Fathers can be Parents Too!

Cassie Walter

Something that rubbed me the wrong way a little bit while reading “Paternity Leave, Gender, and Parenting” was how the article kept saying things like “research on both groups finds that when fathers are required to be primarily responsible for all aspects of child care, they are able to do so.” Am I somehow supposed to be shocked by this? For me, it seems obvious that if men were put in the position of primary caregivers of their children, then yes, they would in fact be capable of doing so! As we’ve read in previous articles, there is no such thing as a biological ‘maternal instinct’ so I’m not quite sure why these researchers seemed to be reveling in the fact that men can properly take care of children too. While I did appreciate the research that found that fathers who spend more than three weeks of paternity leave at home with their children are better equipped as parents and are better at sharing responsibilities, I found it odd that they needed to mention that men could in fact care for their children. Perhaps I’m reading too much into that one little comment though?

I also found it interesting that some mothers told their husbands that they would be taking all of the shared maternity/paternity leave for themselves leaving no time left over for their husbands to be at home with the children. I’m not a mother so I can’t pretend that I know how it feels to have to return to work after maternity leave, but I would think that they would still want to allow for their husbands to have at least some time off from work to bond with their child. If mothers and fathers are to share equal parenting responsibilities, this article seems to prove that early bonding between parent and child (as well as simple exposure to the child in order to learn how to parent) is necessary. It reminded me of something said in one of the earlier articles we read on parenting; that mothers are oftentimes frustrated by the lack of equality in household and child rearing duties, but some mothers are also hesitant to relinquish control of their children’s lives because motherhood is one of the only areas where they get to hold power. When considering the fathers in the “Marriage, Work, and Fatherhood in Men’s Lives” article who thought their financial contributions to the family counted as emotional closeness with their children, it is hard to think of a perfect balance that would allow for mothers and fathers to truly be equal.

A point made by one of the fathers in the “Marriage, Work, and Fatherhood in Men’s Lives” piece really struck home the idea in today’s society that what stay at home mothers do is not work. The father of three boys said he was glad his job was able to provide his family with enough money for his wife to stay home with the children because his wife was “not the working type.” Apparently to him, raising three children and taking care of an entire household by herself is not work. Only his job that requires leaving the house to go to an office is actually work. It’s sad that he seems unable to appreciate or even recognize the hard work his wife does every day of her life with no breaks. While I was not the biggest fan of that “Toughest Job in the World” card ad, it did point out how mothers are so often underappreciated for all the difficult work they do with no breaks, pay, and little gratitude.

This picture isn’t entirely relevant to my post but it embodies the societal belief that a father’s main purpose in his child’s life is to be a provider/protector.





Also, those poor, poor children of single mothers or lesbian parents!



4 thoughts on “Fathers can be Parents Too!

  1. Zoe Halpert

    Rehel argues that men gain a more similar understanding of parenting when men and women go through a more similar transition to parenthood, namely, when men temporarily leave the workforce to care for the child as well. In this way, fathers become more active parents, rather than being the “helper” that only participates when the mother asks him to or as a favor to the mother. I agree with Cassie, I thought that this was a bit obvious. It particularly makes sense when you consider that the idea of maternal instinct and women being more capable of childcare than men is simply a social construct.

  2. I think it is actually a semi-reasonable response to question the parenting skills of men. I certainly wouldn’t want someone who didn’t particularly know much about raising a child to raise my own. Women generally have more experience at taking care of people than men. We can also see, from our articles, that many men just don’t have a positive attitude towards parenting unless it’s something “fun”. I’m not saying that this is how it’s supposed to be, but that’s how it often is. Masculinity often has violent propensities which are not healthy for anyone involved, much less small children and it’s totally reasonable to want to keep this type of person away from children. It’s very possible that fathering brings out a more nurturing personality, as many male parents are successful.

    Patrick Gallagher Landes

  3. Jihmmy N. Sanchez

    I agree with everything you are saying in your post, but I am not completely sure if the a lot of people know that parenting has nothing to do with a biological instinct. Maybe a lot of college students are aware and especially sociology and GWS majors are aware that there is no maternal biological instinct,but popular culture may not be as caught with students who are studying society. And as Patrick mentioned in his comment even though there is no biological instinct in mothers, females are more prone to be put in caretaking activities like babysitting. I don’t think I can remember more than 3 times where I have ever babysitted either a younger sibling or an infant, where as my younger sister who is only 16 has babysitted multiple times and has taught me how to do things like properly hold an infant and burp a child. Males aren’t usually exposed to those situations and so by the time they are parents they may have absolutely no experience with infants.

  4. Gracie Hall

    Cassie, I thought the point you made about mother’s taking all the weeks of maternity/paternity leave for themselves relates back to some of our other conversations we had last week. I think that one reason why mothers might take all of the weeks for themselves might have to do with the fact that we have constructed men and fathers as complete dumbies when it comes to parenting, and therefore mothers might think that it would be easier to just do it themselves. Or perhaps, it has to do with the fact that working mothers often feel as though they are not being ‘motherly’ enough and want to create those ‘special bonds’ before they have to go back to work.

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