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Kirby: One fine mother raising her family, raising me

Published May 11, 2012 4:33 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I wouldn't want to be a woman. For starters, I'm not smart enough. Also, most of the women I know are way nicer than I am or would ever want to be.

I like being a guy. I can't imagine having to be gentle, understanding and nurturing my entire life.

It follows, then, that I wouldn't be a good mother. I don't have the qualifications, most important of which seems to be either having a womb or having a strong inclination to otherwise hold babies.

This inclination is more generally known as the "maternal instinct." It sounds entirely magical and probably is, but it's also the reason our species has survived until now.

The closest I've ever come to being a mom is being a father, which is to say I didn't have a clue and would never get one. But I watched motherhood in action when we had our first baby.

This was in 1976. I was 23 and just slightly more immature and irresponsible than I am right now. It didn't matter, because I was suddenly a father.

We brought the baby home to our minuscule basement apartment and installed her in a crib at the foot of the bed. Within the space of 24 hours, we went from one set of hormones to a whole other set.

When the baby cried, my wife's maternal instincts kicked right in. She immediately picked the baby up, rocked her and cooed until she calmed down and blew out her diaper. Being a new mother, my wife found that utterly endearing as well.

My instincts also kicked in when the baby cried. For about five seconds, I wondered: How long it would take the kid to shut up if I started eating it?

That was immediately followed by the higher (if not highest) form of paternal bonding: "Damn, I better not leave that thing anywhere."

Motherhood transformed our marriage. The baby was now the priority. In a radical change, my wife went from being my girlfriend to being the baby's mother. I changed as well. Now I HAD to keep a job.

For more than three decades, I watched my wife put aside every personal plan, goal and interest she might have had in order to be there for our daughters.

Note: Things might have been different if we had a son. I would have had an ally, but there'd also be more holes in the house.

My wife washed, cooked, cleaned and pitched in to help earn a living. She was available whenever our girls felt bad or cried. She had to be, because nothing makes a man more useless than when somebody starts boo-hooing.

All the bad news was borne by my wife. If we couldn't afford to buy something, she would be the one to break the news to the girls. If one of the girls hit a boat with the car, my wife would be responsible for telling me.

And my daughters' mother could always get me to go along with things such as spending a large amount of money on a dress that would only be worn once, or letting our girls go away for the weekend with friends.

Finally, I have grandkids today only because my daughters' mother kept me from killing future sons-in-law when they first showed up.

Today, I'm watching my daughters be mothers themselves. They got all of it from being raised by a good one.

My wife is a great mother. Not only did she raise three fine daughters, she also did the best job she could raising me.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/notpatbagley.