“I don’t change diapers. Disgusting. That’s women’s work”.
Those words, my friends, were spat from the mouth of my cousin’s partner. The father of their six month-old child. Six months. So, about 184 days. If we guesstimate that your averagely-hydrated, bouncing baby cruises through approximately eight diapers a day, that’s nearly 1500 diapers he’s refused to change. 1500 diapers his wife has taken off, washed, and re-fastened. Because it’s women’s work.
You often hear the question, posed in a teasing voice to new fathers, “so, have you changed a diaper yet?”. I have no idea why refusing to change diapers is a badge of honour among some men. A symbol of their manliness. A shorthand code indicating they haven’t been feminised by the arrival of a baby. It’s almost said with pride, or issued as a challenge.
Because cleaning up someone else’s waste is beneath them. It’s a dirty task. You get mustard baby-poo under your nails. A sharply-aimed squirt drenches you in urine. A rushed change means that later in the day, you find a swipe of sunshine across your cheek, missed in the flurry of clothes removed, buttons snapped, fasteners sealed.
Some men are just above handling all that mess. It’s a task you give to the hired help. Or your wife. You may as well say, ‘I’m too important to handle someone else’s bodily fluids. But my wife? Nah, she’s so low, she’s worth so little, it’s perfect for her”. That’s how little I think of the person I love, the person I chose to spend my life with, the co-creator of this wonderful being. That’s the level of contempt I have for the mother of my child. Not only is being knee-deep in this creature’s filth perfect for her, not only is this thankless, mundane task just right for her, it also takes up her time, and she really doesn’t have enough to do. Between feeding, rocking, soothing, laundry, groceries and perhaps even wedging in a shower, she’s pretty much footloose and fancy free. She’s totally got time for yet another childcare task!
All those thoughts ran through my mind in an instant. And yet I was so dumbfounded by his statement, I couldn’t think of anything to say.