Miru normally falls asleep when her mother lies next to her and hums soft and soothing melodies into her pillow while tapping her gently until her cries turn into sobs and then silence. I admire my wife’s skills and patience. And I envy it: Isn’t it something unique between mothers and their children, a umbilical-cord like bonding men simply lack the physical prerequisites for? Whether or not women are breastfeeding their babies, that moment when the infant lets go of the nipple or the toy and closes her eyes seems to be in the exclusive realm of motherly affection, and dads can at best offer the same kind of substitute a doll could.
But I managed! I put Miru into sleep all by myself the other day.
Trampling and yelling as any nine month old upon hitting the bed, it promised to be a time consuming task, and I was prepared for a long session of rhythmically cuddling, straddling, lulling, and swaying the baby until sleep would take over.
I patted her on her chest, which only made her laugh louder and punch everything within her little arms’ reach. Then I put on a little show. I took on a fetal position myself, thumb in mouth and started breathing deeply while making suckling noises. Miru observed me, giggling and wide awake sitting between the bedding. At least she also put her thumb in her mouth – there was some hope. I changed positions a few times, yawned conspicuously, stretched my limbs, and waited until she would imitate my choreography.
All of a sudden, she tumbled backwards onto the soft mattress – and was fast asleep. I had managed to sail her to the land of dreams in under five minutes.
I know now that I am capable of this, just as much as I can feed the baby, take her out in the stroller, change her diaper, bathe her, and cut her fingernails. There is no exclusive masculine or feminine domain when raising children, only some things are more practical depending on the circumstances (and it’s those circumstances that should be addressed by feminism, not the resulting role-play).
Every individual couple has their own ways and both the man and the woman would proudly assume dominance in their own domains of child rearing. But they can invite each other to cross the imaginary boundary and assume each other’s role for a change. That’s nothing world-changing, just allusion to what keeps relationships alive: a spontaneous rotation of our roles.