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For Parents: What Does It Feel Like To Be A Baby?

For Parents: What Does It Feel Like To Be A Baby?

Hello, Mommy! Hello, Daddy! Here I am, your baby. The one that you’ve been anticipating the arrival of for months now. Only it may not be what you thought it would be like. I’m crying all the time, you don’t know what I want and you don’t know what to do with me. Here’s some news: I don’t know what I want or what to do with me either. Here’s some of the most important things we both need to learn about each other and how to make us all happy.

Finding Food

After spending months inside the warmth and comfort of mommy’s womb, I am thrown into this brave new world. I am unsure of what to do with myself, or even what I really am. Everything is so strange and I begin to cry out. “Where am I? Help!”. Suddenly I feel something holding me. I feel your warm skin and the constant thumping that seems so familiar to me. My cries begin to subside as I feel comforted by your embrace. I smell something enticing, colostrum, and I begin to root around for it. This delectable scent reminds me that I am hungry and would like to eat, but the umbilical cord that was attached to me all these months is no longer doing its job. I feel mommy’s nipple pressed against my lips and I begin to open my mouth. At first, I am clumsy and I fumble, not sure of what I am doing. But there’s something instinctual in my movements and I feel that this is the right course of action. Mommy helps to guide me and soon I latch on to her nipple. Mmmm, the sweet nectar! The liquid tastes just like what I was drinking in the womb all these months. I feel an instant comfort in the familiarity and I am now at peace.

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Skin-to-Skin

Your touch is comforting to me. Not only is it comforting but the skin-to-skin contact is helping me develop by stimulating the production of my growth and digestive hormones.The feel of your warm skin and the sound of your voice make me feel safe and secure. Don’t stop cuddling me, please! I hear your voices and it makes me stop crying as they are the same voices I’ve been hearing all along inside mommy’s womb. I listen to you speak, the tone in your voice, the change in pitch and inflection. I begin to learn the differences between your voices. Mommy’s voice sounds different than daddy’s. I feel the urge to open my eyes to see what all the fuss is about. I struggle to open my eyes so I can see the faces that match those sweet sounds, but my eyelids are so heavy. I feel tired. I let out a big yawn and instantly fall asleep.

Sleep and Crying

I have no sense of time, days and nights are an abstract thought. I wake up when I need something; when I feel hunger and when I feel discomfort. When I do wake up I sense my surroundings. Am I somewhere different? Is mommy or daddy close by? I let out a high-pitched cry, a signal for someone to come help me. As I cry I let out cortisol, a stress hormone that increases my heart rate and temperature. If I cry enough I can start to heat up and I begin to flail my arms and legs around. Only I don’t know these are my arms and legs. They are just foreign objects attached to me that I can’t seem to control. Whoops, I just smacked myself in the face. Ow, that hurt! I cry harder. Suddenly mommy appears. I hear her soft and comforting voice. I don’t know what she’s saying but it sounds nice. She picks me up and puts me in her arms. I smell something sweet and I want a taste, I turn my head in the direction of where the food is. Mommy attempts to feed me and I want to eat, but I am distracted. I begin to fight it, there is something else that needs your attention. I feel wet and irritated. My diaper is full and soggy. Please attend to it first, Mommy!

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Change my Diaper!

Mommy seems to get the hint immediately and she calls out. A moment later Daddy appears. He scoops me up in his arms and I cry out harder at first. I liked being in mommy’s arms, they were so warm. Daddy begins to change me. The whole process is no fun at all. I am cold and being poked and prodded at. I cry harder and I can feel Daddy isn’t having any fun either. I feel the wetness disappear and a soft and dry diaper is put on me. My clothes are back on and Daddy picks me up. I stop crying. I feel comfortable again and Daddy’s embrace is not so bad. He raises me up and we are suddenly face to face. He looks me in the eyes and I try to concentrate on his but it’s hard to see. My vision is not so clear – about 20/300. You might compare it to looking at the world through a glass bottle. He starts to pull me out a bit farther – about a feet away from his face. That’s much better. I still can’t see very well but it’s a bit clearer at this distance.

Utter Bliss

After a few moments, I remember I’m hungry and I begin to cry again. Daddy’s smile disappears. I start flailing around and rooting for some food. Daddy reluctantly hands me over to Mommy and she begins to feed me. I am content again as I sink into Mommy’s arms and suck frantically for food. I want to tell Daddy not to take it personally. I love him just as much but I am also equally as hungry. Only I can’t tell him, at least not yet.

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Be my Rock, Be my Role Model

Over the next few months and years, I will grow and grow. I will learn something new every day and it will amaze you. I will surprise myself, I will feel frustrated but I will continue to persevere and push myself. But I can’t do it all on my own, I need you. I need you to support me and show me the way. I am so small and new to this world I don’t know what I’m doing. Please be patient with me and give me your unconditional love. This is all I need from you, Mommy and Daddy.

Featured photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer via flickr.com

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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