A hand pressed on a pregnant belly or a swaddled bundle placed into a man’s arms. Moments such as these portrayed in Hollywood films are ones where the father’s eyes open wide in wonder and exude an air of instant love toward the life he helped create.
But it’s not that way for everyone. Take Phil Toledano, who calls himself the “reluctant father.”
“It’s not that I was against having children, but I wasn’t very interested in it. I was sort of neutral about it,” the New York-based photographer told TheBlaze.
Now that his daughter, Loulou, is 3 years old, Toledano has released a book showing photographs of her development paired with his own emotional state and thoughts about his fatherhood journey.
“There’s how you feel, and then there’s how you think you should feel,” Toeldano, originally from England, wrote in his book, “The Reluctant Father.”
“Was I overwhelmed in a tsunami of love? Not really,” Toledano continued. “It wasn’t that I didn’t feel responsible for Loulou. I was there. To change diapers. To get up in the middle of the night, to do whatever needed to be done. But I felt no emotional connection.
“It was like trying to have a relationship with a sea sponge or a single-cell protozoa.”
Toledano’s book, released in January, delves into a side of parenthood that isn’t widely talked about, and how having a child changed his relationship with his wife and how he thinks about himself.
Toledano told TheBlaze it wasn’t that he expected his life or his marriage to remain the same after a baby, but “knowing that makes no difference while you’re experiencing your life changing,” he said.
With regard to his relationship with his wife, Toledano wrote he felt he had been replaced as No.1 by “the alien.”
“Handling a baby was like working with highly unstable explosives. I would lower Loulou gingerly into the crib. The slightest movement and….BOOOOM!” he wrote. “I’d be frantically looking for a way to diffuse the infant.”
Having Loulou also made him consider his own mortality.
“When she turns 20, I’ll be 60. Would I seem like an old man to her?” he wrote. “Or would we be friends? Drinking cups of tea in the kitchen, talking about the latest boyfriend?”
It was a momentous occasion when he heard Loulou sneeze.
“I was so happy. Something human that I could relate to!” he wrote.
Though he told TheBlaze his falling into fatherly love with his daughter was gradual, he remembers one specific turning point.
“I react with the world in my own peculiar sense of humor. [In my culture,] if you like someone, you tease them and they tease you,” he said. “I sort of teased Loulou a lot and then she teased me back. It was this very incredible, emotional moment. I thought, ‘we’ve developed a common language. We can speak the same lanaguage to each other.’ I thought, ‘she understands me and I understand her.'”
Eventually, Toledano joined the ranks of parents who couldn’t wait to whip out their iPhone to show off pictures of his daughter.
“I’m that sad stastistic. The proud father,” he wrote. “I look back at all these photographs, and see how they reveal my slow and inevitable metamorphosis. From detached observer, to eager participant. From photographer, to father.”
Toledano told TheBlaze many people have reached out to thank him for sharing his perspective. Perhaps surprising given the main perspective in the book is from a father, many who contacted him were women.
“One woman said ‘I felt the same way, but I couldn’t really talk about it.’ Other women said, ‘I’ve shown your book to my husband and we’ve begun this dialogue together. The book is helping,'” Toledano said.
Why then is it so frowned upon to share one’s less than ecstatic thoughts about children?
“I think children, particularly in this culture, are kind of like religion: you’re not supposed to talk about them any sort of negative way at all,” Toledano sad.
And his thoughts — now that he has warm, fuzzy dad feelings — on having another child?
“It’s funny, I look at Loulou and think it would be good to have another, [but] I would say one is pretty good.”
Check out more of Toledano’s work on his website.
(H/T: Daily Mail)