What Do You Expect From Your Baby Daddy?

BlogHer Original Post

Relationships, they are fickle. Responsibilities, however, are not. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with unwed parenthood. My group of friends and acquaintances are sort of boring that way. Those whom I’ve known who accidentally got pregnant always ended up marrying their baby daddies or mommies, and most of the time, they were planning to tie the knot anyway or were even engaged when the condom broke. The celebrity gossip hound in me is always shocked at how easily famous baby daddies (and mommies) are all, “Oh, this isn’t working anymore.” I’m even more shocked when they say, “I think I’ll leave my lady WHILE SHE’S PREGNANT.”

First, we had Kevin Federline. While I think Britney and Kevin are both several fries short of a Happy Meal, I was totally grossed out that Kevin left Shar Jackson while she was something like seven months pregnant with her second child with him. I was also shocked Shar would have a second child with someone who so clearly devalued their relationship in the first place.

It’s been interesting to follow the Bridget Moynahan/Tom Brady/Gisele Bundchen triangle, though. First off, I’m not sure if Tom knew Bridget was pregnant when he left or what. Perhaps he knew, and he hoped it would just go away. Kudos to Bridget for going on about her life holding her head up while her baby daddy moved on to none other than a supermodel. That’s gotta hurt.

Kate Darnton summed it up really well:

"It’s every mom-to-be’s worst nightmare: While you’re sweating through hot flashes in the ninth month (it had to be July!) of an interminable pregnancy, your baby’s father is gallivanting across Europe with the world’s (the world’s!) richest supermodel."

Let’s talk about baby daddies for a minute, though. (And baby daddies, please jump in, because I know many BlogHers are men.) What do we expect of our men as fathers? I think it’s safe to say we all expect both parents to stick around in whatever form that takes. Some families are broken apart by divorce, but there’s a big difference between a shared custody agreement and walking out of a relationship completely.

One woman, a stay-at-home mom with an on-the-road trucker husband, said this:

"Now on to the part where I get irritated. Through many venues for parenting I have read time and time again where mothers complain because there [sic] husband/partner/baby daddy doesn't 'help' at all unless they nag him. Most of these women are stay at home mothers though a few are working moms. Their definition of no help is their man coming home from work and not 'helping' with the children. Breaking up fights, cleaning up messes made during the day, etc. Then after nagging, the only help these moms get is with bath times and putting kids to bed.

In my opinion, what else should these men be doing? Should he walk in the door and immediately you walk out? Is that fair? In theory, both parents have been working hard all day so should the tasks of the children fall solely on one person's shoulders? You should be happy you get any help at all! Think of single mothers, military wives, or women like me, trucker wives."

Wow. I have to say, I totally disagree with her. But it's hard for me to envision her experience.

It can be hard to think about parenthood from the other gender’s perspective, as well. That’s why I get so excited to read daddybloggers or other fathers who choose to speak out about their parenting experience.

In an excerpt from his book, New Black Man , Mark Anthony Neal writes about being a father (and he emphasizes being a black father):

"Because adoption caused me to reassess my ideas of what black manhood meant—give serious thought to the very rigid ways that we define black masculinity in America—I was also forced reconsider what roles fathers play in the parenting process. Though I had considered myself a feminist long before I became a father, it was the birth and adoption of my daughter that forced me to understand that a shared parenting process was as important as notions that women should get equal pay for equal work."

Amen.

My own baby daddy and I have wedding rings engraved with “IAWT.” It means “it’s a ‘we’ thing.” When we met, we made the same money. When we had the little angel, I made a little more money. I still do. I point that out not to emasculate him or build up myself, but because so many people have said to me over the years, “Why don’t you just stay home with your daughter if you miss her so much?” One parent dropping out of the workforce only works if the parent dropping out is the parent making less money, usually significantly less money. Our need to mutually keep the finances afloat has affected our sharing of the household chores and childrearing responsibilities. It's shaped who we became as parents, probably more than we ever thought it would.

I know that if I stopped working for a paycheck I would shoulder most of the housekeeping and childrearing responsibilities, because I would personally view that as my job. I would view it as my job because I would have chosen that work over paid work, because in my personal situation, things would have to change significantly for me to be able to make that choice, and I would do a lot of the things we’re forced to outsource or ignore currently.

Because I go outside the home to work, I see childrearing tasks and housekeeping as being a much more shared gig, because there is no time during the day for either one of us to do the laundry, plan the meals, care for the yard, take out the trash, make the beds and read to the child. If there were, it would most likely be different.

Let me have it – what do you guys think?

A) Is there ever a good excuse for walking out on a relationship when the woman is pregnant?
B) How should you divide up childrearing tasks, and does it matter which parent works outside the home when you are figuring out who does what?

Happy Labor Day!

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