Today I was reading an article on Huffington Post about men needing resources and forums about parenting and their own work/life balance. The article struck a chord with me. On one hand, it made me glad inside that a man was openly talking about needing help with his parenting and on the other hand it was a little upsetting and yes, it did sound a little like a pitty party (sorry guys). From a woman’s perspective, and one who comes from a macho family of males, here’s why it both pleased and upset me, and why I think men definitely deserve both credit and accountability as parents.
From a mother’s standpoint, I was glad to hear a father talking about needing more discussion on parenting. Trust me, we NEED to hear that! Mother’s need to know that father’s are not only ‘on our side’ and showing some ‘virtual’ support, but we also need them to step up and show support in public, with their friends, their families, and at home. Now, that’s not saying that men don’t help, but instead, the bigger problem is the fact that most just don’t talk about parenting. I hear men ask all the time, “Why do mommy bloggers get all the support and love online, and dad bloggers are hardly noticed?” Well, there is a reason for that. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we don’t always see men as parents naturally. Many times, men will make all of their other identities known, but for some reason, fatherhood remains a bit of a secret. Yes, they often mention that they have children and you’ll spot them in public with their little princes and princesses, but how often to we hear dads conversing with their wives or each other about parenting? How often do they say things like, “Wow Bob! How do you get little Amy to eat her peas and carrots? I’d love to hear your secret!” or “Tim, my wife says she doesn’t want to spank, and I just don’t understand how that’s supposed to work?” Do men talk about these things? I’m sure some of them do, maybe many, but there is no way of knowing or finding transparency if men continue to keep these things undercover or shy away from these important topics.
Now, I’m not putting all the blame on men. I’ve heard women say that it’s not men’s place to help with those decisions (WRONG) and I’ve seen the stigma that men often have against each other when parenting is mentioned. Society most definitely doesn’t make parenting talks easy for men. There’s a lot of razzing from the ‘less evolved’ (ha!) guys out there and overall flow from many that parenting is not a topic for men. Let’s set the record straight though, parenting is most definitely a topic that includes men, needs men and should be equally dominated by MEN! Why? Well, once women started working outside of the home to help pay the bills, it has become necessary for men to step forward on the parenting front. Trust me, we women CANNOT do it all, we don’t want to do it all, and be assured…we NEED your help. As women have taken on more responsibility with working outside the home, we haven’t seen the same get up and go with men INSIDE the home. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great SAHDs (stay at home dads) and working dads who are the parenting leaders in their homes (*moms everywhere clapping*), but often there is still a stigma circling dads and a falling out amongst men that leaves women holding the bag. And to be honest, with everything else that we’re taking on, we can’t afford to “do it all” anymore. Men, we need you!
Yes, father’s are definitely under-appreciated, and that’s in large part due to the fact that many men don’t (for whatever reason) acknowledge their daily role in parenting or talk about it openly in public. This doesn’t (or shouldn’t) diminish the fact that some father’s do an awful lot to parent their children and yes, they do deserve moms’ stamp of approval and a hat tip or two from society. But, beyond that, men also face the challenge of making women believe that they’re really interested in parenthood. Without talking about it in male circles or actively discussing the topic on the national radar, it can seem that men don’t care about this issue. Obviously, this is becoming more of a misconception as men become increasingly active and involved fathers. Many men are as sensitive and nurturing as their female counterparts and also equally skilled disciplinarians and leaders. They’re babywearing, co-sleeping and supportive advocates to their nursing wives. They’re teaching their kids to read and write, to ride a bike and how to handle peer pressure. But, while it’s taken men time to change and drop their machismo in favor of paternidad, it’s also going to take some time for women to recognize their sincerity on the topic.
There are definitely men out there who are stepping up and representin’ as great fathers. And just like we need their support, they need ours. They need to know that we appreciate them, that we count on them and that we look to them for leadership in our families. Even more than that though, men need to know that they can rely on each other. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk pacifiers with other daddies or pick out children’s clothes together. Lord knows, I’ve seen men bond over fishing or football, and do some strange things in the name of friendship, but bonding of baby purée is out? Why? These stereotypes and social expectations that men have for each other need to be broken down and reformed to include parenting. Men, the biggest way to accomplish this is to support each other. Talk about parenting together, trade tips, write about it and relieve your wives often to head out for a playdate with the guys. If you’re wife isn’t comfortable, take the necessary steps to make sure that she is. Don’t leave it up to moms to define your role as fathers. You define the kind of parent that you’ll become.
When it all comes down to it, many amazing fathers will keep on truckin’ with or without an award and they’ll do it because they love their families. They’ll be the ones who prove the old stereotypes wrong and show us why fathers are necessary for a strong families and healthy kids. They’ll be the ones to change societal norms and prove that manhood and fatherhood can and should co-exist.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post about resources for dads online. :)