Children in our culture are a little like religion. You're not supposed to question or criticize. So when I wrote a book called "The Reluctant Father" about my experience as a first-time dad, I expected a horde of enraged villagers to gather outside the front door demanding my head on a stick.
It’s not that I’m saying anything particularly new — it’s just that I’m saying it in public. Which either makes me brave, or an idiot. (Or a brave idiot.)
When my daughter Loulou was born, my predominant emotion was confusion. Confusion at the lack of love I felt. Most of us grow up primed by all the movies and TV we've digested to feel certain things at certain moments. So when your child is born, you're supposed collapse on the floor, awash in a tsunami of love.
That didn’t happen to me — at all.
I had no idea what to do with this odd little alien that had burst out of my beautiful wife.
I didn’t understand how to communicate with it. I didn’t understand what it wanted.
I didn’t understand what had happened to my relationship with my wife.
Did I mention I didn’t understand very much?
More than anything, I felt as though I wasn’t supposed to communicate these feelings. I wanted to be honest. It saddened me that so many of my friends (men AND women) felt that they couldn’t speak honestly to their partners.
Of course, in retrospect, I might have been slightly TOO candid to my wife, but in the end, I think we’re both happy how it turned out (that’s my version, and I’m sticking to it).
To cut a long story short, this particular tale has a Hollywood ending. I’m now a fully paid-up member of the Loulou cult, proudly announcing to the world that her every action is remarkable and unprecedented.
In fact, I’m just the kind of dad I hated, a few years ago.
Women who felt similarly about their own babies, but felt they couldn’t talk about it. Women who worry if they’ll love their child right away. Women who’ve used the book as a way to open up a discussion with their partner.
Men are expected to grumble and complain about babies, but for women to do the same? Heresy.
I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I would get, but I’m very happy it’s this one. Art isn’t often very useful. But it seems as though this book can help. And for me, that’s an honor.