Earlier this year, a story hit the news about a major league baseball player taking time off to be at his child’s birth that had me dumbfounded. Certain individuals were critical of his choice, saying that baseball needed him more than his wife and new son did. In a follow up story this week (focusing on how fatherhood has changed in recent decades), I saw that it was, thankfully, limited to a certain few vocal commentators and that his teammates were supportive of his choice. I think it is noteworthy to mention that this man was in fact completely unaware of all the brouhaha until days after the fact. He was in the family zone, away from external pressure and judgment, in a place where nothing matters but your loved ones.
We need our loved ones to be with us for big events. We may not physically need them there, but we need the love and support that sometimes only they can provide. Childbirth is most definitely one of these times, especially for a first child. You can take all the childbirth preparation classes available, you can talk to every other mother on the planet; you can repeatedly be reminded that women have been doing this since the beginning of time, but you will never, ever be fully prepared for the experience. I remember my first child’s birth. I remember the helpless feeling and I even said that I was not sure I could do it. My husband being there, encouraging me, helped me to believe and I am certain made it easier for me, and consequently, better for the baby.
To have public figures get up and say that he should have been there for the birth and then gone straight to the game, or even worse, say that she should have scheduled a C-section before the season began is wrong. I can’t find words strong enough to state my case here. (I have had a scheduled C-section, and that is not something to opt for without just cause.)
Thankfully, general opinion is on the side of the new dad. Many factors are I am sure at work here. I hope that the strongest is that it is becoming recognized that this is a big event for dad as well. For too many years, pregnancy and childbirth was treated as a medical disability (the way most companies justified time off for mom). More companies are giving paternity leave, though I was surprised at the very low statistic offered on the morning news (12%). This has been offset by many new dads taking vacation or unpaid leave (to the tune of 85% of new fathers). Yeah dads!
Studies repeatedly show the importance of dads in children’s lives. The dads of today want to do more and have forged ahead and taken on new roles unimaginable to fathers just a generation or two ago. Why do these stereotypes continue? Perhaps the backlash on stories such as these is a sign of a change in public thinking. Or maybe this is just a “glass half full” sort of thinking.