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!