It Takes Two To Parent
The hardships of motherhood have been getting a lot of attention in the past few decades but more recently, with the evolution of attitudes about gender equality, the truth that both parents are equally important and that there are no longer clear-cut, gender-specific responsibilities at home has started to emerge. It’s not the 1950s anymore, and just as mothers are free to pursue an active career, fathers can choose to stay at home looking after the kids. It’s a radical change in a culture that traditionally has the mom either staying at home full-time or, even if she’s working, still putting in more home- and child-related work than the dad. Yet, there is no logical reason why this should continue and many parents are waking up to this new reality.
Statistics about stay-at-home dads released by Pew Research Center last year show that over the decade between 2000 and 2009 their numbers increased to 3.5% of all two-parent families with children, from 2.7% for the decade 1990-1999. Still, the reasons for dads to stay at home full-time were not necessarily personal choice: losing a job or being disabled were more common, but still 22% of these 550,000 that Pew Center counted as stay-at-home dads were classified as primary caregivers. And the number is expected to rise, reflecting the changes our society is undergoing, challenging gender stereotypes and moving toward greater gender equality.
But even if we leave stay-at-home dads aside, working dads can, and should, also help around the house and with the kids. Since many mothers are also working full-time, there is no reason that one working parent should contribute to family life less than the other, is there? The problem is often in our mom minds. We are somehow used to the thought that the wellbeing of the kids is mostly our responsibility; it’s probably related to our mother’s instinct. Some of us even give their husbands or partners a hard time when the guys try to help out, certain that they can’t do things right. But think about it: so what if the kid eats a little junk food, because dad can’t really cook? So what if the baby’s diaper is not changed the second she fills it? Irritating as it may be, dads have no other way of learning to be better caregivers than to be given the chance to try, and it’s us, moms, who can, and, once again, should, give them this chance.
We seem to forget sometimes, what with all the hassle around the baby and older kids, that having children is a big deal for dads, too. It’s stressful, it’s confusing, but it’s also rewarding and dads should have the opportunity to take a slice of the rewards. So, don’t push them away when they try to help out, just because you think they would do a worse job than yourself. This is often the case, at least in the beginning, but who’s to say that they can’t do something better, once they get the hang of it? Encourage them to help, with the kids and with chores, and appreciate their desire to help and be an equal partner. After all, equality should work both ways, and if we want to go out and climb the career ladder, we should be ready to give the man we share our life with the chance to take some of the household load off our shoulders.