Monday, September 25, 2006

A Male Primary Caregiver Tells All

A few months back, I heard from my old friend Darragh. He had seen our blog and found my email address. During the time we hadn't been in touch, he had become a dad too. His wife, who I went to medical school with before I quit, is training as a surgeon. She is half Chinese, half white. Darragh, who is from Ireland, is staying home as the primary caregiver, or PCG as he likes to put it. I'd like to share a mini-interview we did by email.

What's it like being a male PCG?
We are in a small town in Ohio called Gallipolis. Jocelyn is two weeks into an eight week rotation in a rural hospital. We love it here, the town is on the Ohio River and so is the small house we stay in. There are great hiking trails in the area. I use a Baby-Bjorn when hiking; both Meilyn (the baby) and Deckard (the dog) love it.

Being a male PCG, I obviously have a strong bond with Meilyn due to the time we spend together. We have exclusively breastfed her since birth, with the help of an electric breast pump. When Jocelyn feeds her directly from her breast it keeps the physical and emotional bond strong between them.

Another observation I have is that I will dress Meilyn with comfort being the primary concern and the child will stay in these clothes until they are dirty or no longer comfortable. Women in general tend to inflict their habit of constantly changing what they wear onto the child. She is not a doll. Men rule O.K.
What are your thoughts on childcare as an Irishman living in the States?
My biggest fear of raising a child in America is the quality of the public education system here. Ireland, although not flawless by any means, has an excellent public education system. All social and economic classes educate themselves together as private schools are virtually non-existent. Ireland also offers free third level education across the board (not means tested). This system not only reduces the poverty cycle but helps cement a singular sense of community that has a greater social conscience. A far less abrasive class and social system exists in Ireland than in America, in part because of this. I believe high quality education exclusively for the wealthy is immoral.
What do Americans take for granted that they should question?
As a guest in this country I am always uneasy criticizing America, especially in these overly patriotic times. The blind patriotism is diminishing slowly but surely and giving way to a more subtle blend of undiplomatic international arrogance. Despite my preceding statement please note that I do not want to convey the notion of a sinking hell that is America and Ireland or anywhere else for that matter as a shining beacon of social moral virtue. We are not concentrating on the imperfections of Ireland (of which there are many) or elsewhere, at this moment in time.

A society that cannot constantly examine its flaws, re-think, re-position, renew itself militarily, socially, and economically is a country that is not evolving, a country that is doomed. I am glad to say that America will always be a country that has a disgruntled public voicing their opinions. I say to all these people whether they are the minute men (with whom I disagree) or they be the anti-war protesters (with whom I do agree), "Shout louder, keep kicking the elephant or the donkey whomever it may be."

To live in a time that quells these voices, such as the firing of Peter Arnett by NBC, uncontrolled wire-tapping, and every other violation of civil liberties that hides under the disguise of the Patriot Act or the “war on terror,” has lead this country down a blind path. This leads me to Abu-Grab, one of the greatest single unanswered injustices in the Iraq war. I have heard celebrities on late-night talk shows make light of these horrors, to the cheering of the live audience. It is at times like these that I can understand how some German citizens took the path they did in WW2 (blind, ignorant patriotism). Am I over-reacting? Can I see the woods for the trees? Please tell me.


Henitsirk said...

That phrase "international arrogance" has stuck with me. I've often wondered if part of the problem in the US is that we are relatively sheltered geographically from other countries. Only a few states border Mexico, and Canada essentially has the same culture.

I've studied several languages, but it always amazes me how people from Europe or Asia often are fluent in many languages. I wonder if that is because Europe has so many small countries close together?

The US has a remarkable mix of cultures, but I would say the average American is pretty American. People who are bilingual seem to be so because of previous immigrant generations in their families, not because they sought to learn another language.

I wonder if this geographical isolation contributes to our arrogance. We are such a large country that we are fairly self-sufficient in many ways.

How does this compare to a country like India, with many languages and religions in a relatively small space?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion America's geographical location is one of the smallest factors that has contributed to America's international arrogance and
America though geographically isolated has an imensly diverse mix of cultures and religions.It is a country founded by those fleeing from religious persicution, how the tides have changed.
The geographical habits of Americans have however contibuted to this isolationism. Americans on the whole do not travel abroad, Canada or Cancoon does not count I'm afraid. There is a feeling in America that what happens abroad is on another planet.
The irony is that America has an enormous first and second generation imigrant population but still maintains the international diplomacy of a bull in a porcelan shop. I am not just talking about the current administartion. All through the ages starting with the spanish American war, America has manipulated it's forgein policies with an obvious self intrest and apathy towards human suffering (non American suffering of course). I cringe when I hear the arguement, " we are fighting the war on terror abroad so that we do not have to fight the war on our own land and risk the lives of our own American sons and daughters". It is immoral to accept the death and suffering of any other nation in a different light than the suffering of yourself or of your own brother.
The main difference between Europe and America is that such an obvious high morral ground approach to diplomacy would never be undertaken (undertaken again, Europeans remember Hitler, Hitler of course was highly immoral but that was not how he viewed himself or his actions in his manifestos, he had a black and white approach to diplomacy all crazed lunatics do) or accepted by the European people, because they listen to what their leaders say and watch what they do.
"Support and develop democracy through-out the world", while widening links with China.
"To rid the world of evil dictators who support international terrorism" while opening international relations with Lybia.
Do not misunderstand I am not against these actions towards China or Lybia, I am using them to highlight that diplomacy is not an art that is black and white. It must be approached with grace and understanding, humbleness is the largest virtue of grace.
America today and for the last 106 years or so has shown little or no international understanding, look at the forgein policies over the last century, the underlying princple has been that you either think like us or you are against us, South-America, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, the list goes on and is widening by the day. As for humbleness just listen to the media and hear how much emphasis is put on being the biggest and best in the world. I hear it from politicians and the media alike, it is a very unhealthy obsesion.

Some day I am sure we will all realise that we are all on this ball together and we are the creatures that are capable of higher thought and conciousness and we have the power to repect, the responsibility to help and the freedom not to bear arms against our own brothers.
Please excuse my spelling it is late.