The "Daddy" Perspective
Honey, is the baby crying?
I just read Sarah's post regarding the fact that men are hardwired not to hear a baby crying at night.
If you haven't read it yet, please do. It's a good post. I'll give you a moment...
On this topic, I feel compelled to speak out on behalf of my gender, and more importantly, in defence of Charles Darwin.
In her post, our resident Mom Without a Map quotes a study on the subject, which contends that a woman's maternal instincts (developed and honed over centuries) kick-in at the sound of any baby crying, anywhere, at any time, whereas men can sleep peacefully through the noise of a distraught child without issue.
Sleeping through the cries
I'll start with an admission of guilt. It isn't an issue much anymore, but when it was I admit that I often kept sleeping while my wife tended to Pea. In fairness, I woke up every now and then, but for the most part I slept right through the cries.
Am I proud of this? No.
Am I apologetic? In the moment, I was. I wished it were easier for me to wake up at the sounds of Pea crying, and truth be told I felt guilty the next day when my wife told me she was up all night with a baby suckling on her breast.
But, if my inability to hear Pea crying really is hardwired into me thanks to centuries of evolution, then I'm not sorry at all... and I contend that you Moms out there shouldn't be upset either...
I'll illustrate my point with the aid of mycafelatte.
One of the comments posted on Sarah's post was from an urbanmoms reader named mycafelatte. She tells of a time when her husband woke up with ninja-like skillfullness at the sound of a skunk rattling some pots and pans outside their tent on a camping trip.
"My husband's military training kicked in, he jumped up, grabbed his glasses and was out in a flash to catch the rodent."
I will suggest that mycafelatte's husband didn't arise as a result of his military training. I'll put forth that hundreds of years of hunter-gatherer wiring is what made him jump into action.
Let's face it. Nine times out of 10, when a young child wakes up there is only one thing he or she is after -- food. No matter how hard our male ancestors tried, there was no way that a man waking up at night was going to help the situation.
So, we learned to keep sleeping, to save our energy for hunting and protecting our families from skunks... or mastedons, or whatever predator lay in wait.
It sucks that we can't undo centuries of evolution over a few decades. But I will say this: the hardwiring works both ways.
I sleep closer to the bedroom door at our house, our weapon of choice lies under my side of the bed and I'm the one to scope out the house when something goes bump in the night. I get legitimately angry when someone at the mall gets too close to Pea and if she gets hurt, even accidentally, I get real jumpy. I'm not even an aggressive guy, but ever since Pea was born there is a protectiveness inside of me that is noticeable, and quite frankly, a little scary.
I may not have to fight mastedons anymore (did humans and mastedons even co-exist?), but I'm doing my best to live up to my evolutionary obligations as a Dad and I'm trying my damndest to undo the now-useless stuff so I can be a better Dad.
Doesn't that deserve a little lie-in at 3 am?
The image I posted above is a drawing by Margaret A. McIntyre called "The cave boy of the age of stone." A beautiful depiction of family life from a long, long time ago.
**Shawn, new Dad to daughter "Pea", provides us with a humour-filled peek into the amazing, awe-inspiring and often incomprehensible psyche of a Dad. Join him as he feels his way through the wild and wonderful world of new fatherhood, one blog post at a time. Visit Shawn at his blog Father Knows Best.