comments :

  1. I'm not sure where you live but I always see a lot of stay- or work-at-home dads of littlies around Northcote. Freddy's a lucky boy to have such a capable, hands-on dad. My partner is too, and I've been surprised to find how many other new dads I know view caring for their child alone for any length of time with abject horror. Health nurses are a strange breed, that's for sure. My mum tells stories about how she used to hide and pretend she wasn't home when they came to see her in the 70s as they were so horrible to her! Your nurse's concern for safety is in direct contradiction to her advice to leave baby at home and walk around the block!

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    Replies
    1. It's certainly not easy being the primary carer, but I do feel fortunate for the opportunity. Thanks for those words...there are a few dads down south, but not enough. Maybe a few trips to Northcote are in order.

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