‘Rocking Fatherhood’ offers real-life observations from music writer and young father Chris Kornelis, mixed with tips he collected from rockers with Guns N’ Roses, The Strokes and Seattle’s own The Presidents of the United States of America.
Sure, it’s time to celebrate Mother’s Day, not the best day to write about a book focused on fatherhood.
But within the pages of Chris Kornelis’ “Rocking Fatherhood: A Dad-to-Be’s Guide to Staying Cool” is a passage — an admission — that is a gift to mothers everywhere.
“ … Men are often congratulated for their efforts,” Kornelis writes, “while a woman’s herculean parenting feats are ignored.”
To wit: Kornelis was carrying his son on his shoulders while pushing his daughter in a stroller, headed home from the park. A man passing them on the sidewalk gave him a thumbs up: “Super dad! Go, dad!”
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Kornelis deflected the praise when it came, and again in the book.
“When people see a dad schlepping two tired kids home, he’s a hero,” he wrote. “When a mom does it, people wonder why she’s let them skip a nap.”
It’s one of the many real-life observations Kornelis makes in “Rocking Fatherhood,” which was released May 3.
Again — just in time for Mother’s Day. But Kornelis is not overstepping.
In 2012, Kornelis — a freelance writer and former music editor at The Seattle Weekly (who has written for The Seattle Times) — entered the family-way fray with a piece in The Atlantic called “A Father’s Case Against Breast-Feeding.” He wrote about his wife Betsy’s struggle with it, their choice to formula-feed their son, Thomas, and the judgment around their decision.
“This is supposed to be the most joyous time in your life,” he said, “and having any shame about doing it wrong because your body can’t (breast-feed), or it’s not conducive to your lifestyle … I felt so enraged that women were being made to feel like pariahs.”
The response, he said, was “huge.” People debated the issue in online comments, and Kornelis was overwhelmed with emails, most of them supportive.
He started to write more about parenting, but just for himself, just for the pleasure of it. Adventures with his infant son, the perils of underpacking a diaper bag. How his priorities had changed.
When Kornelis was helping Guns N’Roses bassist Duff McKagan with his book “How to Be A Man: (and other illusions),” they often talked about the lack of pregnancy books for men.
The result: “Rocking Fatherhood,” for which McKagan wrote the foreword.
The book is divided not into chapters, but into weeks of pregnancy.
Each section begins with the status of the baby’s growth, the mother’s physical or mental health and the likely “situation” — meaning the father’s current struggle.
(An example, from Week 21: “You don’t know the first thing about parenting.”)
That’s followed by “the reality,” which is a little piece of advice, or reassurance.
Most of the wisdom comes from Kornelis’ experience as a two-time expectant husband and father:
Keep an eye out for anxiety and depression in your partner. Sympathy weight is real. Bring money to the hospital for food and parking. Get a Crock-Pot (Kornelis includes a recipe for his uncle’s pulled pork). Watch how the hospital staff bathes, diapers and swaddles the baby so you can do it yourself. Plan a trip away after the baby is born so your wife can indulge. Take paternity leave.
But he also got some advice from those he interviewed while working on other stories. That explains how Julian Casablancas of The Strokes explained what to do if your son becomes a Yankees fan.
“He’ll have his share of bad choices that he’ll have to make on his own that I can’t help him with,” the singer said.
Chris Ballew (The Presidents of the United States of America, Caspar Babypants) recommended being “The Morning Duty Guy” and getting up with the baby. It not only allowed mom to sleep in, but gave him some quality time with his child just as the day began.
“ … Learn to be empathetic,” Ballew also advised, “and acknowledge what your kids say. You don’t always have to say yes, but acknowledge what they say, and hear them.”
Scott Giampino, the talent buyer for The Triple Door, the downtown Seattle music venue, had one potent piece of advice: “Just be there. That’s the bedrock of what to do when your wife is pregnant.”
Really, Kornelis said, what you need to know about fatherhood can fit on a 3-by-5 card, like this one written by his pediatrician, Dr. Greg Keyes:
“Love your wife. Support her. Love your baby. Enjoy everything he or she does. Trust your instincts. Meet periodically with your pediatrician. Don’t make your child conform to your expectations.”
And even though it’s written for men, Kornelis said, “This is a book about moms.”
“Taking care of this new mom in your life is perhaps your primary role during pregnancy and after,” Kornelis said. “Don’t tell her what to do. It’s what’s right for her and what’s right for the family and not necessarily what the latest flawed study says.”
In other words, you’re all in it together. And what a gift it is.