Becoming a parent changes you and your relationship with your partner. True as this is, banal statements of this kind say little about what fathering is like and do nothing to prepare you for the riot of emotions that go with the job.
NYC-based photographer Phillip Toledano‘s The Reluctant Father goes a long way to addressing the reality in humourous and ultimately touching way..
He likens confronting the fruit of his loins to a series of close encounters with an alien being.
His experience was all the more traumatic because, as he freely admits, “I was never particularly interested in having kids”. It was just something that happened.
His photo journal is an account of how he survived to tell the tale. It is both funny and true.
Take for example his description of trying to put his daughter down to sleep: “Handling a baby was like working with highly unstable explosives. I would lower Loulou gingerly into the crib.The slightest movement and….BOOOOM! I’d be frantically looking for a way to diffuse the infant”.
I’m sure Toledano speaks for many dads when he confesses that he felt no immediate bond with his offspring.
Maybe a lot of women secretly feel the same way but the fact they have carried the child for 9 months, gone through the pain/pleasure of childbirth and turned into feeding stations means they are indelibly connected in a way men are not.
I remember seeing a feminist cartoon once where a child asks: “Mom, what’s daddy for?” and it’s easy for men to feel superfluous in the early months of parenthood. Toledano says he felt “downsized” .
I think I was more ready for becoming a father than he was but I definitely relate to some of the feelings he describes so wittily. Like him I certainly began to feel closer to my daughter when she responded to something I did and was delighted when she began talking.
Phillip Toledano‘s story has a happy ending of course. He learns what it means to be a proud father. Of his daughter he says: “I want her to know that even though I found the beginning of her life quite bewildering, I’m so glad she’s here now”. I second that emotion.