Recently, my male coworkers threw me a baby shower.
It was coupled with our monthly staff meeting so it wasn’t any big to-do. Just cake, pizza, me awkwardly being the center of attention, and then back to work. Baby is still 10 weeks away from go-time, but it is nice knowing that they too want to celebrate this new beginning that Mr. Pirate and I are about to embark on.
When I thanked my supervisor for the shindig he commented that I’ve started a new tradition. From now on, he said, we’ll have baby showers for all of the garage babies. Score one more for gender equality y’all.
As a lady mechanic I work in a male-dominated field. I am beyond fortunate that my fellow co-workers don’t treat me as inferior or less capable. My toolbox is pink, but beyond that, I’m just one of the guys.
The fact that my pregnant self has provoked a new tradition regarding celebrating life events is somewhat bittersweet though. We send around an envelope for weddings, retirements and funerals, but this was the first time that any of them had the opportunity to plan a baby shower. Our female administrative assistant confided later that the guys had no idea where to start or what you actually do at a baby shower. The sad part is compounded by the fact that the youngest garage baby (as in, person born while his or her dad was employed at our garage as a mechanic) is 14 months old and the oldest was married last summer.
As a society we want dads to be involved in their children’s lives.
And yet, there is this tendency to push dads to the sidelines when it comes to birth and babies. Products are marketed largely toward the female consumer. Very few restaurants feature a diaper changing station in the men’s room whereas it is a standard item in public women’s bathrooms.
Common workplace practices even shunt dads to the side. I get 12 weeks of maternity leave. Mr. Pirate gets one. As though one week is enough time for him to get acclimated to the presence of a new person in his life.
It isn’t fair.
Hands down I support gender equality. I want to go back to work after kiddo is born in large part because I want to demonstrate to my son or daughter that they really can be whatever they want to be. Male stylist. Lady plumber. Gentleman nurse. Female president. Gender should not dictate what a person can or cannot do.
But gender equality is not a one-way street. I don’t want to advocate for more professional opportunities for women and tell my husband he doesn’t know a thing about babies. For Pete’s sake — I don’t know a thing about babies.
Caring for infants is not some ingrained, natural part of my wiring exclusive to me being the one incubating this child. There are some things I’m apparently just going to know how to do (like the whole pushing thing), but there are other things — such as changing a tiny 8-ish pound baby’s diaper — I am going to have to practice. The same goes for my mister.
So maybe a good place to start when it comes to encouraging gender equality is to include men in the lives of these new people from the get-go. Invite men to baby showers. Advocate for dads to have actual paternity leave. Even, and maybe this is a little too new-age, treat men as though they are an important part of the family equation instead of pretending that their work is done once the bun is in the oven.
It’s just a thought.