An incredibly sad and beautiful story of a father’s last days.
I’ve been a part of the Berlin Dad’s Slack for a while now which is proving to be an essential resource for dads who want to live a balanced life.
I would very much suggest you join if you’re a dad as well.
One of the biggest regrets I have is that we couldn’t arrange it so that I had parental leave by myself. In large part, this was because you don’t get twice the duration (28 months) when you birth twice the kids and I could only take three full months.
“But we don’t need a secret police to turn us into atomized, isolated souls. All it takes is for us to stand by while unbridled capitalism rips apart the temporal preserves that used to let us cultivate the seeds of civil society and nurture the sadly fragile shoots of affection, affinity, and solidarity.”
A roaring end to a lament on the fragmentation of work hours and as such also of society as it took place in America.
Germany still resists this trend by for instance not allowing shops to open on Sundays. I found this tremendously annoying, but I’m now starting to see the use and charm of quiet Sundays. (And now that I have kids, I manage to buy our groceries on Saturday.)
“Sometimes when he walks, I swear I can hear it, the depression. It’s a liquid sound. I can hear the cortisol sloshing around in his veins. I can hear the adrenaline drip-drip-dripping down the twisted cord of his spine.”
I’m afraid this piece has disappeared behind the Medium paywall, but The Weather by Aubrey Hirsch is one of the rare things I have ever read about post-partum depression in men and it is written like a punch in the gut.
Fisher says there is brain evidence that when women are under stress (say, a new baby has colic), they are inclined to “tend and befriend” (become more empathetic and social), while men under stress are apt to withdraw.
A study of heterosexual couples led by Shiri Cohen, a couples therapist and psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School, revealed that women reported feeling much happier when their male partners understood that they were angry or upset. “This research bore out what I see every day with couples,” Cohen tells me. “When the man can register his wife’s negative feelings, and communicate that on some level, the wife feels better, because she knows that ‘Oh, he gets how I’m feeling.’” She points out that, conversely, men do not derive the same satisfaction in knowing that their wives are upset. “Research shows that men tend to retreat from what feels like conflict to them, because they tend to physiologically get much more negatively aroused,” she said, “so conflict feels way more intense for them.”
so women have better memory and social cognition skills, making them better equipped for multitasking and creating solutions that can work within a group.
Brené Brown calls this tendency to project a motive onto someone without actually knowing the facts “the story I’m making up.”
No surprise there—but the mind-boiling part is that men’s stress levels fell if they kicked back with some sort of leisure activity—but only if their wives kept busy doing household tasks at the same time
meanwhile, found that married couples’ wounds actually healed more slowly when they had hostile arguments compared with so-called low-hostile couples. The stress from a fallout, they discovered, drove up blood levels of hormones that interfere with the delivery of proteins called cytokines, which aid the immune system during injuries.
“Tom, what you’re not getting, and this is true for most men I see, is that it is in your interest to move beyond your knee-jerk selfishness and entitlement and to take good care of your wife, so she isn’t such a raving lunatic all the time.”
“But the idea that you can haul off and be abusive to your partner and somehow get a pass, that you can’t control it, or whatever you tell yourself to rationalize it, is nuts. Also, your whole ‘angry victim’ role is going to get worse. You are extremely comfortable with your self-righteous indignation.”
We construct a plan for his phone to issue a spate of reminders before all school pickups.
A week later, Tom’s crisis negotiation skills are required yet again. It is a school morning, and he is sleeping in after a late night of binge-watching a Swedish crime series. I am up at 6 a.m. with our daughter, making her breakfast and lunch, supervising her homework, ordering a replacement water bottle after she somehow lost hers at school, filling out a form for a class trip, and baking carrot muffins for Tom.
“Men often do best if they know exactly what to do.” Do not use moralistic or shaming language, he continues, which only brings on defensiveness.
Tell your spouse that changing his behavior will directly benefit him because you will be happier and more relaxed.
I’ve learned to be protective of my time, just as my husband is.
“Both boys and girls learn that mothers have needs, too, which is also very important if they have children of their own,”
Those drained respondents negotiated their responsibilities anew every day, starting from scratch—as Tom and I had been doing. This cracked system trapped the participants in an exhausting cycle of “requests and avoidance of these requests.” Conversely, spouses who knew exactly what to do around the house didn’t spend as much time negotiating responsibilities and didn’t tend to monitor and criticize each other. Not surprisingly, “their daily lives seemed to flow more smoothly.”
“So my question to you is, if he waits that long, what does it cost you, other than your obsessive need to not have it pile up? What’s it actually costing you?”
Please, snorts couples therapist Esther Perel. “One important intervention for my clients who are mothers that overmanage—who are overwrought not by difficult life circumstances but by the culture of perfection that has captured parenthood—is that I tell them to go away for the weekend,” she says. I admit to her that I am that over-managing mother. “Then go away alone, go with your friends, go away with someone you haven’t seen in ages!” she says.
The Gottmans categorize couples as masters and disasters. Masters look purposefully for things they can appreciate and respect about their partner; disasters monitor their mates for what they are doing wrong so they can criticize them. Intent on being a relationship master, I order a stack of their books.
This means voicing what the Gottmans call the “three As”: affection, appreciation, and admiration.
When Tom is reading the paper, for example, he occasionally comments, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” This is a “bid,” a sometimes-subtle appeal for attention. If I reply, “Oh, what are you reading?” this response is what Gottman calls “turning toward” my partner—I have given him the encouragement he’s seeking. If I ignore his bid, I am “turning away” from Tom.
My friend Jenny, mother of two, tells her husband that saying “thank you” is the ultimate cheap buy-in. “The average mom does a hell of a lot,” she says. “And unlike at work or school, at home, rarely is anyone saying, ‘Good job.’
Of course, I am still “household manager,” constantly reminding Tom to do fundamental things such as feed the kid breakfast—but he does it.
Sometimes he even says, “Need a hand?”
Oh, that must feel bad. I can see why you feel like that. What can I say or do right now to make you feel better? It’s calculated, but who cares?
One girl mentioned that every morning when she left for school, her father would say, “You go, tiger—you go get them.”
Father-initiated playdates are fairly rare, but they’re important, particularly for daughters.
Research shows that doing chores makes children thrive in countless ways, and is a proven predictor of success,
She found that having children take an active role in the household, starting at age three or four, directly influenced their ability to become well-adjusted young adults.
Those who began chores at three or four were more likely to have solid relationships with their families and friends, to be self-sufficient, and to achieve academic and early professional success.
three-quarters of the garages they studied were so crammed with junk, the homeowners couldn’t store cars
He laughs and says he understands. He explains that he isn’t suggesting that women should pump up the male ego—rather, that the need to feel appreciated is universal. Who among us does not love praise and kindness?
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When she was unhappy about making the lengthy commute to her daughter Jennifer’s preschool, her husband, then the chief executive of Microsoft, said he would drive Jennifer two days a week.
If a fight is brewing, start with “I” statements.
Say “Thank you,” and say it often.
All of those gestures—and I’m aware they were mostly gestures—took a total of a few hours, but she was thrilled, it deepened their relationship, and the goodwill he received from me lasted for weeks.
Especially, I would add here, if you can find a therapist who yells at your husband, “Stop with your entitled attitude, get off your ass, and help her out!”
The FBI’s methods of paraphrasing and emotion labeling are remarkably effective.
We do our own flavor of attachment parenting and this is still one of my favorite pieces about motherhood.
The dropping arises from the combination of the laissez-faire attitude of Dutch parents along with the incredible safety of the Netherlands. I have been dropped as a child and I never considered that this was a uniquely local experience.
Whenever our kids are dismayed by somebody else, they come to us and say that there was either a human (ein Mensch!) or a kid (ein Kind!). No genders, no nothing.
Just like almost every public service in Berlin the pediatrician situation is absolute squalor. It’s impossible to find one who picks up the phone or takes on new patients.
We’ve had some bad incidents in the past with sketchy doctors because of this and now I’m trying to figure out why this is the way it is.
- Call my lead for a pediatrician
“We’re very sorry but we can’t take any new patients.”
- Call the Kassenärztliche Verein
“It’s not us who do this.”
I am told to call the Dachverband der Krankenkassen
- Call the Spitzenverband
“We do not determine how many pediatricians can settle in a given area.”
The telephone person says they are a temp and do not have any channel up to their leadership. I’m told to call my own Krankenkasse.
- Call Techniker Kankenkasse
‘Wir sind nicht dafür zuständig.’
The person says they have the same problem on a personal level in Hamburg but can’t really do anything for me professionally. I am told to call the Kassenärztliche Verein
- Call KV (again)
Reception says that I can get a peds appointment sometime in the future from a different number of theirs (not what I want). I called this number before and they will not give me a pediatrician and that is if they bother to pick up the telephone.
Every instance says “Dafür sind wir nicht zuständig.” and sends me on until I’ve closed the loop.
It’s not the first time that this happens. I’ve previously spent half an hour being sent in a loop between Polizei and Ordnungsamt. This is the way that Germany functions: nobody is responsible for anything and everybody in between can get fucked.
Corollary: if it is impossible to figure out why something is the way it is, it is also impossible to fix it.