It is Father's Day this Sunday. Do you make it a big thing to make a big thing of Dad? It seems that there is a lot of reasons out there why it is equally important to make a fuss of the men in our lives.
There is so much research and talk out and about now surrounding mothers and parenting that is seems only fair to put the spotlight on dads and the role they play in raising happy and healthy children.
While this article talks about how a new father's health is impacted on with the arrival of baby, highlighting the perhaps forgotten side to parenting: the father's role. It shouldn't come as any surprise that fathers have a hugely important part to play in the healthy emotional development of their children. The view that a father's role is purely one of financial support is widely outdated and research supports a wider view that includes the emotional and developmental impact good fathers have on their children but we know this from experience and common sense anyway!
We need to look after our dads too. But too often they get a hard time for having an easy time of it and we forget that they are as much a part of this thing called parenting as mums are.
So why is that? It is unfortunate the label of being only the provider is one that is often unwittingly perpetuated right from the start:: they have nothing to do with carrying the developing baby and therefore can struggle to understand the intense physiological bond mother's have with their babies; they are not much use for breastfeeding and therefore can feel unable to help with a fundamental 'job' in child-rearing, that of nourishing the baby; they have less opportunity to spend time with and adjust to the new addition to the family due to paternity leave policy and on top of all that, still in most cases, they are the primary financial provider and this contribution is needed more than ever!
So it is no wonder that dads can retreat into work and perhaps find purpose and solace in being very good at providing. It can become their intense focus because they're not sure what else they can do! There are a lot of external factors involved here as well that can contribute to a father feeling isolated from their children and disconnected with their upbringing beyond the major decisions and perpetuating the 'provider' label. Policy at a national level is more difficult to address.
I would like to look at 'policy' at the family level instead so that fathers no longer feel 'surplus to requirement' in the general day-to-day interactions and do not perpetuate the stereotype of being solely financial providers. They can and need to provide so much more!
Family policy 1: His way is not wrong, it is just different
Mums are quite good at berating dad's attempts to help because they are not doing it 'right'. Mothers: step away from the parenting! By being very controlling over 'how it is done', you are creating an environment for dad that crushes his confidence. Eventually he will feel so useless he won't even try and before long, you're in a spiral of resentment and frustration.
He, along with you, is learning how this how baby malarky works. YOUR WAY is not necessarily the RIGHT way. He just has the disadvantage of being unable to make his mistakes like you have. But you can provide him with your experience: of letting him work it out for himself and he can only develop his parenting if you give him the space to.
Family policy 2: Share the parenting
This means, mums- go away! In a good sense, make sure that you take time for yourself regularly. You need it and they need it too- to learn how to be a dad!
The other advantage to allowing fathers to parent is the benefit that the child gets from it. Let your children know what it is to be parented by their dad! It helps for them to understand what it is to be in this world with others who do things differently. Time with fathers also builds connection, confidence and a more balanced sense of self. All these are incredibly important down the line when your teenager starts to strongly assert their independence- having a healthy, reliable and loving foundation built on shared experience and understanding to pull away from (and come back to) is incredibly comforting for a scared teen trying to find their place in the world.
Family policy 3: Communicate
I have said this before, but men cannot mind-read and they should not be expected to. Shared parenting values are fundamental to raising happy and healthy children. If something is going on that you don't agree with, tell them BUT think about the reason for the disagreement and check that it isn't coming from a place of 'my way is right' rather than 'my way is of more benefit for our child/ the family, for this reason...'
Family policy 4: Take care of each other
Sometimes it is hard to see the wood for the trees but there is a bigger picture and the reasons you are together and embarking on the parenting journey are what you need to come back to when the road is a bit rocky. You love each other, care for each other, trust each other. Connect back to your underlying friendship as often as you can to reinforce the good within your relationship. All too often we are only in a frame of mind that highlights the bad niggly issues.
Get some sleep then go on a date. Hold each other hands. Talk. Take some time to be friends first and parents second.
This list is by no means complete. There are many aspects to parenting successfully, this is just a little snippet focused on the dads. I would love to hear what else works for you in your family.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY