New Book Says That Fatherhood Can Be A 'Misery' For Dads

Filed under: Books for Parents

Move over "Bad Mother." Make room for "Bad Father."

According London's "Daily Mail," men are finally speaking up about the sadness they feel when they have kids.

Day Out with Daddy: Celebrity Dads and Kids

    Matthew McConaughey
    Matthew McConaughey sits in the sand with son Levi on the beach in Malibu. Levi is McConaughey's first child with model/handbag designer girlfriend Camila Alves.

    Tom Brady
    The New England Patriots' star quarterback, Tom Brady, visits with his son, John Edward Thomas Moynahan. Mom is Brady's former girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan. Brady married Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen in February 2009 in Los Angeles.

    Revolutionpix / Fame Pictures

    Matt Damon
    Actor Matt Damon gives his daughter, Isabella, a lift at LAX Airport. Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, have two daughters together -- Isabella and Gia. Luciana also has a daughter, Alexia, from a previous marriage.


    President Barack Obama
    Despite his insanely busy and important schedule, President Barack Obama makes it a point to spend as much time as he can with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

    Getty Images

    Brad Pitt
    Actor Brad Pitt, who has six children with actress Angelina Jolie, visits the playground with three of their kids -- daughter Zahara, and sons Pax and Maddox. Not pictured are daughter Shiloh and twins Vivienne and Knox.

    James Devaney, WireImage

    Will Smith
    Will Smith and two of his children with actress wife Jada Pinkett Smith -- daughter Willow and son Jaden -- enjoy a night out in New York City. Smith also has a third child, son Trey , from his previous marriage to Sheree Zampino.

    Eric Charbonneau, Le Studio/Wireimage

    Tom Cruise
    Actor Tom Cruise walks the streets of Manhattan with his daughter, Suri Cruise; mom is actress Katie Holmes. Tom also has two other children -- daughter Isabella and son Connor -- from his previous marriage to actress Nicole Kidman.

    James Devaney, WireImage

    Sexy crooner Seal, seen here playing in the park with one of his sons, has three children with supermodel wife Heidi Klum -- daughter Leni, son Henry and son Johan. The couple recently announced that baby #4 is on the way!


    Gavin Rossdale
    Singer Gavin Rossdale hanging out on the slopes with his oldest son, Kingston. Rossdale and his singer/fashion designer wife Gwen Stefani have two sons, Kingston and Zuma.

    Michael Buckner, Getty Images

    Ben Affleck
    Actor/director Ben Affleck picks up his oldest daughter, Violet, from school. Ben and his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, have two daughters – Violet Ann Affleck and Seraphina Rose Elizabeth Affleck.


Becoming a father is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a man's life. And until now, they haven't dared say otherwise. A new genre of confessional literature is breaking the taboo, revealing that many men feel demoralised, depressed or just plain bored when their partner has a baby. Such work is raising awareness that post-natal depression can hit men as well as women.

The "Daily Mail" cites Michael Lewis' new book "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood" as an example. The article quotes Lewis as saying that he wrote his book "because of this persistent and disturbing gap between what I was meant to feel and what I actually felt. I expected to feel overcome with joy, while instead I often felt only puzzled. I was expected to feel worried when I often felt indifferent. I was expected to feel fascinated when I actually felt bored."

But boredom isn't the worst thing that Lewis felt: "The worst feeling was hatred. I distinctly remember standing on a balcony with her squawking in my arms and wondering what I would do if it wasn't against the law to hurl her off it. A month after Quinn was born, I would have felt only an obligatory sadness if she had been rolled over by a truck. Six months or so later I'd have thrown myself in front of the truck to save her from harm. What happened? What transformed me from a monster into a father?"

There are certainly expectations heaped upon fathers. But they are far less severe than those heaped on mothers. A mother who works, for example, is expected to be able to leave early and attend a school play or soccer game. If she doesn't get there, she's a bad mother. A father who does the same thing is a hero. If he doesn't go to the game, it's less of a big deal. (Frankly, if a mother works at all, she is often made to feel like a failure. Is that ever true of fathers?) On the other side of things, modern feminists like Katie Roiphe can take women to task for focusing too much on their kids. Choose to stay at home? Bad woman. But if a man chooses to be a stay at home dad? He's doing something wonderful. In other words, women are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Society generally gives men far more flexibility in this area.

The most frustrating part of the "Daily Mail" article is this notion that women are somehow wired for parenting and men are not. Author and father Darin Strauss says, "It's different for women. When my son was a minute old, my wife held him up and asked, 'Don't you love him so much?' I didn't really understand how she could ask such a thing. That purple squirming howler? Men, I think, need to be won over."

Maybe that's true for some men. But it's also true of some women. I know a physical therapist who sometimes takes on extra work as a "parenting coach." I asked her what that meant. She said that she would show parents -- usually mothers -- how to play with their kids. Tickling their tummies while changing a diaper, for example. When I told my friend I was surprised that a parent would need that kind of coaching, she said that I shouldn't be. Lots of parents, even women, did not have any idea what to do with a child.

I remember very clearly the first time I held my sons. It was amazing, almost indescribable, especially my oldest, since I had never before experienced the feeling of holding my own child. I hope I never forget what it was like to look into his little face, his little hands... I didn't need to learn how to feel that way. I just did. But I don't think that makes me a better person than someone who looks at their newborn and thinks, "Ew. Slimy." People are different, not just men and women.

As for this "new genre of literature," I think that admitting to having negative feelings about your kids may be a new thing for some dads, but to me, it doesn't seem all that revolutionary. Yes, most parenting books are still very warm and fuzzy. Fathering books, at least the ones that I've read (well, started to read and then become bored with) seem to be more "I wish I could give birth" as opposed to "I'll be in the waiting room with a cigar, call me when the kid pops out." Even children's books seem to be limited to certain types of father. But "revolutionary"? Not so much. In fact, it's very retro. "Maternal love may be instinctive," says Lewis, "but paternal love is learned behaviour." Sounds pretty old-fashioned to me.

What do you think? Are women "wired" for parenting in a way that men aren't?

Brett Singer is the editor-in-chief of You can follow his tweets at

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.