Okay fellas, let’s be honest. Before you had a kid, when you first noticed an attractive woman, you probably weren’t thinking, “Would she make a good mom?” That question might have arisen somewhere in the back of your medulla oblongata, but it wasn’t in the top 500 things you would think about when you first felt intoxicated by her scent.
But when you become a father, if you really fall head over heels with the baby, you begin to appreciate the woman with whom you share the awesome responsibility of parenting in an entirely new light.
I watch through bleary eyes as Michelle wakes up at 90-minute intervals night after night. How rather than drag her body like a burlap sack full of marbles the way I do, she springs from the bed at Lev’s slightest whimper. She holds him for hours, smiling and laughing, caressing him, with a love that is overflowing and endlessly energizes her. Yes, she gets tired, but she places Lev’s needs far above her own. She never complains or suggests we leave him on someone’s doorstep.
As I observe her selfless way of caring for him, I see that Lev has been teaching her what love means. I watch from the sidelines as my infant son blows Michelle’s heart and mind wide open, creating new horizons of sensitivity and patience. It’s like one of those dreams where suddenly the house you live in has a new room and you wander through it, exploring it with a sense of ether and amazement. He has set us both off on that dreamlike expansion of the arteries and aeries that surround the human heart.
Michelle excels as a student of love. I know she is going to get an A+ at the end of the semester, except the semester never ends. It’s actually one long final exam, but that’s not the point.
At least we have the same professor. He is a ruthless little pedant with unusual teaching methods. He literally shits all over us, pees in our faces, and abuses us throughout the night with mysterious shouts and grunts. He regularly farts loudly in the middle of class. The homework is relentless, and he never lets us out for recess. However, neither Michelle nor I has ever encountered a teacher as powerful as this little 8-pound bundle of wisdom and poo.
Still, with that gummy little grin he has taught us both what love really means: to give everything of oneself happily, to forgo sleep, food and showers without question or hesitation, simply and utterly because you are so magnetically drawn to protect and nurture another human being.
It’s a lesson we’re never done learning.
Speaking of lessons, here are five simple ways to show your partner you appreciate her in her new role as a mom:
- Tell her you love her at least once every day. Especially now, in the weeks and months after a baby is born, women are going through some major hormonal changes. Be patient. Allow her to be upset even if you can’t understand why. Just be her rock. She may not say it now, but she will thank you in a few years. By then you will be bald. But it’s better to be bald and thanked than bald and hated.
- When you cuddle with your baby, don’t forget to give wifey a kiss. No matter how exhausted, she will appreciate it. It’s easy to get caught up in staring at the newborn; stare at your lady, too. She needs attention just as much as the baby does. And possibly some A&D ointment.
- I know you haven’t slept for a few weeks, but once in a while take a shower and shave. It’s a wordless way to show her you still care, even though you feel like a cigar just exploded in your face.
- Because she just had your baby, her body has obviously gone through some serious changes. Tell her she is beautiful as often and sincerely as possible. Even the most confident woman needs to hear that a lot, especially post-pregnancy. Also a tender kiss would be nice, even though she will perhaps stop you at that. For a few weeks, you can once again pretend to be a teenager who is prevented from getting to second base.
- Do the freaking dishes once in a while, you barbarian. Take care of the laundry. Clean up around the house. She might not even notice, but on some level, she will. Anyway, it’s your mess, too. And your tidy whiteys don’t look all that tidy.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a New York City-based author, journalist and songwriter. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and the Huffington Post. His son, Lev, is the love of his life and the inspiration for The Daddy Diaries. @dimitriehrlich