Professor's House

Giving Dad the Credit He Deserves

It’s almost hard to believe that we are living in 2011, an age which is supposed to have integrated parenting to a whole new level of equality. Today’s dad is supposed to be able to bring home the bacon, and is not opposed to doing a load of laundry or ‘wearing’ their baby in stellar fashion while they pick out organic fruits at the grocery store.

In fact, today with so many dual working households parenting, in many ways, has become a partnership like no other. One day mom works the carpool while dad tends to the baby. The next day, dad chooses to work from home, to take care of a sick child so that mom can attend her board meeting. Yet, with all of this equality in parenting the truth is that mom still seems to get ALL or at least ‘most’ of the credit when it comes to the children.

Giving dad the credit he deserves is one aspect of the parenting partnership that has not seemed to evolve through the equality movement of parenting. Despite all the changes in the paternal roles around the home, the mainstream consciousness seems stuck in the thinking that Ted Bundy from Married with Children, is the personification of fatherhood.

It’s interesting that there are millions and millions of mommy bloggers. In fact, for every 1 fathering blog, there are likely over a 1,000 mothering blogs. For each of these bloggers and blogs, many of the jokes and topics seem to resonate with the sounds of ‘mother knows best.’ Many of these women poke fun at things like the way dad dresses the children, or his version of dinner – and seem to involve a lot of undermining when it comes to his skill and adeptness at taking care of the children. Advertisers today, for everything from diapers to family cell phone plans seem to put mom in the starring role, and appeal to the parenting audience by making fun of the indigent abilities of a father around the home. Even today’s sitcoms and drama shows are laden with images of deadbeat dads or fathers who are beer bellied couch potatoes glued to football games while mom is turning laundry and juggling a baby.

Even the nightly news is constantly catering to the idealism of deadbeat dads, and makes no mention of the fact that there are plenty of woman in this world who seem born without the mothering gene. There are numerous support groups, laws and information designed to help mothers thrive when it comes to parenthood but few that seem to be directed at helping dads do the same thing. And mothers today are seemingly idolized for being able to work full time outside of the home while being a parent, a feat that men have been doing for eons. Consider that in the United States, a mother has an 81% higher chance of obtaining full custody after a divorce than a father does a number that has remained steady for the past 30 years.

What’s worse is that many women, regardless of how much they admire or love their husbands, seem wrought with worry and criticism when it comes to handing over the care of their child to their fathers. Many women feel inclined to leave their husbands with long to-do lists, and to constantly remind them of every little thing that needs to be done, and HOW it should be done if they are leaving their child with their dad. Is this really necessary?

Just how familiar does the following sound to you?

“Make sure that you put on their sunscreen… make sure to put on their seatbelts…make sure to give your son a bath if he gets dirty at the park…, don’t forget to brush your daughters hair… they will need a snack around 10 and another around 3… make sure you feed them lunch… don’t forget to take the kids water… etc.”

One Canadian father, who feels confident in his parenting skills, resents the barking of orders such as those listed above. He says, ‘It’s like us men telling our wives that the boobie part of the bra goes on the front, or reminding them to put tampons in their purse when its that time of the month.’ He goes on to say that, ‘The reality is we don’t need an excel spread sheet to look after our kids for the afternoon.’

This lack of confidence in a father, and the popularized discrediting of their abilities is certainly not a healthy way to co-parent. And most wives don’t mean their directives to be undermining or humiliating and they may have total confidence in their husband’s ability to look after the kids. So why do they do this? Psychologists say that women are naturally inclined to feeling responsible for their children whether they are with them or not. Additionally, there is a level of primal guilt that is felt when a mother has to leave her child for any length of time. So while the detailed instructions for dad may seem disturbing, the reality is it is a coping mechanism for dealing with their own maternal guilt.

This explanation doesn’t necessarily make the pill of discredit for fathers easier to swallow. The truth is that there are millions upon millions of fathers in this world who are great at what they do. And sure, men do things different than women do, especially when it comes to the kids. Dad may allow little Johnny to scale to the top of the jungle gym, he may not fuss over a little ketchup on the chin. He may allow his kids to pick out their own clothes. But the bottom line is that it is the duality of personalities and the differences between mothers and fathers that enables children to thrive. Research has steadily shown that children being raised by both mothers and fathers, with completely different approaches to parenting, are more successful in life and become better parents (and people) than those without.

It has long been time for the world, and for mothers to start giving dad the credit he deserves. Perhaps, if mom can turn off her OCD long enough, even she might learn something from the creative way that dad parents.

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