Modern Father Says He Got a Tougher Deal Than His Father

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modern father, rough deal

Photo from NPR

Have modern dads gotten a tougher parenting deal than their fathers had?

Great interview with father and author Michael Lewis (husband to former MTV host Tabitha Soren) who answers this question with a resounding "Yes!" and talks about his new book Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood.

Michael Lewis believes, indeed, he got a tougher deal than his father in the parenting department. He recalls his own father watching him change diapers and get his babies dressed and saying, "What are you doing? I didn't talk to you until you were 21."

In this NPR interview, Lewis is blunt about fatherhood. He says his wife "got a deal that his mother would kill for." Don't get mad at him though. He's being honest. Today's dads are taking on more of the parental drudgery (more, but still not most). He says "Most men, when the 'thing' arrives (and it feels like a thing to a lot of men), the big problem is a lack of natural emotional attachment. This emotion you're supposed to be feeling out of the gate is something you have to acquire. You have to learn it."

The part of Lewis's interview that I have a problem with is that I completely related to a lot of what Lewis explained as a "father experience." I think some of these feelings he describes are those of most first-time parents. While I did feel emotionally bonded "out of the gate," I know many many new mothers do not.

When Lewis explains, "No one prepares us for how it sucks," I nodded furiously. When he says, "You start with sleep deprivation, which, of course, is a common torture technique," I laughed, but only because those consistent nights of sleeplessness are behind me. Those nights when you feel crazed in the tired, so crazed that you cry and want to kill your husband who is only losing sleep. He is not also dealing with the physical repercussions of squeezing a baby out. He is not surging with irrational-thinking hormones. He is not trying to make a screaming baby latch onto his red and painful breast. 

Of course, I don't think Lewis intends to argue that new fatherhood is harder than new motherhood (based only on the interview), and I can definitely appreciate that new parenthood is different for fathers. I did enjoy his honesty about the feelings of parental ineptitude, and I think they're quite interesting juxtaposed with my own feeling of ineptitude as a mom, feelings I believe I still have to push past most days in order to sustain my sanity and the bond with my children.

I find it most interesting to consider the difference between the fathering that Lewis is doing to the parenting that the fathers just 10 and 20 or more years ago were (or weren't) doing. In my opinion, this evolution is a great thing for our children and, maybe even more so, for their mothers. However, I look forward to hearing more from modern dads on this one.

Would your husband/partner say he got a tougher parenting deal than his father? Do you think the "tougher deal" is a better deal in terms of parent-to-child and parent-to-parent relationships?

Read an excerpt from Home Game on NPR. Read Michael Lewis's Dad Again essay series on Slate.

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