Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Third Wheel...

baby with nukWhen my wife was pregnant, I read numerous articles about the part fathers play during the first few months of the baby’s life. I thought I was prepared for my role as the supporting cast, but nothing I read described how utterly helpless it can feel at times.   

I don't always feel like a third wheel, at times I'm more like a spare tire, buried in the trunk under boxes of diapers, baby wipes, and that old tennis racket I won't be using anytime soon. To him, I'm just some guy off the street who occasionally changes a diaper and can't figure out the buttons on his onesie.   

I know, I know, poor me, right?  As I write this my wife is feeding him and pumping simultaneously.  

Don't get me wrong, the mother/baby bond is a natural thing of beauty.  But it still kind of stings.  When I come home from work I'm usually ready for some father/son time, but when he's handed off to me, things often turn nasty.  His brow curls as his little face transforms from one of absolute content to emerging terror.  He gives me a look I know all too well, because I invented it. It's a look that holds both panic and dread, like the feeling I get after pouring a bowl of Fruity Pebbles only to find there is no milk.  He begins with threats, a few squeaks and squirms. I pat his back, walking from room to room as I break into song as he winds up into a roar.  From there it only gets worse.

My wife encourages me, offering tips and suggestions, (which might be of use if I could hear her over the deafening screams in my ear).  I try not to get discouraged, but inside I’m frustrated that we don’t have that bond. I can’t get him to stop crying.  

I try the swing, the nuk, the play pad, and even that Bjorn thing to no avail. He takes it up a notch, ratcheting the screams to DEFCON levels.  His face goes all code red, and the dogs look at me as if to say, Dude, just give him back to Mom. And I do, I give up and hand him back to mom, and just like a switch, happy baby returns. The sun comes out and magical cartoon birds land on the mantle and break into song. 

Once again mom saves the day.  And although I’m relieved to have him calm, I’m irritated because all it takes is the touch of her hand or the sound of her voice to lull him peacefully back to sleep.  I'm only good for fetching water or a snack.

Being a dad, this comes with the territory, and I'm content with playing second fiddle.  After all, I do have my moments with him. Like when he's fat and happy after being fed, or in the mornings when we wake up.  Just a few nights ago I was able to soothe him with no help at all, albeit only for a few minutes, but it's a start.  Those are the times that being a third wheel doesn't feel so bad, it feels like a tricycle.


  1. Sup FKL.
    I felt the same way. The best was when The Wife would ask "So how do yo feel about him/her?" She was looking for the same feelings she experienced of bonding and closeness. I was honest and told her I didn't feel a huge part of things, but that was okay as that time would come.
    Our 5MO is now happy with me holding her. She doesn't recoil like I'm Gollum and I'm just trying to get the ring back. Keep it up, as there's nothing like having you kid asleep on you at the mall in a carrier, and having EVERYONE looking at you like you're the coolest, most handsome daddy on the planet.

    The Cheeky Daddy

  2. Hey Pete!
    Things will get better. Sometimes the evenings aren't a happy time for babies anyway, which is when you're probably coming home from work. My son went through a stage where from 5 to 7 each evening, nothing could make him happy. Also, the source of food always gets a lot of attention and affection from both dogs and babies. Try to relax (babies are quick to pick up on nervousness), keep trying, and hang in there!
    Justin- Writing Pad Dad
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