Parenting – by Justyna

11 Jun

I tried to get a conversation going with Michal tonight about parenting and about fatherhood. It lasted roughly 2 minutes. I was unable to provide him with questions that I did not know the answer he was going to give. Michal could not get into a momentum on the subject, probably because of two major reasons:

  1. Parenthood? How do I see it? It’s just normal isn’t it? It’s not like there’s an art to it. For me it’s just a natural extension to the next bit in your life. That’s all.

And

  1. He was/is streaming the Sweden v Ukraine football match. Live. And there was a goal by Sweden when I started talking to him (you may not know this but the UEFA Euro 2012 has begun and Poland and Ukraine are hosting it this time round. This is a very big deal).

But before I gave up I asked one more thing. How does Polish society view fathers? Michal’s answer was quick without his eyes leaving the laptop screen, “fathers are treated like disabled child rearers”. Yup. That sums it up. There is a prevailing archetype in Poland and it has a name, the Mother Pole (Matka Polka).* She dominates all that is domestic and she knows best. Including how children are raised. The term makes me shudder. Men who live with this Matka Polka type really do resemble dimwitted creatures when around their own offspring. They either run away to the pub or the tv to hide from the Matka Polka, or they stick around being mocked, listening to instructions on how to put on a pair of socks on a five year old, having to deal with constant eye rolling. I feel their pain. They bring it on themselves though, don’t they? Makes life a whole lot sweeter if you are kept at bay from a screaming toddler, a shitty nappy, a soup that needs to me mushed and a load of vomit washing that needs to be done. I’d sign up for it. And have my shirts ironed too, thanks.

When we first hooked up with Michal, I asked myself whether this dude could be the father of my children. The answer was yes. I didn’t have to over-think it. He was tall. He was a good sort. In my mind I knew he would be a tops dad because we were not dissimilar in our approach to life. Later when we were a couple I asked him whether he had similar thoughts when we first met. He said yes. Said he had checked out my hips and weightlifter thighs at the Romanian seaside and this was confirmation enough. See. It really was just that easy.

Michal is good at this parenting business. He’s into his kids and he is into his home. He doesn’t do stuff half arsedly. Unless it’s a Vegemite sandwich (never spreads it to the edges). Just goes with the flow. I think he thinks more about his business than about child rearing, because the latter is a natural process for him. He is more patient, tolerant and very rarely do I see frustration in his eyes. He is the one reminding me that it’s all not that much of a big deal. And most of all he’s just not into bullshit. This is very important for me.

Having said all this, he also has more freedom. This makes me jealous. He has an external life that he is maintaing and cultivating. Work, sport, his business interests. Things that will benefit him and strengthen him way into his middle age and beyond. Long when the kids have gone and left home. It is this that I, too, need to work on.

* I just heard a joke about the Polish mother. This joke is popular in Israel. What is the difference between a Polish mother and a rottweiler? The rottweiler will eventually leave the child alone.

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5 Responses to “Parenting – by Justyna”

  1. Tabitha June 12, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    This is all very sensible and grounding. I am very pleased you and Michal found each other.

    While I may be having a complete meltdown about my potential inadequacies as a mother, I am also, like Michal, extremely uninterested in the mechanics of parenting, but maybe this is just in reaction to everybody else’s OVER-interest. Every time someone asks me something – whether I will have a drug-free birth, whether I will use cloth nappies, whether our child will be vegetarian – I say, “I’m not fussed”. This is partly to really annoy whoever’s asking, and partly because thinking about the answer is too boring.

    It sounds like that “Mere Male” column they used to (probably still do) have in the Women’s Weekly would do very well in Poland.

    • Beth June 12, 2012 at 4:57 am #

      Very interesting. The last part about him having more freedom is so true. Maybe it’s that that allows Dads to be so effortless, so patient. They know they’re got this external life. Which is something the woman gets more and more as the kid ages. Got to keep up your own interests so that you’re not left as a shell of a human being when the kid/s leave home.

      I too hated all those questions about baby gender, the birth, vegetarianism, nappies. It’s as if you have nothing more to talk about now that you’re ‘with child’. On the other hand, some days my brain felt like mush so much it was good to just put on the public announcement track in response: due date is x, giving birth at x hospital, no we don’t know the gender. Blahblahblah.

  2. mischb June 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    i like michal’s style. i’m neither a parent nor a parent-to-be, and i’m sure it’s mighty challenging, but being a parent is normal. billions of people do it every day. i wonder sometimes when people i know (refer B2 below) suggest that managing the everyday challenges of bringing up a kid is some heroic feat. for the same reason, i try to avoid using ‘parent’ as a verb. the only ‘parenting philosophy’ that has ever sounded remotely appealing to me is [some guy whose name i don’t remember’s] philosophy of ‘good enough parenting’. anything else is surely a recipe for guilt and self-flagellation. of course, these nice ideas will probably go out the window if i ever have children myself.
    i am lucky to have a lovely comparative window into the world of parenting via my older siblings (and my four niblings – i gather this is the collective term for nieces and nephews), who have each chosen a very different path. plenty for me to pick and choose! hmmm, will i ‘unschool’ my children (Brother 3), send them to a Steiner/Montessori school (B2), enrol them in a private school at birth (B1) or none of the above (which I guess means sending them to the local public school?)? only time will tell!

    • Justyna June 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      Wow Misch! As much as the whole parent-associated crap annoys me, I would love to have a window into such various approaches to raising kids. Just for the sake of social exercise. Do the Bs drive one another crazy? I can imagine family dinner table discussions going through the roof.

  3. mischb June 17, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    the differences aren’t that stark, really. i was just playing it for effect. the three Big Bs actually have quite similar outlooks and respect each other’s approaches. in any case, there hasn’t been a family dinner for years since all the niblings have to be home in bed by then! i hope you four are all well and enjoying the early summer and the new (old) pad. xxx

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