I had a long talk with three grandmothers today. Women full with wisdom, with decades-long experience in the ranks of the women’s movement. Women who were determined to birth their babies at home alone with their husband—one even during a hurricane. Women who run funding organisations with so much money that people continually wonder who their white, male boss is—and there isn’t one. Caribbean women who are politically conscious, plain speaking and generous with their advice. “Hug up your baby,” one of them said as I was on my way out. “And make some time for your husband.” Apparently, it’s common for partners to miss the easy, carefree relationships they had before babies come. For women, especially those who breastfeed, babies bring so much intimacy and bodily involvement, it’s easy to not need any more from anyone else at the end of a tiring day.
On the periphery of mother and baby wrapped up together, fathers stand lovingly looking on, wondering when their cool staying-up and sleeping-in late girlfriends turned into vitamin-popping wives, the kind that go to sleep at 9 pm, do that sexy breast-pumping thing and hum the alphabet song to themselves while folding clothes. These women said, trust them, he misses you, he wishes you were just still his and he doesn’t want you to forget you were his first. In the mix of managing to barely keep my head above water at work and making quality baby time full of joy, patience and endless hours of being nice, I have to make sure to look after my husband too? Hmph! Yet, they reminded me of an important lesson, not to let motherhood make me take partnership for granted. One helps the other and both are good for me, him and Zi. The great thing about getting advice from strong, no-nonsense feminists is that you know they are sharing life-earned lessons meant to keep you focused on what most matters.
One day when your baby has gone off in search of her friends, he will still be there to hold you tight, whether it’s a quick hug when you drag yourself in the door from the office or a long embrace, deep with warmth and familiarity. You know they are not telling you about husbands and marriage because of some idea of your role or status or duty, but to remind you that strong women need strong love too, and getting requires giving. And when they tell you about men’s needs, it’s not to excuse or indulge, but to suggest to you that a little sweetness always feels good. Isn’t that why you are in it too? Most of all, it’s easy to stop appreciating good marriages and supportive partners, so it’s wonderful to be so powerfully reminded to value what you rely on so much but may give so little time and thought to amidst the mania of it all.