Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Newsflash: It's All Mom's Fault!

What a shocker! A study in contrast:

1) The June issue of Parents magazine is all about dads, and how dads are the new moms, etc. (The New Face of Fatherhood, June 2008) Did you know that many parents will now look at both schedules to determine who can more easily stay home with a sick child? And that dads now spend an average of 6.5 hours/week with their children? While that's far fewer hours than moms spend, it's way up from 2.6 hours 30 years ago. So, yay! All in all, despite the sobering statistics buried on page 2, it's a very positive article. It made me optimistic about the future of co-parenting.

2) Mom's behavior impacts father's child rearing: study. Oh, where to begin?

a) "How much a father is involved in the daily care of his children is largely up to his wife." Yes! You read that right. It's her responsibility, and, presumably, her fault if he's uninvolved.

b) "Mothers can be very encouraging to fathers and open the gate to their involvement in child care, or be very critical and close the gate." Sure, encouragement always helps. But, hello, mothers don't own children. They don't control access unless they're granted that power. And is anyone else picturing the opening and closing of child safety gates, here?

c) "The researchers found that fathers were more involved in caring for their babies on a day-to-day basis when they received active encouragement from their wife or partner."

Look, here's the thing. Fathers need to be partners in parenting. They need to step up and take equal responsibility, not waiting for praise and encouragement ("Good boy! Way to go! Keep it up!") and not being put off by active discouragement ("Honey, I'll do it so that she doesn't cry . . . "). Fathers need to step up and say, "Hey, I'd like to change this diaper/provide this bottle/take the kids to the zoo by myself today."

Moms need to allow this to happen, of course. But the responsibility for men being active fathers falls on fathers, not on mothers.

The infantilization of men (and the making of mothers into mothers to the whole family, including fathers) is insulting to men and unfair to both men and women.


We're all adults here. We don't need permission to spend quality time with our children (barring a court directive to do so, of course). We need to step up and make it happen, clearly communicating our desires and intentions all the while.


Orange said...

Well said, Sarahlynn.

Rob Monroe said...


Honestly. I feel like a freak for wanting to play with my child just based on some of the crap that is out there.

The only time that Fathers get any talk in the Parenting magazines that we get have been for this month. It's very off-putting.

I've decided to throw all of that aside, use the magazines for their fun games and recipes. The same for blogs, even those that are for "both parents" (in their mind.)

Now you're inspiring me even more to apply for this Dad Blogging gig.

deb said...

I don't disagree with you; I think part of the problem is that many men didn't have the modeling from their own fathers on how to be a co-parent. Many of today's hands-on dads are trailblazers.

The only positive thing about my MIL's serial divorces was that my husband didn't have a dad figure around long enough to model to him what an uninvolved father looks like.

I'm trying to break the cycle of mothering my husband... but the sad fact of the matter is that sometimes if I don't nag him or encourage him, things just don't get done.

I suspect in another generation or two, our daughters/granddaughters are going to be married and raising children with men that are more like how we want them to be now.

Sara said...

You know, from reading parenting boards (especially the attachment parenting ones, unfortunately), I'd have to say that actually, there are a *lot* of women out there who very actively discourage their husbands from being involved in routine childcare, mostly through the "You incompetent fool," method.

Honestly, for me, "active encouragement" was never "good boy! Good job changing that diaper," but it was definitely "I"m taking a shower. Here's the kid. You're a competent adult, figure it out." Certain parenting boards are *full* of women sayign they could never do that because men don't have breasts, men don't know how to calm the baby, or men just plain don't do it *right*.

There's a whole group of women out there who *do* think women "own" the children - so much so that some of them argue that a woman wanting to have more children despite her husband saying they have as many as he wants should tell him he doesnt' get a say because is "he doesn't raise them."

I can't speak to their actual percentages in the population, of course, because those kinds of folks tend to aggregate on sites like that. But there sure are a lot more than *I* expected based on my group of egalitarian friends...

HiddenChicken said...

Great post, Sarahlynn! I've noticed a LOT of infantalization of men in the media in the last few years, from constantly portraying men as incompetent doofuses incapable of boiling water to insecure dads terrified of their own children.

Co-parenting is so important, though, and it's a shame that this is so little recognized. Yeah, there are some things that only mom can do thanks to biology. And some women really do feel wholly responsible for everything child-related. Still, it's ridiculous to feel that the onus is solely on the mother to encourage the father's involvement in childrearing. And people wonder why women feel so stressed. Not only do we do most of the cooking, cleaning and childrearing - now we get the husbandrearing, too.

Regardless, I think encouragement should be expected, but on both sides - not just to the dad (throw us moms a bone, here - half of what we do is thankless and raunchy). And any encouragement should be sincere and explicit instead of a pat on the head ("Oooh! Good job!" Bleh.).

Beach/Vic said...

I agree with Sara above. I've been to a lot of boards (like MDC, for instance) where so many of the women posting lament their partners' lack of involvement in one breath and then criticize them for not doing something "right" in the next breath. Bah.

When our daughter was born, my husband had exactly the same amount of expertise as I had. None. We figured it out. Together. He gets annoyed at people who "You're an awesome Dad" him when they see him with her at the grocery store, in the park, or whatever. He's a parent, he says. This is what parents do.

It annoys me on the one hand that dads get some kind of special kudos for doing stuff moms are simply expected to do. On the other hand, it annoys me even more that so much of the media around parenting is aimed JUST at mothers and fathers are excluded. Except for the month of June when they get token mention.

Sarahlynn said...

Thanks, Orange!

Rob, I've often said it: you and your family are a breath of fresh air in the parenting world!

Deb, it's true; men today are more involved fathers than their own fathers were, and hopefully their sons will be another huge step forward along that same path.

Hidden Chicken, "Still, it's ridiculous to feel that the onus is solely on the mother to encourage the father's involvement in childrearing."

Yes! Sure, mothers should encourage the involvement of fathers (see below) but even if they don't, fathers should step up and take responsibility, rather than pulling back and conceding parental supremecy/leadership/involvement.

Sara and Beach, I know that's out there! And I'm not saying it's OK; it's not. So often, people live up to the expectations we have of them. And if we expect our husbands to be incompetent parents, well . . .

Sure bonding happens through difficult, unpleasant, and routine moments. But it's a lot more fun to show up for family trips to Disney World and let someone else take care of the regular middle of the night scream-fests, especially since she really is better at it, anyway.

And there's another side to this. Often perceived superiority in the raising of children is the main power a woman/wife/mother has, so sharing that is scary and threatening. Especially with men's rights activists running around saying the same things (that men should be treated equally as parents) but meaning something quite different (let's screw all women in divorces! no more custody or child support for you! your years of stay-at-home mothering count for nothing, you bitch!)

Canada said...

We have a two parent hands on thing here. With twins, there wasn't an option, but even with one I would have felt the same way, and so would Hubby. It's amazing to me to see several of my friends having issues with their husbands NOT being hands on. One has admitted that it is her fault - she simply insists on doing it all because she is a control freak. The other, though, is beyond frustrated that her husband will not step up, no matter how often she asks/begs/insists. I've seen it first hand and he is the type that these articles are written about.

And now I have to go organize stuff for the grade 2 trip, for which Hubby will be helping out as I have clients that day :)

Lady Liberal said...


Sarahlynn said...

So nice to hear others who agree!

Identity Mixed said...

Agree wholeheartedly. My husband is an active participant in the boys' lives and they love it obviously. I see women complaining all the time on the parenting sites and I always tell my husband that I know we are lucky. Not just ME - but the boys too!

Sarahlynn said...

And, I would add, your husband, also! I think it's great for men (as well as everyone else in the family) when they're involved, capable parents.