I had an interesting conversation the other week. Very interesting indeed. It started off as a general chat about parenthood – different approaches, pros & cons, that sort of thing – then moved onto fatherhood. Specifically the kind of pitfalls that fathers can fall into, one of the most common being a sudden trip back in time to the 1950’s. Yeah, the 1950s. Allow me to explain…
Parenthood traditionally begins with a period of chaos that none of us are expecting. And as we all know, chaos likes to open up gaping holes for us to fall into. We mothers tend to land in the ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing’ hole, or the ‘I’ll never get the hang of this’ hole or the ‘Is it just me? It’s just me, right?’ hole. Whereas fathers have a tendency to trip into the ‘time travel tunnel to the 1950’s’ hole. The one where they are determined to support their new family, but assume that their partner is better at it than them, so decide the best thing to do is to focus on what they’re more comfortable doing. Bringing home the bacon. Just like a 1950’s dad. Hey! Stop what you’re doing mister! I see you opening your email composing the mother of all complaints about this outrageous judgment on fathers today. Cool it Pops! This ain’t no judgment. It’s just something that sometimes happens when a guy is faced with an overwhelming need to support his family. It comes from a place of genuine well-meaning but unfortunately often has the opposite effect. And that’s what I was discussing the other week with a fellow parent – a Dad. And he agreed with me. Well up to a point; which is where it got interesting. You see, he didn’t see any problem with being a 1950s father in 2016. None at all. Not even a tiny one. I, on the other hand, saw a whole bunch of ‘em. And here’s why:-
- New parenthood needs stability. Stability needs teamwork. Teamwork needs both parents to work and learn together, remembering that neither is automatically better at babycare than the other. There’s no ‘I’m stuck late at the office again’ in team.
- A woman who has just grown a human being inside her body then pushed said human out of said body needs on-going support. The best person to give her that support is her partner. He’s probably the only person she feels she can be herself with at a time when she feels like anything but herself.
- A baby needs its father just as much as its mother. REPEAT. A baby needs its father just as much as its mother. It doesn’t prefer one to the other. Really. There’s tons of research on that fact alone. Google it.
And the most obvious reason why it doesn’t work? 2016 ain’t 1956. Family life was a whole lot simpler back then. A family created in the present day needs a father who is present. In the present day. Not just for his partner, not just for his child, but for him too.
Get back to the future Daddy-O!
For parenting advice and more of Orla’s columns have a peak around our ‘Kids’ section