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The long-term perks of getting Daddy involved early in the baby game

Jill Simonian took advice from The Bee’s entertainment writer, Rick Bentley, on how to get her husband, pediatric surgeon Dr. Andre Panossian, to get involved with baby care from the get-go.
Jill Simonian took advice from The Bee’s entertainment writer, Rick Bentley, on how to get her husband, pediatric surgeon Dr. Andre Panossian, to get involved with baby care from the get-go. Special to The Bee

As an American Armenian who was raised with a dad who didn’t quite ever learn the concept of kitchen cleanup (not his fault; it was the way the world worked back then), I was raised in a house where the woman did everything domestically related, whether she had a career or not.

Marrying a traditionally raised, American Armenian guy, I planned to run my own household that way, too (it pretty much does run this way to this day, with a few deviations here and there).

Hey, as a mover-and-shaker and all-out hustler in the I-can-handle-it-all-kids-work-home-husband-whatever department, I could do it all, every single day, no problem. That got really exhausting really fast. Thank goodness for the unsolicited advice of my older and wiser colleague and friend, Rick Bentley, The Bee’s entertainment writer.

Just before I had my first daughter in summer of 2010, I went to a movie screening for press and unexpectedly ran into Rick. He had always been so kind to me – every time I’d get a new job on television, he’d write an article about it, and tell readers to watch and support a local girl taking a crack at her dreams.

He had a son in his early 20s at the time I ran into him in Los Angeles. My belly was ready to pop, and we sat together to watch the film. We caught up on all the usual things you catch up on when someone is pregnant: how work had slowed down since my pregnancy, how kids grow so fast, how I should enjoy every second.

Rick also, unexpectedly, dropped one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom that I often suggest to new moms today. Sitting there in the theater, as the lights dimmed to start the movie, he said, “When the baby’s born, figure out one thing your husband can do right away... just one task, one job, something that he’s game to do every day as your kid grows. It’s the best bonding experience for a dad, and it’ll give you a break.”

I listened, totally second-guessed him and then basically forgot about Rick’s advice.

But when my daughter was born, things changed: I suddenly discovered how petrified I was to give her a bath! She’s so tiny! I’m going to hurt her! Help me! Standing over the portable baby bath on top of our kitchen counter, Rick’s words shot to the front of my brain.

“Will you bathe her?” I begged my husband (the pediatric surgeon Andre Panossian, who is used to dealing with squirmy, fragile, screaming small people). “Please? She’s so tiny and I’m scared...”

I’m not one to pull the wimpy, prissy I-can’t-do-it card, but this was a chance to get my ducks in a row, an opportunity to cash in and set the standard of practice in my home. That’s it, play scared Jill. My husband bathed our girl that first time, and the pattern continued for the first few years of both our daughters’ lives.

My husband soon became a frequent bath-giver at our house. Granted, I gave plenty of baths (still do), but tasking my husband with bath time sneakily broke the seal to get him involved in some kind of domesticated duty early on.

Does my man do laundry? Hell no, not ever. Does he load the dishwasher? Not unless I beg and complain and throw some kind of cranky-wife fit. Does he bathe the girls when I ask him (so I can clean up the kitchen or just have a few minutes to decompress a bit at the end of the day)? Yes.

Does he draw and color with our daughters, take them on outings to Orchard Supply Hardware, and handle the bedtime routine on Thursday nights by himself when I must go to bed early for my 4 a.m. wake up to appear on Friday’s early morning news? Yes. I fully credit dear Rick Bentley for creating this lifestyle.

Who knew the best unsolicited parenting advice I’d ever get would come from an entertainment news writer in Fresno? Get your spouse involved in one task from the get-go – it will set up a more organized family home life for you in the long run. It’s fabulous.

Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno. Founder of the TheFabMom.com, she is the parenting lifestyle expert for CBS Los Angeles. This commentary is reprinted from her new book for first-time moms, “The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @jillsimonian.

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