For this month’s Child(ish) Read, I wanted to do something a little different. The books I choose are normally about child development or parenting; but truthfully, most of these books are sub texturally written for moms. Women are the prime audience buying parenting books, so they are written with that lens.
Every time I’m in the bookstore and I see a book specifically about fatherhood, more likely than not they heavily rely on the same tropes: sports references and tired dad jokes.
I was once reading a fictionalized memoir written by a dad to his children and it was pretty much a rip off of How I Met Your Mother. The book even referenced How I Met Your Mother.
And going back to the sports thing, do you really need endless comparisons of holding your baby like a football to make the subject of being a good parent interesting? Slam dunk.
Truthfully, I don’t really take any of those fatherhood titles seriously because in no way, shape, or form would a book like that fly if written for an expectant mother.
We hear so many statistics that Millennial dads are more involved with their kids than in generations previous; not only from the time they spend, but the actual splitting of responsibilities. If this is true, I want to see fatherhood books reflect this shift in mindset. So, I gave this compare and contrast a try.
Diaper Dude: The Ultimate Dad’s Guide to Surviving the First Two Years, by Chris Pegula with Frank Meyer.
Author and founder of the popular Diaper Dude parenting brand, Chris Pegula dives into the first two years of parenting and furthers his deeply held belief that you don’t have to lose yourself when you become a father.
Once again written in Pegula’s everyman voice and filled with humorous takes on fatherhood from the front lines, the book is an easy-to-read resource for new dads, combining hard-won lessons learned, pitfalls to avoid, and practical advice from a dude who hasn’t lost his identity (or his sanity).
I picked a Diaper Dude because it wasn’t expressly about “helping” your wife, but actual parenting. I saw this book at Target so I know it’s recent enough and easy to find. Most importantly, I wanted to see if the content and context was actually useful, or if it just deferred everything to the mom.
I downloaded the audiobook and after listening, here are my observations:
This book is six hours long.
While six hours is a very straightforward time and the content was useful, the other motherhood/parenting books that I have previously purchased are in the 8-10 hour range. This tells me that this book does not go into nearly as much detail. Quite possibly, it has been synthesized and snack-sized for its audience.
I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but it’s different. It is not as research-heavy as a lot of the motherhood books I’ve read, nor is it a straightforward memoir. I know it’s knit-picky, but this is a “guide”, rather than a book. And there are still generous dad jokes throughout.
When it comes to the actual information, it’s all pretty general. Right off the bat, it includes a month-to-month synopsis on child development milestones. The “how” obviously is going to be the same general tips and information in other parenting and pregnancy books. It’s really the tone and implication that I’m reading for.
Teamwork is a very big deal to me as a parent. Not only because I have twins but because I do value equal partnership in my marriage. I like that this book makes most, if not all, of the baby duties accessible to fathers. The only thing that is strictly a mother’s duty is breast-feeding; but even then, the author suggests starting your wife a bath or making her a snack plate while she is breast-feeding. Two things that would’ve completely made my day while I was pumping.
I thoroughly appreciate that type of thoughtfulness coming from my partner, so this author gets brownie points for that. I think what moms find frustrating is that men seem reluctant or scared to take on baby duties, like changing diapers, feeding or swaddling. It can be straight up enraging having a partner who was like “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “you do it better” and just walks away without taking time to learn.
The author doesn’t say that baby care is optional for dads. They are just things a parent has gotta do, so do ‘em. This makes both parents work as a team, one that can rely on each other and build trust.
The day-to-day responsibilities of taking care of a baby, for the most part, are all covered in this book. However, it does seem to jump around to different subjects. First, the author would be talking about swaddling, and then jump to baby proofing, and then jump to taxes. The subjects never really seemed completely organized. The book explains duties chronologically, and they might be a little less scattered if I was reading the book versus listening to it.
So in between all of the baby duties and parent hacks, there is a small section on parenting styles. The author shares that he was in an authoritative household growing up, and then gives some examples of other approaches, particularly authoritarian. He doesn’t name any other styles or favor a particular one, but he does challenge the father to reflect. He asks to think about the type of father they want to be, the type of relationship they want to have with their child as they grow, and the type of model they want to set for their child when it comes to being a father and husband.
I don’t know if guys actually talk about this with other guys, but it is a subject that I’ve personally brought up to my husband. I have seen his opinion on parenting styles change over time, so it is a conversation that we do have fairly often. I don’t think that this is a topic that men actually think about with any seriousness until fatherhood actually happens, but I appreciate that it is being brought up by another man. Maybe some men need to hear it from another?
To tack on a personal observation, I think the majority of guys assume they will eventually have kids. However, I don’t think there is much mental or even economical prep for kids until one is actually conceived. This is a little behind the eight ball compared to the amount of mental energy women spend thinking about kids and parenting.
Acknowledgement of PPD
Big brownie points for this. The author does a very quick crash course in postpartum depression. He talks about some of the causes, how common it can be, and thankfully, the incidence of PPD in men. Yes, it does exist. Yes, your actions (as well as inactions) can contribute to the condition for both you and your wife.
It helps to know that this could very well be a possibility before it happens, and you should absolutely watch for warning signs in those first six months postpartum.
Pegula describes a scenario where a dad realizes that he may or may not have the same amount of free time to hang with the guys as he did before kids. I think maintaining a social life for dad may be easier if you have a single child; multiple kids are definitely trickier.
He reiterates that having a baby is a complete change in lifestyle and men need to be prepared for this. I’m not sure if men actually talk to each other and say “Hey dude, I might not be around for a couple months because you know… baby”, but at least he encourages men to talk about fatherhood and normalize the change in how we spend our time.
For mothers, this loss of free time and social interaction expounds on postpartum grief, the mourning of your old life. I think both moms and dads should prioritize making time of themselves and with each other as reasonably as possible.
Yes!!! Family Leave
This is a big thank you. Pegula encourages men to take their family leave time in full, either in one shot or splitting up the time windows if it benefits your family. This time is critical to caring for both the baby and the mom.
I know so many women who ask about family leave before considering a new job. They don’t want to feel guilty if they start a new role and then have to leave too soon because they are having a baby. For women, parental leave policies are a reason to either turn down a job or even push off having a child, so obviously they are a big deal.
We’ve heard our own husbands say that there is also a stigma for dads to take their full parental leave, much to a mother’s frustration, because they don’t want to seem like they aren’t dedicated to their work. Tons of red flags here.
Does a father need to be there in the first weeks of their baby’s life? Yes. Period.
Worst-case scenario, if you don’t use your family leave, you lose it. Taking your full parental leave (especially if it’s paid leave) normalizes the need for dads early on. Set the precedent and take the time off if your job allows.
*Personal note. Look in your company’s actual policy. Even if your company has a family leave allowance, some direct supervisors may discourage you from taking it or might not be totally knowledgeable of it. Get your facts, especially if you need to file for FMLA.
Also Childcare: Yeah, it’s expensive and a sticky topic. You have to weigh your preferences and comfortability with paid childcare versus having one parent work from home or stay at home. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but it helps to factor in the realistic childcare costs to this equation. I found it weird that Troy had really lowballed the cost of childcare when we started looking, especially since we’d have to pay double.
If anything, knowing the child care situation locally and nationally will get dads more vocal when it comes to resources and family policy in the workplace and in our government. Social family services and programs should not be a fight that moms tackle alone.
Pegula does promote his own company and non-profit in the book, but this means that he has to convince dads to actually care about purchases and baby care (a task normally relegated to mom). In other parenting books, I don’t think there is so much direct product promotion. For me, it’s slightly off-putting, but if it helps a dad look into things or do a little more follow-up, I’m okay with it.
Many other topics are touched on, including autism and child development issues, potty training, baby poop, vaccinations, sugar intake, and marriage and divorce issues. I’m glad these topics are all presented nicely, but they are very general and don’t have a lot of research. Most are discussed with anecdotes or hypotheticals.
Overall, I’m happy with the result. I do think this book is a good Millennial dad representation when it comes to being involved in family and how to work as a team with your partner. The audio narration kinda sounds like the author is hosting a kid show, which kinda leads to it being a bit simplistic. Many of the Goodreads reviews say that this book can be okay as a starting point, but it is definitely not a one-stop shop for everything you need to know as a dad.
My hope is that the dad who is reading this book, or the future mom giving this book to the future dad, would use this as a basic primer to have more informed communication about parenting.
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