As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago I was working on a timesheet for a researcher studying stay at home dads. I was to write down what I was up to every 15 minutes for a week. This week I had the follow up interview with the researcher. The subject of whether or not I believed a father could be as nurturing as a mother came up.
Obviously, I believe that a male can be as nurturing and as supportive of his child as a female, otherwise I wouldn’t be the one to stay home with my kid. But this question really caused me to start to think about male and female roles in a family and the linguistics of our culture.
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Think about the difference between the idea of “mothering” a child and “fathering” a child for a moment.
An obvious difference I can think of here is that one tends to associate the idea of “mothering” as something that takes years, if not a lifetime, to complete. The act of “fathering” a child, on the other hand, can take as little as a minute or two. In fact, I’d say we tend to associate the idea of “mothering” a child as to almost be TOO sheltering and protective. Whereas, on the same token, the idea of “fathering” can be extremely impersonal and simply imply a sexual act that leads to the creation of a life, wanted or not.
I would like to think that I’ve done more than simply “father” my daughter. But I’m not a mom. I don’t mother my daughter. Yet I am her primary caregiver. So what am I doing?
I’ve met lots of other dads- some who stay at home with their kids, some who support their kids by working and earning an income- but many have a love and compassion for their children that goes beyond the traditional, clinical definition of “fathering”. I would like to think that all of these men are helping to change the idea in our culture of what being a father is. That we’re setting an example for our children of how a man should serve his family either through work or through staying home. I would like to think that we’re helping to set the bar higher. That our sons and daughters will learn how to respect themselves and others equally.
One question that the researcher asked was what keeps me going. What is my main support? It’s my wife. She does a terrific job of both thanking and reenergizing me and reminding me why I’m a good father. If you’re married to, in a relationship with, or were raised and supported by someone you believe to be a good male role model for your children, please- do him AND your kids a favor by reminding him how important he is.