Previously, from the same author.
When my employer called me into his office and granted me paternity leave on the birth of my first child, I had no idea what I was in for. Most of my male coworkers had already left the office at this point, having impregnated willing strangers in order to take twelve weeks’ paid time off in exchange for eighteen years of financial and personal responsibility.
“It’s twelve weeks’ time off,” Daniel shouted when he learned he’d successfully created a child with the head of the mechanics department. “I’m going to finally finish my heli-skiing novel!”
I simply wasn’t prepared for what all of this free time would do to me. I had planned, of course, to participate actively as a member of the household and as my wife’s partner — grease the dryer, dust the teakettle, rearrange the cat, and so on — but then, shortly after I walked in the door, I was tragically trapped under something heavy and have been unable to move from this spot in the living room. No one can move this burden from me, save the pure-hearted seventh son of a seventh son, and I do not believe that such a person exists.
It has been a difficult adjustment, to be sure. Once my wife asked me if I could help clean the floors as long as I was going to be down there anyway.
“I’m sorry, darling,” I had to tell her, “but without a job, I — like many men, including my grandfather before me, who was turned into a cinderblock wall after he retired — lack the psychic equilibrium to perform basic tasks. Also can you make me a michelada.”
My wife’s capacity and willingness to do everything necessary for the care and comfort of our child has flooded me with awe. In fact, I am so flooded with awe that I cannot move. It is all I can do to grin weakly at her, trapped as I am under a sea of my own admiration, as she struts powerfully by, dressing our son at several hundred nautical knots per hour while knitting his college application essay with her teeth.
I always thought that when the time came I would be able to be a fully present and engaged member of my family. I never dreamed I would be trapped under something so heavy.
I wonder what my son’s name is. Perhaps it is Jonathant.
How I wish I were capable of providing my son with the same kind of loving, careful attention as my wife is. But how can I compete? Her hands are made of dish scrubbers and teddy bears. Mine have been duct taped to these bottles of Hennessey and Old Crow, and I am too drunk to remember the difference between the wall and the floor. My wife has a diaper genie built into the back of her right calf. I have been forced by an evil wizard to watch the entire series run of Sons of Anarchy, through no fault of my own. Were I to lift my eyes from the Shakespearean machinations of a Californian biker and drug-smuggling family that loves as fiercely as they drug-smuggle for even a moment, I would surely turn to stone, and what good would I be to my child, or possibly children, then?
My wife is now more vacuum than human woman. Her attachments are many and efficient, but none of them can save me. I have asked her to bring me my novel, but I do not think that she can hear me, trapped as I am under this thing that has trapped me, preventing me from bathing or holding my son, which I would love so very much to do, instead of finishing this shandy.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.