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The Difference Between Mom and Dad

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Last week Danny Takemoto left the house for work, taking his 11-month-old baby son, Ian, to be dropped off at day care. Around 3:00 he got a call from his wife: how come, she wanted to know, Ian never got to the center? Takemoto gasped, raced out his office and down to his tightly locked-up car, where he found the infant, dead of heat stroke.

My first reaction to this story was profound sympathy for Danny Takemoto. Not that this is the first time an infant or child ever died in a locked car; according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it happens about three dozen times a year, usually when a father or grandparent forgets, like Takemoto, that the child was there. When a mother leaves a kid in the car, she’s almost always drunk or stoned.

Pondering my reaction to Takemoto’s forgetfulness, I tried to put myself in his shoes, but immediately realized that I would never ever forget my kid was in the car; I doubt that any sober mother would. I’m not saying this to boast, or to claim moral superiority; it’s just a fact of motherhood. I remember riding in the car with my babies, relieved when they fell asleep in the back, leaving my mind free–a rare luxury. Still, I was never completely unaware of their presence for even a second. I am so tied to my children, I sometimes wonder if the umbilical cord was correctly cut. I’ve heard the mother-child bond described as a “silver cord,” something to do with the invisible connection that remains of the cord after it’s severed.

Fathers have no such cord, invisible or otherwise, and live with a freedom that no woman will know once she’s borne a child. I’ve heard women complain, in Mommy and Me groups, that “his life has hardly changed,” while she has a whole new agenda. Even the most involved of daddies, those who share nighttime feedings, split child care fifty-fifty—even these daddies don’t have that almost physical attachment mothers retain forever. (I think I can vouch about forever, since my kids are in their 40s and I’m still psychologically bound.) Even when a baby is given up for adoption, the woman remains aware of his or her presence in the world.

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I’ve often envied fathers their freedom from this sometimes suffocating attachment, seeing it as just another aspect of male privilege. Thinking about Danny Takemoto, whose baby died alone in a car, and who must live out the rest of his life bearing this burden, whose wife might never forgive him, whose friends, family and even neighbors will judge him, and who could even go to jail to boot, I’m thinking more along the lines of female privilege: the safety net given us by Mother Nature, the silver cord that helps us protect our babies.

Say a prayer for Danny Takemoto, or at least find it in your heart to forgive him.

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4 responses »

  1. I find this very interesting! I agree because a mom becomes a mom the day she finds out she is pregnant and more often than not, it takes dad a while. I have a post going up next week about the 5 myths of fatherhood and I do mention that your baby will be fine – but it really makes me re-think that statement.

    Thanks for your comment. Your site sounds interesting, and very much needed. The reason women’s lives still don’t work despite the changes of the past 40 years is that fatherhood hasn’t changed enough — who knows if it is even possible. It’s good to re-think the assumption that it will all work out. Sometimes it doesn’t, unfortunately.–MS

  2. http://www.socialstork.com — this is a new social hub for moms and babies, and the word on the street is they are currently trying to revamp it so its for dads too! I think its very important that they do this! Dads need to be considered number one/primary caregivers just as mom is, from the day a child is born into both of their lives!
    Check it out guys|!

    You are so right–as I said in the above comment response, we don’t know if men and fatherhood will ever change enough, but we’ll never know if we don’t try. You’re doing a good thing. Good luck with it. And thanks for stopping by.–MS

  3. Maybe for this very reason, I prefer doing certain things for my children, rather than asking my husband to do them, though he is one of the most caring fathers I’ve seen (he has inherited it from his father)! It’s just that he has the amazing power of doing those things for his children (the few instances when he does them, like when I’m not well or am overloaded already) with a kind of detachment that enables him to also work from his laptop parallely with much more focus on the latter, that I wouldn’t be able to do! I envy him and wish I could be a little less attached, but then I also get irritated when I see that lack of attachment in him! In India, when a father does a fraction of what a mom usually does, he gets lauded while when the mom misses out on a small fraction of her motherly duties, she is immediately talked about!
    The heartrending mishap will shock anybody!

  4. This is a typical female one sided view of bringing a child into the world… but I guess that makes sense since your kids are in their 40’s you come from a different era. A father (I just had my first son 3 days ago) the responsibility I feel and overwhelming pressure to protect and provide for my son is so great I take great offense at the attempt of this article to demonize fathers and men. Should I write and article and compare a single case involving a woman who drowned her baby because she felt she was doing him a favor by not making him grow up in a harsh and unfair world and paint all women as smothering and overprotective? Of course not because that is obsurd… much like your article you have written here.

    Demonize? I demonized fathers and men? You obviously missed the whole point.–MS
    (Oh, and by the way, what you say is obsurd, simply obsurd!)

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