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Real Men Change Diapers!

How many of you Dads have embraced the role of father, and I mean truly embraced it? Did you build the cribs and changing tables for the new arrival, as it gestated in their mother's belly? Did you Instagram the sonogram? Were you in the room for the arrival, and did you experience wonder and awe at nature's processes for bringing a baby from IN THERE to OUT HERE?

Did you rock your child to sleep, maybe with a loud cry in your ear, as you marched up and down in hopes of calming a colicky or cranky little one? Did you create and maintain the blessed ritual of bedtime story time, beginning with picture books, marveling at the growth in attention directed at the books as you progresses from pictures to words to stories to life lessons?

Did you change diapers, dude? Or did you opt out of the dirty work? I hope you opted for the former, because it put you in touch with the raw work of parenting, the smelly, the stinky, the reality of our waste material. You got in tune with how to stock a diaper bag well, as necessary for any foray outside of the home, because you don't want to get stuck without "fill in the blank".

Fatherhood is the only job that only a man can do. It comes with stunning alterations in what you thought to be given things in your world, such as your partner's undivided attention, now divided into less than half.

A wife, a girlfriend, a partner in procreation who adds the title "mother" is now a different person, as her body announced over the last nine months but which yours did not, except subtly, as in my personal case of hair loss. Clumps of it in the drain, except that hers grew back, and my forehead grew taller by the month until it reached the ceiling.

Men in cultures where gender roles are divided strictly don't do much of this ground work. They may not have had to in cultures where multiple generations lived under the same roof, or within shouting distance of each other. Indeed, I'd wager many a man who wished to take a bigger role in child raising was rebuffed or shooed away by a Granny, Auntie, or other who saw a father's role as to provide, put food on the table, but also to get out of the way of the baby stuff.

I look around me in the modern Western world now, or reflected back to when my kids were small, and there was no such network of female support for my wife other than a loose network of stay-at-home Moms, most of whom with little ones of their own. Not quite the same, so Dads needed to step up and help pull the cart of parenting at home. This inevitably included changing a smelly kid into a clean and shiny one. Rinse, lather, repeat.

There's a balancing of energies and roles in this modern model that's instructive on a bigger level. Men who embrace the nurturing qualities of being a Dad, the cuddling, the rocking, the singing to sleep, the stories, and, yes, the poop and pee, are honing their skills for the bigger world in which their feminine qualities are needed in balance with their energetically male ones: strength, determination, leadership, and focus on a goal.

In the movie version of "Paint Your Wagon", the manliest musical ever made, there is a touching scene in which a nursing mother arrives into a camp full of gritty gold miners, men hardened by labor and toil.

The burliest in the crowd offers her his gold pouch in exchange for the privilege of holding the baby. She agrees, and the moment when the baby settles into his arms is unforgettable. What better way to describe how tenderness lies at the heart of every man, no matter how rough and unpolished he may appear to be on the outside.

Let's lean into that yearning and embrace the honor of being a father!

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