A Toast To Dad (and Lower Testosterone)
June is tough for dads. Like when rounding a Monopoly board corner crowded with other players’ hotels, they hope to escape the month before running out of cash. Dads cough up big bucks for weddings, graduation gifts and celebrations, then sweat it out to see if they receive Father’s Day gifts they can’t afford. For the rest of us, June is about scrambling for unique offerings representative of the daddies we love, which poses its own challenges.
Men may be from Mars, but dads are from planets unknown. They often resemble overgrown children and revel in it, given their propensity for naps, beverages in bottles, things that go “vroom” and messes they leave behind. Wearing old team jerseys until they atrophy (or mates accidently set fire to them), dads believe they’re still the 18-year-old athletes they once were, despite not having stepped inside a gym since high school.
Dads can’t stick to shopping lists; they keep buying must-have tools they’ll never use; and they’re clueless about anything involving teenage daughters. However, hand them jumper cables, lighter fluid or WD-40 and stand back, because “it’s under control.” Dad is also the only household member that has been in the attic, loathes malls, appears larger when angry, makes no attempt to conceal premature graying, and believes if he can’t see the bald spot, it isn’t there.
Still, dads are who you call to open stubborn windows and jars, reach top shelves, foil bugs and bullies, play good cop to mom, make pizza and Midol runs, banish varmints and bad dreams, and pick you up in the middle of the night without talking about it … until morning, anyway. Children believe there’s nowhere safer than within dad’s strong embrace, and moms know that parenting is best run as a relay, a two-person tag team that shares childrearing responsibilities. And now, there’s scientific proof.
Northwestern University researchers discovered that testosterone, the male hormone that turns belching and comparing body parts into competition, nose-dives after men become daddies, proof that active male parenting’s so critical it shaped men’s physiology. Specifically, and notably, hormonal systems evolve, essentially helping them commit to their families once children arrive. Bottom line: Like rampant hotel kidney heists, the idea that only women are biologically adapted to be pooped, peed and spit up on — in other words, become parents — is urban legend.
Although testosterone naturally decreases with age, daddy levels decline more than double that of childless men, most dramatically during their children’s first month. And fathers who spend three or more hours daily caring for children have the lowest testosterone levels. Even men who aren’t dads but in committed relationships present lower testosterone than those who aren’t, and the roller-coaster hormone climbs again after divorce.
Baby daddies don’t suddenly devour self-help books or nest. It’s more like they begin receiving internal voicemail from Mother Nature: “Settle down. Stop looking around.” Whereas dad’s testosterone once runneth over, helping him to attract mom in the first place, it goes the way of his hairline once baby makes three. The study also found that low testosterone may make dads more sensitive to “kid cues,” and, likewise, more oblivious to “other women signals” (i.e., breasts engorged with silicone instead of milk).
Finally, experts are concluding what women have known since Eve got on Adam’s case for not changing the boys’ dirty fig leaves: Childrearing is cooperative by nature and a necessity. Yes, mothers were meant to have childcare help! The idea that men were out clubbing animals while women raised children has been virtually discredited. But, before moms broadcast, tweet, email and text the research results to dads everywhere or have “REDEMPTION” tattooed somewhere in their bodies, they should take heed. Men may interpret the news less favorably — as in less testosterone equals less of a man — even though their partners say the exact opposite is true. Doting, involved dads are real men.
So, next time dad gets up with the baby or reads to the kids, let him know he’s never looked sexier or more masculine. Then, tell him how hot it makes you when he babysits during a girls’ night out.