When I found out I was going to be a parent, I wasn't sure what my dad voice was going to be. Was I going to be a voice of reason, discipline, empathy, a combination? What really struck me was not that I needed to find my dad voice within my family, but that I needed it outside of my family. I think what was worse was the realization that I could lose it. Finding it again was even more of a challenge.
So if you read my last post about my son's birth, the you will have some idea about my journey in finding my dad voice, at least initially.
Sorry to those of you who read it already, but here is a refresher: When my son was born, he was whisked away to the NICU. Knowing that he wasn't in any immediate danger, I used my dad voice when the doctors were going to start performing procedures on him without talking to me at all. If I didn't use my voice at that moment to say "No! You aren't doing anything until you explain to me what you're doing and why." I might as well have not been there. I was treated like I superfluous. Well, in a nano-second I said F that noise, I am his father not some shmuck you can write off. It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. Now the hard part came a few days later. I had been in the NICU with my son almost 24 hours a day. It was a grand rounds day, and I had been giving him lots and lots of skin-to-skin.
It was during rounds that the NICU nurse decided it was time for him to have a bottle, and she scooped him up and put him in the isolette. She sat him up (I don't know any infant that sits up to eat) and jammed that bottle down his throat. She acted like he was her child, and she got to make the decisions. What was worse was that I let her. I sat there and said nothing. All of that amazing Dad power I found a few days earlier was lost. Not even lost, ripped away. I was in shock, and frankly it took me a few hours to even process what had happened. I shoulder guilt, and lots of it. My son's breastfeeding relationship was negatively and severely impacted by this event, and I said nothing. Nothing I could ever say or do would relieve me of that failure. Despite days later reclaiming that voice by fighting for my partner to get a breast pump, my voice was only a whisper of what I had felt days earlier. I tell you with no shame, reclaiming my dad voice has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.
Since then, I have tried to expand my voice by going to the dads group at MommyCon and by becoming active on online communities. Here is where the problem lies (and I will expand on this in a later post): unless it is a dad group, online parenting groups aren't very dad friendly despite what they say. Dad shaming runs rampant and admins do little to stop it. On the occasions I have spoken up about it, I was accused of making a #notallmen statement. I have even taken to posting about how to engage disengaged partners in parenting. So where did I find my voice again? Right here. I made a space for my voice to be heard and to let other's voices be heard.
Dads and those who's voices aren't heard, I implore you. Find your voice, make it heard and never let anyone take that away from you. What you say, think feel is important and valuable. And for many men socialized as men, let go of that socialization that emotions make you weak. That emotion will strengthen your voice in unbelievable ways, and when your children think back on their relationship with you they will remember the sheer caring and love you feel for them.
The Attached Abba
I'm Matt a.k.a. The Attached Abba (Abba = Hebrew for Dad). This blog is detailing my journey in parenthood, and will hopefully provide a space for other dads to find support and insight.