“We Want Respect”: Fathers

According to a New York Times article by Laurie Tarkan featuring research done at Smith College, Princeton and Berkely, fathers should start demanding a little more respect from their wives because even though they want to be involved in their children’s lives, they are discouraged by the attitude of their wives and society in general…

As much as mothers want their partners to be involved with their children, experts say they often unintentionally discourage men from doing so. Because mothering is their realm, some women micromanage fathers and expect them to do things their way…Yet a mother’s support of the father turns out to be a critical factor in his involvement with their children, experts say — even when a couple is divorced.

OK, I admit that I do try to micromanage and want my husband to do things my way as far as child rearing is concerned, but for a father to blame a lack of motivation to get involved in his child’s life to this is really silly…I know disapproval is terrifying and disappointing, but instead of making silly excuses, why don’t men try talking to their wives? Solutions can only be found if they are looked for…

Tarkan states that “Uninvolved fathers have long been accused of lacking motivation. But research shows that many societal obstacles conspire against them.” The obstacles she is referring to are the pink walls and women’s magazines in doctor’s offices and day care centres which leave fathers secluded and discouraged…WOW! I would feel secluded and discouraged if I had a son who wore only brown and blue clothes and played with cars and Ben 10 toys…I have a question for the researchers of the study, Philip A. Cowan and Carolyn Pape Cowan: Was this study conducted so that men could freely blame their wives and interior decoration for making them uninvolved fathers?

Tarkan does redeem herself by explaining that studies show that children are better off when both parents are equally involved…I couldn’t agree more…Fatherhood is just as valid as motherhood and couples (especially mothers) who get divorced should remember this…Children can only grow up to be good parents if they are shown how…

Yes, men do face some subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination when doing traditional “mommy stuff”, but I feel that fathers who really want to be involved in their children’s lives will find ways to overcome these obstacles…A father who really cares about his children will not notice the colour of the wallpaper unless he’s insecure about his own masculinity, and if sitting in a room with pink walls is enough to qualify as gender discrimination, then I am discriminated against whenever I walk into a room that is not decorated to my personal liking and should therefore be able to sue the owners for millions of dollars…Anyway, up until the 1920s, pink was considered a manly colour because it was close to red (flashy and aggressive), and blue was considered a womanly colour because it was more soothing and tranquil, so who knows what the doctor’s waiting rooms of the future will look like!  And people, if a man wants to be a hands on father, please don’t snigger…Don’t reinforce out dated societal prejudices…Just as women want society to view them differently, men do too…

My unsolicited advice to fathers: If you make a mistake or don’t know how to do something, please admit the fact, take criticism from your wife with a smiling face and ask her for help…I can guarantee that your wife won’t lose respect for you if you show your vulnerability…

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21 thoughts on ““We Want Respect”: Fathers

  1. I am lol after reading this :”Was this study conducted so that men could freely blame their wives and interior decoration for making them uninvolved fathers?” looks like that to me too coz the excuses look so lame. I don’t think men who really want to be involved with children will mind the color of the walls. How stupid.

    Anyway mothers tend to keep the fathers a tad uninvolved most times. What do you think of the possibility that this ‘unintentional discouragement’ is woman’s way of getting back to the men in general?? Sort of ‘Ha you know nothing about this, it is my forte, so there!’ You see, this is the only area where women can have a say, other than the kitchen and cooking. Do you think this is a woman’s way of telling him, ‘You may act superior about everything else, but here I am one up on you’?? I have always wonderd about that when I see some women in action.

    Children of single parents can grow up to be normal adults too. What happens when a spouse dies?? It is not divorce alone that deprives a child of a parent. If those children can grow up to be normal adults why not the children of single parents?? It is the approach to parenting that counts. Of course it is best to have both parents, but in the event one is missing, children can still grow up normal if the atmosphere is kept cordial and you don’t have mean gossiping and interfering relatives and friends to spoil the show.

    Me: True, children of single parents can grow up to be normal adults…Sometimes though, when a couple is divorced, egos come in the way and one parent (usually the father) is often denied access to his/her children…The courts also side with the mother as far as child rearing is concerned…This should change…

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  2. Good post, Sraboney. I don’t know what the motives of the study were, but it is true that society as it is today, doesn’t really encourage men to be fully involved in parenting. Companies rarely accomodate men’s childcare needs and in general, we go the other extreme and praise them for simple tasks such as handling children in the mother’s absence. This is deeply conditioned, so despite my feminist beliefs, I catch myself doing this sometimes. A friend who has 2 children, aged 5 and 2, recently came to Bangalore to have some ‘me-time’ for herself, while the hubby took care of the kids for the weekend, and – part of me still was like, wow, what a cool guy – although, objectively, it should not be such a big deal at all, since mothers deal with this day after day after day – it can’t be rocket science!

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  3. I am amazed. First the country publishes books dividing up planets, Mars to men and Venus to Women. Then it does the pink and blue thing, that actually benefits those that manufacture paint, baby clothes, and baby furniture. And people think it odd if a boy baby sleeps in a pink bedroom. Then some folks get up and do this research.

    Please, respect has to be earned. If you have to demand it, its like being Lalu or GWB. And a family is not like a company. Different people contribute in different ways, during different times of a child’s life. And the various parties complement each other, rather than compete.

    Sitting in a place where so few end up worrying about walls and colors simply due to absences of houses themselves sometimes, this research simply sounds facetious. Remind me to ask my pediatrician friend to make her walls yellow.

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  4. After reading this I get the feeling that, like many things American, parenting too is being reduced to superficiality – political correctness, competitive social norms and divisive role playing more than anything else. What has happened to good old “emotions”, mamata (not the one from Bengal), sacrifices-without-making-I-suffered-noises etc? Where is the unit called family?

    I totally agree with Suranga.

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  5. Can I answer the question you posed to the researchers: Was this study conducted so that men could freely blame their wives and interior decoration for making them uninvolved fathers?

    The answer, I think, is yes!

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  6. Firstly my personal opinion is that these kind of studies are absurd. I don’t think that any woman will discourage her husband from looking after the child. Woman sure does have an upper hand in parenting and that is quite natural. But that doesn’t mean that men have no role to play. These things depend on circumstances. In your day to day life there may arise so many occasions where the mother may not be in a position to look after the child and the duty solely falls on the father. And then in any case where does the question of respect arise in this case. The funniest aspect in the study is for sure that ‘pink wall effect”.

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  7. Now what more reasons for not doing the parenting job ?????? Whether the men are really like this or not, just see the jobless researcher doing such a stupid research !!!!!

    ” A father who really cares about his children will not notice the colour of the wallpaper unless he’s insecure about his own masculinity ” – Absolutely true – all these research and their stupid results are for the insecured lot !!!!

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  8. I feel a larger number of dads than seems obvious are involved with their children. And those who aren’t are the ones who are sometimes irresponsible in other ways also, and use society/wall colours as an excuse 😉

    It’s like if the world thought I was unfeminine or whatever for being close to my kids would I care? Why should a father care either?

    Me: Men care because society makes fun of ‘feminine’ men…Take for example little girls who like playing boys’ games – we call them ‘tomboys’ affectionately but tease boys who play with dolls…It’s not right but unfortunately that’s the way things are…

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  9. Are the fathers themselves really complaining, or are these the reasearchers’ deductions?

    And what an unexpected deduction- “that children are better off when both parents are equally involved.”

    Who would have guessed! 😀

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  10. But you know Bones, it’s sort of true. Even I do it unconsciously! It just happens, and I have to deliberately check myself when it does. It’s kind of a question of territory. “Hands off my domain” seems to be the underlying message to the hands-on dad. It’s as if we’re saying to the men that because we spend more time with the kids, mommies know best how to deal with all kid-related crises. And that’s certainly not true.
    Even though we all welcome our hubbies being so involved in bringing up the children, we do tend to get a little territorial at times. So I’m not surprised that some men just shrink away after getting their heads chewed off by the wife a few times. Not all men are as patient on this front as my hubby, I guess. I got LUCKY!!

    Me: You are lucky, Rupa! I agree with you but blaming the colour of walls and women’s magazines in doctor’s offices is a bit too much…

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  11. There may be a point here. One of the reasons that my wife and I decided not to have kids is that we foresaw jurisdiction issues.

    My wife said she doesn’t want the kid to be “corrupted” by my influence – 😀 – and for my part I said that like it or not, my share of bringing up the kid is at least equal to hers.

    In all fairness I have an undue advantage. I’m a writer and work from home so I’ll spend much more time with the kid than she will, and that’s something she feels will make the kid “too much like me” – she says that one of me in the world is enough!

    But if our roles were reversed, I don’t think I would have a problem with her spending the majority of time with the little brat. So it must be a woman thing with her feeling that as a mom she should have a greater say in influencing the personality of the bundle of chromosomes.

    I of course refuse to accept that logic, and so this is the sthiti. (Also we both hate kids so that’s the real reason why we don’t want to have babies 🙂 – but we discuss all kinds of stuff)

    Me: So you are unique? That’s good…I wish more people were like you…I know a few who don’t like kids but have them due to family and societal pressures…Who suffers in such cases? The kids…

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  12. My generation males were quite happy to leave the babies with their mothers until they became old enough to discuss things with them. And it used to be exasperating to see the kids treat their fathers as heroes!
    I think the current generation fathers are more involved with their children from birth – it could also be because it is a norm these days for both spouses to work.
    And you are right – nothing can stop parent from being involved with their child if they really want to – the color on the walls and the women’s magazines are just an excuse. When men start visiting the pediatrician’s office, he will start placing economist and gentlemen in his reception.
    I thought that one of the signs of a complete man is the ability to shed tears without being afraid of being judged? Do they really care about criticism in displaying their feminine errrr softer side?

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  13. Really, is that true? That really is a lame excuse! Yes, I do micromanage my husband, but that does not mean I discourage him. And I am sure he does not feel that way. In fact I just hang around to make sure he does things the right way, my way!!! Ha ha !! 😀

    Well, as usual I stick to this advice for such researchers: Get a real job, u guys!!! 😀

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  14. I do agree that fathers who are motivated sufficiently can overcome the obstacles and frankly I think this is an issue of compromise. I mean where driving is concerned, don’t men try and push their wives to drive in a certain way? I think it’s natural to some extent, thinking that one is better at something. On the other hand if two people have different parenting styles I think it is good for the child. It gives a sense of balance to the parenting issue. However this can work only if the parents present an united front to the child.

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  15. It might be an idea for someone to actually read the study and comment on that rather comment on media comment associated with this study. The media/internet discussion of this study has totally misrepresented what the research was about.

    The Cowan and Cowan study actually had nothing to do with mothers’ gatekeeping or micromanaging or interfering with father involvement. It was a study that showed that parenting programs for new parents that focussed more on the couple relationship than on parenting skills improved father involvement more than programs for fathers alone. It’s not that men-only fathers’ programs were useless. But there was an enhanced effect when the programs included mothers. So what it really showed was the importance of a good couple relationship and parenting teamwork for father involvement – mother involvement as well by the way. It really wasn’t about showing that mothers interfere with father involvement.

    However, some of the comments about the study which were published in the media, including, unfortunately, statements made by some of the co-investigators, were about maternal gatekeeping and how fathers are exluded from programs, therefore that became the story. It’s too bad because this study is part of a 30 year program of research that is probably the most important research in the field of father involvement. But the program that the Cowans were testing was really about making parenting partnerships work well in the tricky early months of parenting, which research shows, is a stressor on marriages. What the Cowans have shown repeatedly, in well-designed studies, is that when the parenting partnership does work well, fathers tend to be more involved, mothers are better supported and children have better outcomes too. In other words, the Cowans have revealed one of the key factors in good fathering and good parenting in general.

    So it would be good if we could start talking about that rather than get sidetracked into the argument about whether or not fathers or mothers are more to blame when fathers are not as involved in parenting as they could be.

    If anyone wants to understand more about this study and its real findings read my story (I actually read the study and interviewed the Cowans) on the website of the Father Involvement Research Alliance:
    http://fira.ca/article.php?id=148

    Me: I did read the research…It’s a no brainer that when both parents are involved in the rearing of their child, the child grows up more rounded…It’s also obvious that if the tasks are divided, the couple will be happier which again will have a positive effect on their child…But what is amusing is the reasons given by some fathers who lacked motivation to be involved…I also think grandparents can have a positive effect…In India, grandparents esp. grandmothers have a relatively large role in child rearing esp. in the initial months…This takes the pressure off the mother and everybody is happy…

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  16. Thought John Hoffman’s comment made a lot of sense. In general, it makes sense to look at things co-operatively than as a men versus women kind of thing. Of course, media likes to pick out the more ‘sensational’ aspects of anything.

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  17. “My unsolicited advice to fathers: If you make a mistake or don’t know how to do something, please admit the fact, take criticism from your wife with a smiling face and ask her for help…I can guarantee that your wife won’t lose respect for you if you show your vulnerability…”
    Me likeyyyy ;D

    But well… I think the fathers also should be allowed to voice their opinion ( the genuine ones…and not the ones with ego issues 😉

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