Thanks for sending over the first draft of the manuscript. I have to say, when we contracted you to write a parenting guidebook from an honest, male perspective, I was envisioning something a bit different than this. For example, a book that women would find humorous yet touching. Something to let them know that their baby’s father “gets” what they are going through. Something they might even want to then share with their partner, to give him insight from another man who has been through it all, yet still loves parenting more than anything else. But this really, really seems to go in a different direction. The first major change I noticed from your original pitch was the title itself. The book we expected you to write was titled Parenting: The Complete Guide, whereas the one I received is Parenting: The Complete Fucking Disaster. Quite a shift in tone.
This new direction continues with the very first chapter, which you have named “Before You’re a Parent Life Is Great, So of Course You Should Definitely Screw that Up.” I would like to quote an early paragraph from page one:
“As an adult without children, does your life resemble the following: Leisurely dinners at interesting, diverse restaurants after 7pm? Frequent, loud sexual escapades whenever the mood strikes? Travel to exotic locales, and vacations on quiet beaches? Sleeping in on the weekends? Even if it doesn’t, I can assure you, you will look back and remember it that way after a mere six weeks with a newborn. This is because you will suddenly realize that your life will no longer include any of these things for the next 18 years.”
In a parenting book written for a target audience of women expecting or hoping to start a family, this “before and after” assessment of life without children may lead not to keen insights on the wonderful changes and worthwhile challenges ahead, but to panic attacks and medication.
Chapter 2, currently named “Trying to Get Pregnant and Other Ways to Take the Fun out of Sex,” is not an improvement. My original hope was that this section would focus on recommended medical innovations that lead to conception for those experiencing fertility challenges. I thought this chapter might even include a review of the current research and literature on the subject. Your graphic descriptions of joyless, ovulation-timed “breeding” does not accomplish this goal. While I am sure the experience of your wife waking you from a flu-induced sleep to have foreplay-less intercourse was less than ideal, it is not the appropriate anecdote to relay the publisher’s desired “message of hope.”
Your next chapter, “Nine Months of Pregnancy Bliss” started off great, until I realized that you were being sarcastic. Your frequent descriptions of the fantasies you had during your wife’s pregnancy about, and I quote, “hot, younger, thinner female coworkers” is unlikely to comfort a woman who is losing her feminine shape because she has become a vessel for your baby growing inside her. As both your editor and a woman who has given birth, I was particularly offended by the following passage:
“When you date, your future wife barely eats anything more than a salad. Be forewarned, though—the red stripes on a home pregnancy test are apparently a license to pig out. To be clear, she will eat her body weight in ice cream. You may even think, ‘I’m pretty sure this baby is supposed to weigh about eight pounds, so how come she needs to gain 70?’ And while, after the child is born, your wife will constantly talk about going to the gym, she will in fact never go. So you just need to understand that a solid percentage of that poundage is here to stay (and unfortunately, none of it in her breasts).”
To ensure you are not severely beaten during book signings and lectures, this passage must be removed.
While chapter 4, “Having a Newborn and Some Interesting Facts about Sleep Deprivation,” does paint a highly accurate picture of those first few months after childbirth, your list of places where readers can anonymously drop off a newborn baby without fear of legal repercussions is yet another example of something we really aren’t trying to encourage among new parents.
Chapter 5, “Toddlers Are Terrible Demon Monsters,” is fine as is.
Chapter 6, “Detachment Parenting: How to Avoid Your Annoying Kids,” could actually cause legal problems for us, should we publish it in its current form. Encouraging parents to “get your kids hooked on television and video games as soon as possible” goes against all research on healthy brain development. Furthermore, it is both illegal and dangerous to, as you advise, “just leave your kids in the car with an iPad while you grab a few beers at happy hour.” There is likely far more content of concern, but I was forced to stop reading when I got to your chapter on the teen years titled “Finally, a Human Being Old Enough to Do Manual Labor for You and Smoke Weed With.” Doing so would first require a consult with our legal department, as I am neither familiar with our publisher’s policies nor state or federal laws that might oblige an editor to contact child protective services regarding her author.
Doug, I truly understand that men experience the full spectrum of parenting differently than women. That is why we wanted you to do this book in the first place. But let’s revisit your level of candor, in order to make a product that will both sell and not land you in prison. Or dead. You haven’t shared this with your wife, have you?
Illustration by Joseph Thomson