My daughter’s first words will be “What the fuck?”

December 16, 2014

Parenthood offers plenty of surprises. It seems like everyday there is something new. A lot of it has to do with bowel movements. Some of it has to do with my own stress level as a stay-at-home dad. Yesterday, Cozy was screaming for her afternoon bottle. I got flustered and spilled half the pumped mother’s milk on the counter. What the fuck?

I swear a lot these days. I try not to but it just comes. I would like for my daughter’s first word to be “intersectionality,” but I have sneaking suspicion it will be “whatthefuck.” It’s possible it could be “fuckaduck” which is the more child-friendly version I’m trying to move to. I recognize that that phrase my create later problems with waterfowl, but it just seems less harsh. For infants, it’s all about the tone.

I try to be zen, but sometimes it just overwhelms me. Sorry. She’s peeing while I’m putting a new diaper on. What the fuck? She’s screaming bloody murder while I’m singing “Yellow Submarine” to her. What the fuck? She puked up 90% of the milk I just gave her and it went down my pants (Don’t ask). What the fuck? She was crying for the bottle and now that I have it ready, she’s asleep. Fuck a duck.

Many what the fuck moments have to do shit. The shit is leaking out the diaper and running down her legs (both of ‘em). What the fuck? Her diaper-liners are shit-stained beyond redemption. What the fuck? That wasn’t poop, just a big fart (after taking off layers of clothes). Da fu? While changing her, her ass becomes a firehose of baby shit, soaking the carpet brown. What the fuck and fuck a duck.

Then the WTFs get exported to everything else. Where are the wipes? What the fuck? Why won’t the microwave work faster? What the fuck? I forgot to eat lunch. What the fuck? Mom’s watching TV when there is a giant pile of laundry. What the fuck? The Walking Dead isn’t back on for months. What the fucking fuck?

I know, I know. What’s new about this? Maybe I just need to lay off the coffee. But I know there are big WTF moments coming for my daughter. Soon it will be, “I gotta poop in that? What the fuck?”  “What do you mean, ‘You’re just a girl’?” What the fuck? Then comes, “Wait, I only make 80% of what you make? Seriously, what the fuck?”

Modern society gives us too many of these moments of incredulity. Sometimes I feel like I live in Whatthefuckistan. From streaming rivers of baby poop to the top stories on the 5 o’clock news (She hears WTF then, for sure). I should be immune to it. But I don’t want my child to be immune to it. I want to protect her but also instill a certain amount of naivety so she can react like human and not a jaded baby who has already seen it all. Deep breaths, but I mean, really, what the fuck?

“Oh, house husbands are so great!” and other double standards.

December 15, 2014

Andrea and I had a rare Saturday night out. (Thank humanity for family willing to babysit.) We were sitting at our local bar next to a guy who was lavishing praise on me for being a stay-at-home dad. (He stayed home with his dog, so he knew.) He then went on to imply that my wife was giving up something up essential. I missed it but it went straight to Andrea’s heart. What working mother doesn’t carry some guilt? (And maybe working fathers should share said guilt.)

How many double standards does sexism create for women? The slut/stud one is obvious. Then there’s the beauty standard. Women need to be better at their job than men and look good while they do it. Me, I look like a slob and slack off a bit too much. But there’s another one that is worth discussing. The duel parenting standard.

I can’t lose. As a man, if I shuffle off to the 9 to 5, I am a good provider. I am playing the role that every traditionalists thinks is the backbone of modern society. If I stay at home to raise children (as more and more men are doing), I get constant pats on the back as a “trailblazer” and challenger to domestic gender roles. But for my wife, it’s the exact opposite. If she stays at home with the baby, then she is viewed as “giving up her life” for diaper changes and kitchen chores and if she returns to work, she’s seen as somehow depriving her child (and herself) of a precious mothering experience. You can see how it could make a mom a bit nuts. She can’t win.

In the 2000s, there started to be this backlash against “supermoms,” who greedily wanted it all. The result of evil feminism was to deprive women of the thing that was essential to their femaleness (changing diapers and kitchen duty). You thought that job would make you happy? Now you’re just a man in drag. It was pitched as the opposite of Friedan’s “feminine mystique.”

But those conservative “post-feminist” critiques (as usual) ignored the power of patriarchy. The 2nd Wave vision (We will discuss feminist waves soon) in the 1960s was that women would be able to pursue careers, as men had, and men would take up the slack at home. Firemen became firefighters, mailmen became letter carriers and stewardesses became flight attendants. But men didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Don Draper didn’t start vacuuming and planning meals. It was the men who still wanted it all; a self-actualizing career and dinner on the table at 6.

So that gave birth to the supermom burnout. Mom’s didn’t have it all. They had to do it all. In 1989, Arlie Hochschild referred to this as the “second shift.” She’s got a job and responsibility for the care of the family. Mom gets home from work and then goes to work. Where is dad? Hey, he’s had a hard day at the office. Get off his back!

Society is a work in progress, especially in the good ol’ USA. Gender roles are evolving. Anthropologists can tell you that there are tribal cultures that can go for centuries with little social change. Europe in the Dark Ages was just stuck for over 500 years. We are light-years from 1954, but we are still looking for balance.

So let’s stop the judgment. Judgement of women who choose to stay home or choose to work (we can discuss women who are forced into these roles, as well). Don’t assume that a stay-at-home dad is a hero. We live in an economy where more women are working than men (I blame Wal-Mart). The rise of the modern house-husband is a delayed but natural response to ideas the feminist movement had 50 years ago. But it’s also just natural. Praise for one parent shouldn’t come at the expense of the other.

This book is available at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.


How to get the right woman.

December 12, 2014

There’s a lot a guides out there that will help fellas “get the girl.” There’s even a mega-creep named Julien Blanc who runs seminars that instruct bros on how to use violence and abuse to “pick up chicks.”

‘Dating Expert’, Julien Blanc, Recommends Using Violence To Have Sex With Women

I might have been interested in what he has to say when I was 19. But I’m a man now and (straight) men need women, not “girls.” There are guys my age who never get that. Apparently, there are people who don’t know that I got this a while ago.

Every time I look at our daughter Cozette’s perfect baby face I’m reminded how lucky I am to have met Andrea. I went through a lot in my life to be finally be ready for her to arrive. I didn’t pursue her. She came for me. I flew the feminist flag but never really figured out the last pieces of the puzzle until this decade. My shrink gave me a reading assignment. The New Rules of Marriage (2008) by feminist therapist Terrance Real.

The first chapter really hit home. It was essentially about how couples are teams, not competitors. Most battle-tested husbands will tell you that you can never actually “win” an argument. But I spent much of my relationship time “proving my point” and “defending my position.” The important response is to shut up, listen, and be empathetic. I joke to my male students that if they are in a heterosexual relationship, the sentence that will save their world, is “How was your day, honey?” And then to just shut up and listen.

In relationships there are really three beings. The two people (in this example, we will use a man and a woman) and the relationship itself. Traditionally, the female has been in charge of the relationship. She tries to nurture it on her own. The guy blows if off for golfing or woodwork. So when mama says to papa, “Honey, can we talk?” Papa says, “Oh, shit. This is about the relationship right? Can it wait until after the Masters Tournament in April?”

So guy shuts down and mama is left holding the bag. Or guy changes the oil in her car as proof that he cares. Or guy tries to convince her she’s crazy and throws a beer can at her. It just spirals from there.

There are some folks who probably don’t think Andrea and I should be together. Our cultural differences (she’s a foreigner!). Our age differences (I’m older!), but people who know us know we fit together perfectly. We’re a team. And whenever we face a tough time, that’s our mantra. “We’re a team! It’s us against the world!” And now that we are parents, we are even more bonded as a team. I have no fear because I am with someone who is stronger than I am. She is not my “submissive wife” (Sorry Southern Baptists). She is my partner in our life adventures.

I guess I just feel bad for guys who don’t know this. I was one of those guys. I couldn’t figure out why relationships would start out so well and then crash and burn. I didn’t know how to stop and listen to my teammate. It took a lot of work to get to this point, so let me share it so it won’t be so hard for you. You want to be a good father? Start a partnership. That way you can spend less time fighting and watching golf and more time living in love.

This book is available at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.

“You’re raising your daughter as a feminist?”

December 11, 2014

There seems to be some real confusion about what feminism is for some folks. This includes the Twitterverse, where some very ignorant women somehow got #WomenAgainstFeminism trending last summer. So let me clear it up.

First of all, being ignorant does not mean you are a bad person. We are all ignorant about more than we are knowledgeable about. I do not know Swahili, nor do I know how to bake a flambé. I am also ignorant of federal tax code and how to potty train a child. But let’s not be ignorant about what feminism is.

In her vital book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, author bell hooks very clearly states, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” This is my favorite definition because it implies that someone who is not a feminist does not want to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression. And we know who those people are.

It also establishes what feminism is not: man-hating hairy armpit lesbianism that could care less about men’s lives (Shout out to my hairy armpit lesbians!). It is not about free abortions, getting fat, destroying the family and blowing up the make-up counter at Macy’s.

I argue in my classes that every woman is feminist, whether she identifies as such as not. Every woman understands the double standards. Every woman understands street harassment and the constant threat of rape. Every woman understands unequal pay for equal work. Every woman understands that society says you are less attractive each day you age. You might not call it “patriarchy,” but you understand it exists.

Feminism is a huge tent. There are radical feminists, liberal feminists, Marxist feminists, eco-feminists, psychoanalytical feminists, transnational feminists and even free market feminists. There are Beyoncé feminists, Taylor Swift feminists, and, yes, Sarah Palin feminists. Queer feminists, Suzy Homemaker feminists, and CEO feminists. There are feminists who oppose pornography and those who support it (if it’s done right). There are feminist who oppose Rush Limbaugh and… well, I guess there are feminists who don’t know he exists. After all, this is the cretin that said, “The feminist movement was created to allow ugly women access to the mainstream of society.”

Forty years ago, the core of the feminist club was a small clique of upper middle-class white women at private universities with subscriptions to Ms. magazine. Now it’s open to everyone. Women of color have a voice and so do men, as well as transpeople and rural people (and rural transpeople).  I try to get copies of bell hooks’ 2010 book, Feminism is for Everybody, into people’s hands as often as possible. Feminism is now addressing how patriarchy hurts men as well as women and that’s the work that I do as a sociologist. Men die at an alarming rate for doing things just because they are “manly.”

When I was a graduate student at Emory, I was teaching Intro to Sociology at Dekalb Community College. I would get a lot of working-class (often black) women who would say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then say something completely feminist, about abusive men, unfair work situations, or unreal beauty standards. They were feminists but that term had been both stigmatized by anti-feminists, like Mr. Limbaugh (and all the men sympathetic to his cause), and made obtuse by academic feminists who favor 10-dollar phrases over opening the door to those outside the academy.

Here is one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite academic feminists, Dorothy E. Smith –  “The relations of the ruling are rationally organized. They are objectified, impersonal, claiming universality. Their gender subtext has been invisible.” It makes perfect sense to me but I am a university professor. Smith’s thought might send anybody else running for the comfort of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The point of this piece is this. When I say I am a feminist and I will raise my daughter as a feminist, don’t blow a gasket if you don’t even know what feminism is. If you want my kid to grow up in a world where she is appreciated as a full human, with her own dreams and desires and rights and freedoms, welcome to the feminist club.

These books are available at Powell’s by clicking the covers below.

Children of the Earth, take this day.

December 10, 2014 The news can really depress the shit out of you (unless, by “news,” you mean Entertainment Tonight). But there are headlines that soften the global horrors. Reading this morning that Malala and Kailash Satyarthi have been given the Nobel Peace Prize gave me a moment of hope. So that’s where I’m going to live today.

The world is an especially cruel place for children. War, hunger, sex trafficking of minors, child soldiers, infant refugees, the list will shatter your soul. According to UNICEF, 2014 has been one of the worst years on record for children. The images coming out of Syria and Palestine are just a slice of the horror. “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds,” said Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF. “They have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves.”

Unicef Calls 2014 One of Worst Years for Children

Andrea and I finished watching Long Way Down last night (me for the second time). We love Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s motorcycle rides around the world. We are road trip junkies ourselves (and I have a completely understandable man-crush on Ewan. I just think we should be friends.). There’s a part when they are in Kenya and visit a school that was attacked by guerrilla fighters in 2005. The older children escaped into the bush, but 22 small children who had no idea the evil of man were slaughtered. It was almost unwatchable. McGregor and Boorman serve as ambassadors for UNICEF, so there is value in telling these stories. It’s just a crushing reminder that from Rawanda to Sandy Hook innocent children are randomly used as targets for somebody else’s sociopathy.

These images are so much more meaningful now that I have a child. How can any parent view scenes of children starving and not be moved to action? I was at the Live Aid concert in London in 1985 and it was really great show, feed the world, blah, blah, blah. Bring out Bowie! It was really about a 4 month out girl, just like mine, dying in her mother’s arms. How do we let this happen over and over again?

I think about how my safe my daughter is in comparison to many of her peers. She has food and stable home. She will have access to clean water and an education. There are no bombs coming her way. She will still have to deal the the ugliness of patriarchy. Portland is one of the busiest hubs of sex trafficking in America. But she’ll have choices that girls in India and Thailand won’t. I want her to know about those girls and that their struggle should also be hers.


Malala Yousafzai is a true hero. I’m going to put a picture of her in Cozy’s room today. For simply trying to get an education in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban (You want a gang of sexist douchebags, the Taliban are King Bros). Now she is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In accepting the award today, she said, “It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”

Kalish Satyarthi is no slouch either. His work on child labor around the world led to the creation of a labor standard known as Convention 182. It doesn’t end child labor (Wal-Mart would go out of business), but it does help to discourage some of the most abusive practices in the global market. And it should be pointed out child labor typically means girl labor that comes with a wide range of concurrent abuses of females.

So maybe today people will see this story and spend a little more time on it than the “Royals” in New York or Mark Wahlberg’s crusade to clear his own name. Maybe they will think about the children around the world and how it connects to their own parenthood. I don’t know. I just want to have a day to imagine the tide turning.

Gender: Nature vs. Nurture, Round 1

December 9, 2014

If there is one thing that sociologists agree on it’s that people are products of their environment. After that, all bets are off. We definitely fall on the nurture side of the debate (although there is a growing wing of bio-sociologists that won’t rule out the nature side of social behavior). Gender is one of these topics that is socially constructed and not inherent.

Before you get your tighty whiteys in a wad, gender is not sex. Your sex is chromosomal and signified by your genitals. And even that is not an either/or situation as about 1 in 1000 births are intersexed. But gender is learned and it is learned different in different times and different places. Margaret Mead figured this out in the 1930s, looking at how gender on Pacific islands varied from Western culture. I figured this out moving from Georgia to Oregon. Monster Truck Masculinity is nowhere to be found in Portlandia.

So the issue is gender socialization (back to Barbie vs. GI Joe again). Sugar and spice and all things nice. Boys don’t cry, they sow their oats. The messages start as soon as the pink or blue bows go up on the mailbox. So can you raise a child in way that doesn’t define females as the “weaker sex” and all the psychosis that goes with that designation?

And let me say, I’ve got plenty of feminist friends who say their boys were just naturally more aggressive or their girls just gravitated away from trucks and towards princesses. I won’t rule out some genetic influence, but I’m not giving the good ship Nurture just yet.

Two thoughts for today.

First, these messages soak into a growing brain very early. Cozy is 15 weeks and 2 days old. Should I worry that she’s pretty in pink at this point? I know she sees it and associates it with comfort (that pink blanket is damn plush). But the real issue is how she gets feedback from the males and females in her tiny universe. (Let me say this discussion does not exclude same-sex parents. It actually invites them into the discussion.)

There’s a scene is Season 1 of Mad Men where old school guy Don Draper (idolized by many modern men) has made an appearance at home and is trying to find out what’s bothering his wife. His life is defined by his work (and his affairs) and home is just a place to recharge. Betty puts it very simply, “I need to know you are going to help raise these children.” It’s a powerful scene that reflects both that time in the early 1960s as well as so many modern families.

In this house our baby is learning that both parents are present. Both parents nurture, change diapers, feed hunger, and cuddle cries. It is not the job of one gender. “Hey, honey, the baby is crying! Can you do something?” Fans of Mad Men will know that, despite his swarthiness and alleged freedom, Don Draper is not a happy person. Being a stay-at-home dad makes me the anti-Don Draper. But I can still be pretty dashing. Besides, according to my wife, men with babies are sexy.

Secondly (and maybe most sociologically important), you can’t raise a kid in a vacuum. You could be the most radical Andrea Dworkin feminist, but your kid is gonna live in a world where other girls have Barbies and other boys have Xbox Call of Duty and your big gender socialization plan is FUBAR. Gendered messages are insidious. Yeah, cartoons are better these days (Shout out to Dora the Explora!) but there are still a thousand signals a day that girls need to be pretty first.

It’s not hopeless, but it does help to explain how gender can seem natural. “We never had any violence in our house but my son bit chunks off his toast until it looked like a handgun! WTF?” Gender culture will seep into your world no matter what you do. The challenge is to present a consistent counter-message. Girls are not their looks and boys are not their fists. The final result will be a compromise. Sorry.

Of course, it’s possible for little princesses to become CEOs and little warlords to become feminist activists. The problem is all the crap you gotta go through to make that transition. Why not get it right from the start?

This is all pie in the sky for me at this point. With my luck, Cozy will want to trade all her Dora gear in for a debutante ball and then marry a mid-level manager at Chic-fil-A just to spite me. I’m really going to be looking to my friends for clues on this one. What did you do when your daughter said she that when she grew up she wanted to be a Real Housewife of Atlanta? Time to find some blue baby clothes.

Bake Bread for Peace!

December 8, 2014

There are dates that are frozen in time for people. December 7, 1941. September 11, 2001. For me, it’s easily December 8, 1980. As a 16-year-old Beatle fanatic, hearing that John Lennon had been brutally murdered meant the dream was over. I remember thinking that I would never smile again as a protest to the world’s unfairness.

Making it even harder was that John had recently come out of retirement with a new album, Double Fantasy. There were even rumors that he would tour in 1981 (with Cheap Trick as his band!). When his son with Yoko, Sean, was born in 1975 he put the music on hold. He became something nobody had ever heard of before, a house-husband.

John Lennon championed feminism in the 1970s. This is the guy who released a song called “Woman is the Nigger of the World” as a single! The revolutionary was now revolutionizing the home front. Let the wife work. Stay at home with the baby. And other men began to follow. Now 16% of stay-at-home parents are fathers.

In one of his last interviews, with Playboy, he explained that when he baked his first loaf a bread, it was like a hit record and he took a Poloraid of it he was so excited. The interviewer then asked him what he had been working on while he was staying home at the Dakota. He replied, “Are you kidding? Bread and babies, as every housewife knows, is a full-time job.”

December 8th is always a hard day for me. I play John’s music, cry, and think about how much the world has missed out because a lunatic got his hand on a gun. I’ve made pilgrimage to that spot in front of John’s beloved New York home many times, including on the December 8, 2000. There I was joined by hundreds of other fans singing John’s songs of peace. That’s when I got busted by a NYC cop for taking a hit from a dove-tailed joint while we sang “I Am The Walrus.” (But my white privilege saved my ass. Goo goo ga joob.)

Now that I am a house-husband myself, I understand why John did it. What could be more rewarding than spending your days with your baby and finding zen in the home routine? It’s bliss and I feel sorry for every dad who has to work and anger at every dad who just splits. You fools. You colossal fools. Do you know what you’ve given up. I’m kneading bread while my infant daughter smiles at me. This is life’s great reward. This is peace.

There’s a song on Double Fantasy called “Clean Up Time.” I didn’t get it when I was 16 but now that my queen is off working, it’s a bit of an anthem.

The queen is in the counting home,

Counting out the money,

The king is in the kitchen,

Making bread and honey,

No friends and yet no enemies,

Absolutely free,

No rats aboard the magic ship,

Of perfect harmony,

So this year, here’s what I’m doing to remember John and his campaign for peace. I’m baking bread. I’ve never made it from scratch before, but the dough is rising right now. When it’s done, I’ll take a picture of it (and post it below). And when my wife gets home from work, we’ll eat it. And we’ll look at the baby and know that, in this house at least, there is peace.

We all shine on.

My Favorite Mistake

December 5, 2014

I started a baby journal while my wife was pregnant. They were notes to my unborn daughter. I wanted to capture all the swirling emotions, excitement and maybe a few tidbits of wisdom. Andrea was reading it last night and was bothered that I encouraged future Cozy to “have romances with boys or girls that are bad for you.” It became a bit of a thing between us. I slept on the couch. (In her defense, she was concerned that I was encouraging our daughter to be careless with her sexuality or choose abusive partners, a valid concern.)

My point is to not be afraid of making mistakes. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn something. That includes relationships with people who are not right for you. Every moment offers a potential life lesson. How do you respond when you get a flat tire or a broken heart? Even turning down the wrong isle at the grocery store can open a door. “Gee, maybe I should try some Masala sauce on my chicken tonight.”

And yes, this can include one night stands. There was a girl who is long gone from my life, but she was really into Joni Mitchell. What did I learn? That I really love me some Joni Mitchell. Joni is still in my life even though Ms. One Night is not. I had a drunken hook-up with a neighbor once. The next day we had a conversation about how neither of us had been in a state to be consensual. What did I learn? Don’t let a drunken fun veer into date rape. Not good.

I don’t want my daughter to be a “wanton woman.” Yet I want her to own her sexuality and not fear the slut-shaming double standard. I want her to be safe (believe me, we’ll have that talk – with pictures.), but I also want her to take risks with her heart.

I love the story that Sheryl Crow’s song, “My Favorite Mistake” is about a fling with Eric Clapton. If it’s true, she slept with “God.” So it didn’t work out, she got at least a great song out of it. How many great works of art are based on mistakes?

I’ve had a lot of dead ends in my life. Some lasted years before I found out that person was bad for me (or I was bad for them). If I paid attention, I learned something. The first person I said, “I love you” to was Starla, my college girlfriend. I was an idiot. Not because of her. She was a stellar person and is even more stellar now. I was an emotional idiot and had no idea how to be in a relationship. Our break-up was crushing but started me on a path of self-discovery that included figuring out how feminism could make me a better partner with women. That prepared me to have a wonderful relationship with a hella strong woman like Andrea.

My fear is the whole Romeo & Juliet thing. Teen star-crossed lovers end up dead rather than be apart (sorry if I just gave away the ending). I get that feeling. I’ve lived it. But I didn’t die. I’m always leery of people who marry their high school sweethearts. There is no way 99% of 18-year-olds can know what they will want or need in a partner for the next 6 months let alone 6 decades.

So yeah, I want Cozy to shop around. It’s expected that boys will. Get a Whitman’s Sampler and see what you like. Maybe it will be a cowboy or maybe it will be doula. But if not, chock it up to experience. The biggest part of finding out what you like is finding out what you don’t like. Life is long. You have plenty of time to make mistakes.

The greatest singer in the world.

December 4, 2014

I really hate the term “rock star.” It implies one is a narcissistic prick who wants some poor schlep to remove all the brown M&Ms from the bowl. Rock stars don’t have empathy or fight the good fight. Gene Simmons is a rock star. Same with the term, “diva.” If I was a singer and somebody called me a diva I would slap them in the face with my silk gloves.

So don’t call me a rock star. But you can call me the greatest singer in the world, if you want. I certainly am not. I was the singer of a punk rock band called Poop for one night, but that’s punk rock. And my stage name was “Nasty Crevice.” The reality is I am more likely to cause people to ask for their checks in karaoke bars as I try to get through a rendition of “Maybe I’m Amazed” that I thought was in my key. (Turns out my key is more Ringo on bad day than Paul on any day). But my daughter Cozette doesn’t know that.

We play plenty of music in this house (See Cozy’s College of Musical Knowledge in this blog), but I’ve been singing to her since her birthday. Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking. For some reason, “Yellow Submarine” was the first song I chose to calm her cries. (I know, I know, it should have been “I Am Woman,” which actually is in my key.) Somehow my singing works like magic and I fear the day when she realizes I am not the gold standard in vocalizing. That would be Perry Como.

When you Google “feminist lullabies” nothing really comes up. I did see folk-singer Odetta once discuss the radical theme hidden in “Rock-a-bye Baby.” It’s a pretty dark tune if you sing it like Trent Reznor. I guess I could work my way through the Ani DiFranco song book. But for her “fourth trimester,” here was the playlist:

“Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles

“Blue Bayou” by Roy Orbison

“Rivers of Babylon” by The Melodians

“Close Your Eyes” by Linda Ronstadt

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

“Oops, I Did It Again” by Britney Spears (for diaper changes)

“Human Behavior” by Björk

“Baby Face” by Little Richard

“I Love You Truly” by Bing Crosby (sung as “I love you, Drooly” when she drools)

“Golden Slumbers” by The Beatles

“Goodnight” by The Beatles

“Este Niña Linda” (a Mexican folk song)

“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea

“Oh My Love” by John Lennon

Oh, the guilt.

December 3, 2014

Being a new parent brings on a lot of strange emotions. I’ve already mentioned the love, love, love, crazy love. Then there’s the guilt. Neurotic guilt. My new daughter has turned me into Woody Allen’s character in Hannah and Her Sisters (which I’m sure is just Woody Allen). Managing the guilt is something I’m not sure how to manage.

It starts before the baby is even born. I worried I wasn’t offering enough nutritional or emotional prenatal support. Why, oh, why did I let Andrea have that sip of beer? That probably knocked three points off our kid’s IQ score. Should I have played more classical music while she was in utero? I played Nirvana’s In Utero album, but what if that loud music messed her up?

I read a lot of books during that period, including Prenatal Parenting: The Complete Psychological and Spiritual Guide to Loving Your Unborn Child by Dr. Wirth Frederick. It details how to create a healthy environment for your baby’s brain to develop in. But I sort of skipped over the sections about “God.” Was that bad?

Then the guilt ramps up once the baby arrives. I feel guilty about my constant fear that I might drop her or accidentally dislocate her arm putting on her Yoko Ono onsie. I worry that I’m not doing enough for her intellectual or emotional development. She seems to like TV. That’s not good, right?

Yesterday I went into a shame spiral because I let her cry for 20 minutes, not realizing she had a soaking wet diaper. I just kept shoving the binky in her mouth, saying “Baby, please stop crying. Daddy needs to blog.” Then I felt guilty for sticking my finger into her diaper, worrying it will be logged in her subconscious for some later neurosis of her own. “I have a vague memory of my father’s finger in my diaper.” Lord.

If fact she’s crying now, with a dry (finger tested) diaper. So we are going to take a few minutes to dance in the living room to the Flaming Lips.

The gender guilt is another killer. I thought I could interrupt the wave of pink everything, but it would have been like a elderly toad stopping a convey of Wal-Mart long-haul trucks. And a gift is a gift, so, thanks for whatever you gave us, pink or otherwise. But I will draw the line at toys! I promise! But it’s a daily thing. I accidentally called her  “my little princess” one day and thought, “Well, that’s it. I’ll try harder with the next daughter. Might as well go buy Barbie’s Dream House for this one.”

It’s still early. She’s only three and a half months old. When I tell her, mid-squall,  “There’s no crying in baseball,” I don’t have to share my inner monologue that says, “Why not? Baseball is good and so is crying? Why can’t there be crying in baseball?” Thanks, Tom Hanks.

My goal is to raise a human that is free of gender, that isn’t stuck in what Judith Butler called “gender trouble.” But, in this culture, it’s one step forward, two steps back. I want her to be surrounded by the strong feminine characters in her life (especially her Latina family members), but am I poisoning the well early by being a stay-at-home dad? I feel guilty about having this intense bonding time with her that my wife is missing.

And of course, added to this, is the guilt I feel toward my wife. The baby takes emotional attention that I used to lavish on her. I know she’s wondering what happened to the guy who dragged her into a bar restroom to make out. And I worry her career as an artist has been derailed to be a working mom. She is such a talented artist, I feel really guilty about this one. My mom dropped out of college to have me in the 1960s. Am I just reproducing the Mad Man patriarchy of the home? Crap.

So, yeah, lots of guilt betweens moments of extreme bliss. I imagine that this is “normal” but I think feminist parents get an extra layer of it. I’d like to think that I’m getting more things right than I’m getting wrong. Time will tell. As long as I don’t drop her too many times. OK, she’s crying again. It’s a cold day and she only has one sock on. I suck. Gotta go.

These books are available at Powell’s by clicking the covers below.