Certain situations are easier to judge when you are on the outside looking in. I’ve always been judgmental to men who leave their kids behind and never create a bond with them. I’ve always perceived life from a place of privilege because I had both parents until the end and obviously had no understanding of the “other” world until I had a child of my own.
Two things need to happen for you to have a better relationship with your child as soon as they are born, over and above the sense of responsibility that this child now depends on you for everything. One, he needs to be fed, clothed and changing nappies etc, secondly; creating a bond between the child and father, critical because you are already 9 months behind compared to the mother. The bond requires you to get involved in everyday activities that you and your child do alone without the mother. Without these two things it’s very easy for men to leave their child and the mother of the child behind and start a new life.
The environment to create that bond is dependent on your relationship as a man with the mother. Are you together or co-parenting? How did you break up or are you both married to other people? That bond is easier as a father to create if everyone is under one roof and you are willing to participate in everyday activities that involve your child. If you are not together with the mother, it becomes more difficult to get involved unless the father has the determination to really get involved and make space for their own child in his life. Most men leave it and think that they will connect with the child later because there is advice amongst men that says “the first few years the child belongs to the mother, as a man you can get involved with your child later around the age of 7 or 8”. I was given this advice, by the way, I hadn’t heard of it until we got pregnant.
Making a baby is nice, but the pregnancy journey is hard on men, for this to work the man needs to be dedicated to both mother and child. The experience is great if the couple has a great foundation because your relationship will be tested during pregnancy. Some relationships don’t make it through the pregnancy period for various reasons and one of the reasons that makes it easier for men to leave is that during pregnancy nothing happens to us. Our bodies don’t change, moods, jobs are not impacted… nothing is impacted hence it’s men who can just leave and never turn back. Another thing is that if we were having problems before pregnancy – that period will amplify our problems. Your woman during this pregnancy is going through major changes that you have no understanding of and if you are not intentional about her and the baby, it’s easier to leave.
I know that I love my wife and I wanted this child, and when my son was born there were no angels singing nor was there a sense of me being a different man. The only thing that was there was the sense of responsibility over my son but there was no instant bond, I didn’t know the guy. He was a stranger to me, and at that moment I could leave my wife and child and start a new life elsewhere. I was shocked there was that possibility and I could understand how men felt/feel at that moment. Obviously, this is a selfish decision that is accompanied by bad advice and a lack of support from men’s society as a whole.
I enjoyed the pregnancy, but at the same time it was very hard because I had no support, I was on my own and most of the advice I got was nonsense. I’m an orphan so there was no go-to place for me – I had to depend on apps, Google, and some sort of intuition. I hope that I live long enough to be able to guide my son when he has his first child because that community doesn’t exist for men.
I hope that we create a better space now for the men coming after us so that they can find a softer and well-informed landing ground and ultimately, become better fathers.