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Study: Some men may be emotionally involved with their children

May 20, 2010

Skunk Ape had a terrible dream that his baby son grew up to become a telemarketer. He was up looking for a warm glass of milk when the flash went off.

Just in time for Father’s Day, a new study suggests that a larger, hairier type of human–different from mothers–may be playing a role in the raising of children–and  may even be emotionally affected by the experience! The LA Times‘ cryptozoology desk reports:

They might relish becoming parents, but they can also be unprepared for the infant in their lives. They’re sleep-deprived, confused and irritable. They’re the fathers.

–snip–

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., found that 10.4% of men experienced serious depression at some point between his partner’s first trimester and one year after childbirth, more than double the depression rate for men in general.

One of my least favorite things about being a father has always been that the word “parenthood” remains, feminism or not, pretty much just code for “motherhood.” If you think I’m being (more) paranoid and defensive (than usual), just take a look at, say, Parenting magazine–I defy you to find a meaningful piece of information or guidance aimed at a father in that magazine. Hell, just their Web site navigation tells the story: “fertility,” “pregnancy” and “mom” are all on the universal nav bar; “bourbon,” “chest hair,” and “dad” didn’t make the cut. The iVillage site for Parenting and Pregnancy is similar (“Who’s in Your Momtourage,” “Pregnancy Calendar,” “Being a Mom”), ditto Babycenter.com and the swathed-in-pink Parenthood.com.

Point being, no duh. Just because 2010 looks, in a lot of ways, like feminism never happened, doesn’t mean men aren’t affected by the profound change of becoming parents. When my son was born, I went through about six months of what I can only characterize as emotional despair (Don’t worry about me, though, I’m tougher than a Ram 3500 full of bazookas and testicles GRRRRRRR!). Which makes total sense, when you think about it. It’s just that no one ever much thinks about it.

If you ever wonder why we live in a world where we need a scientific study to show us that men can have emotional problems adjusting to being parents, maybe look at women. Women in a post-feminist world have my sympathy: They haven’t just been told they can have everything, they’ve been told they must have everything, and that if they don’t, they’re failures. It might not be what Betty Friedan had in mind, but there it is. But as a stay-at-home dad, I can’t say I’ve ever felt terribly welcomed by stay-at-home moms in general. What I have felt, more often than not, is suspicion and disapproval. Why? Because in a world where women are pulled in every imaginable direction, they want to hold onto the thing that is and has always been theirs. Small wonder men don’t get much attention when they’re up nights, staring forlornly into the crib and feeling like their identities have just been destroyed.

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