Check out this video of Roland C. Warren, NFI's president, discussing why dads think they are replaceable at the release event for Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers' Attitudes on Fathering.
Today at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., NFI released Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers' Attitudes on Fathering
. Go to www.fatherhood.org/mamasays
to find out what moms really think about dads...
Over the holiday, I had the opportunity to visit good friends of mine, Allen and Becky, and meet Zeke, their happy, pudgy four month-old baby who has a shock of beautiful dark hair and eyes as large as saucers.
After sufficient cooing and cuddling (Oh, who am I kidding? It was excessive cooing and cuddling.), Becky settled Zeke into his ExerSaucer, a colorful bouncy-chair flanked on all sides by plastic toys, whirl-a-gigs, noise makers, mirrors - everything a four month-old needs to amuse himself for a few minutes - so we could eat a few bites of dinner.
"It's interesting," she observed as she settled him in, "this chair has pieces you can extend from the bottom to keep it from moving around as much. I always put them down, but Allen rarely does. It took me a while to realize that's okay - it's okay if Zeke moves around a little bit."
That didn't surprise me. Dads interact with their children in a different way than moms. While moms hold babies close and cuddle them, fathers tickle their kids, approaching them from every angle. Dads lift their babies into the air - prompting giggles of delight from their children and gasps of fear from their wives.
Research actually shows that kids need
this unique interaction - when dads play and tickle and toss, they're actually enhancing their child's cognitive development.
So many times dads get sidelined in the beginning because they aren't taking care of the baby the "right" way. Yes, there are only so many ways to change a diaper, but just because dads do things differently, that doesn't mean it's wrong.
Fathers have long complained that the post-divorce custody decision was slanted against them because they spent (or appeared to spend) more time working than actively parenting. In this recession, however, it seems that some working moms are experiencing the same phenomenon. A Working Mother magazine article
profiled some working mothers who did not get as much custody as they had expected, and the New York Times
followed up with another viewpoint.
Obviously custody battles often produce Pyrrhic victories, and one wishes they never had to occur. However, to make a fair decision about co-parenting responsibilities, judges need to consider a wide variety of factors about both mom and dad. Having moms get less custody time in some situations does not, by definition, mean the wrong decision has been made. What do you think?
I received the below note from a friend who just became a father:
I gotta say I first really felt like a father when I was holding her after she was born...she looked up at me and something inside me turned on, that I'd never felt.
Powerful stuff indeed
Interestingly, I had a similar experience when the nurse put my first son, Jamin, in my arms. I was just 20 years old and, admittedly, a bit scared. I was clearly more comfortable on a football field than in a delivery room, and more comfortable with a football in my arms than a baby.
But when they handed Jamin to me, something in me just
like a light switch. When he looked up at me I said to myself, Wow
this is my son. Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Fatherhood changes everything.
I also remember feeling that I was grossly unprepared for my new role, especially since I grew up without my dad. Sure, I had attended LaMaze classes and a few prenatal doctor visits, and read selected pages from my wifes What to Expect When Youre Expecting book. But none of these things really spoke to me or seemed to be for me. And it seemed that my feeling and experience were not unique. In our Pop's Culture Survey
, we found that nearly ½ of the fathers surveyed reported that they were not prepared to be fathers when they first became one.
Thats one of the reasons that when I joined NFI 8 years ago, I championed our efforts to develop resources like Doctor Dad,
When Duct Tape Wont Work,
and Daddy Packs for New Dads
to equip dads right from the start. Unlike me, fathers need to walk into the delivery room with more than just a bit of anxiety and a checkbook and need to walk out of the delivery room with more than just the bill and the baby.
In any case, got a story about becoming a dad for the first time? Id love to hear it. Also, if you are about to become a father and want to share about what is going on or if youre a mom and want to tell about how becoming a dad affected the father of your children, chime in as well.
The New York Times published an interesting article
that not only highlights the importance of involved fathers, but also the turnkey role that moms play in involving fathers. "A mother's support of the father turns out to be a critical factor in his involvement with their children."
It goes on to report findings that show that when a couple's relationship is strengthened and a couple has positive interactions, dads are much more likely to be involved and kids are much more likely to thrive. Truly a win-win situation.
This article explores the fact that the mother-father relationship is one of several factors that can affect father involvement. We know that dads don't parent in a bubble; that's why we built a session for mothers into our 24/7 Dad curriculum
and why we've developed Mom as Gateway
. These resources help break down the barriers between couples (regardless of marital status) so they can effectively co-parent.
As this article points out, more and more people are realizing just how important dads are - and that there are many factors to enabling their involvement. Helping moms and dads see eye-to-eye and respect each other's parenting styles is key to thriving kids and families.
Even in time of recession, work-family balance is still a popular topic. As is this recent study
from the British Equality and Human Rights Commission. They surveyed over 2,200 British fathers about issues related to work, to childcare and household responsibilities, and to differences between mom and dad.
Some of the findings:
- Fathers do want to spend more time with their children, and want to make their children a priority. 54% of dads with children under the age of 1 year felt that they spend too little time with their child.
- More mothers (34%) than fathers (23%) believe that child care is the primary responsibility of the mother.
- There is still a big gap between what flexible working options are available to fathers, and to what extent fathers are actually using those flexible work solutions.
This begs the question - do fathers continue to feel that using flexible work options is potentially damaging to their career? Or are there larger more diverse sets of reasons that fathers don't take the leave available to them?
In this piece from the Wall Street Journal
, General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, pulls no punches in telling working moms that if they choose to spend more time with their families, they are likely giving up the highest levels of career advancement. Thus, he says, there is no such thing as work-family balance, only work-family choices.
He makes some valid points, but he takes his argument to an extreme and among the things he leaves out of his analysis is the fact that working fathers are equally susceptible to being left back for not being there "in the clutch, as he puts it.
In fact, working fathers who spend "too much time" with their families may be even more stigmatized than working mothers, as it is less expected of them to leave work early for the ballet recital.
Do you think Welch's views are representative of today's corporate CEOs, or is he part of the old guard, being replaced by a younger generation of corporate leaders who are more attuned to the work-family balance needs of both men and
Excellent TIME magazine cover story: Why Marriage Matters
, by Caitlin Flanagan:Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. "As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called
Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage.
"Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need that man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."