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Fighting for Our Children: Dads in the Trenches

"I admire TIm (stay at Home dad interviewed for the article), but at the same time I'm skeptical that they've found the perfect family model. These educated men have chosen to take up the lesser role in an outdated domestic division of labour. I don't believe the model mankind pursued for all those millennia - one half of the partnership a household drudge, unable to own property, vote, have a career outside the house, while the other half earned money, went for lunch and had a tangible stake in the world - was working. It was a raw deal for women, just as it appears to me a raw deal for men who are taking it up." Leah McLaren - writer for Toronto Life November 2013 - Power Wives and their House Husbands

In Response:

There is a not so quiet revolution happening, and I am proudly part of it. This movement is gaining momentum, and has plenty of ammunition to back it up.  I am talking about the insurgence of involved fathers.  Yes, fatherhood is changing, and men are embracing their new roles like never before.  This is fantastic news for kids, families and the communities we share.

Photo credit: serf Photo credit: serf

Photo credit: serf

Children desperately need and deserve to experience the love and nurturing that 21st century dads are surrounding their children with.  Whether they are part of the new infantry of dads who are choosing to make parenting their career or those who have become more mindful and intentional about balancing work outside of home and the needs of their children, gone are the Leave It to Beaver dads who leave the parenting work at the feet of “the mother”.

Some people look down on these courageous and gentle soldiers, and my blood boils when the dedicated dads who choose their children over their careers and are publicly shunned; their motives and manhood questioned and challenged.  Perhaps a culture of consideration rather than condemnation is in order.  We are entitled to our opinions; a gift given afforded us because we live in a free society.  However, sharing our views must not be done in judgment or without respect for the choices we each make for our families.  Who are we to say what is good for someone else, particularly when it involves broad generalizations and stereotypes?

Families that make the sacrifices necessary to have a parent stay home and raise the next generation of citizens must be revered and celebrated, just as those who work hard to balance careers and families are.   We all make choices, and for many, the choice to have one parent at home with the children requires giving up a great deal of what our culture has come to value:  “successful” careers, money, and more “stuff”.  I am shocked at the public lashing that sometimes results for those who elect to do something a little different than we might choose for ourselves. Wouldn’t a community of support be in order here?  Isolation and competition seem to be what many parents find themselves facing, in their neighborhoods, workplaces and in the media.  We have lost sight of the fact that parenting is first and foremost about the children and it is not a job for the faint of heart or a solo venture.  We need each other.

Photo credit: Jon-Phillip Sheridan / / CC BY-SA Photo credit: Jon-Phillip Sheridan / / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Jon-Phillip Sheridan / / CC BY-SA

Bear with me.  I am on a roll.  I am perplexed as I think about this.  When did “outsourcing” the raising of our children not only become ok, but “normal”?  We must rethink this practice, for I am certain it is not in the children’s best interest. There is potential for disaster here, if we are blind to what children really need to thrive.  Both parents contribute significantly to the healthy growth and development of our most valuable resource, our children, and families should feel supported and comfortable in making the choice for dad to choose a career in parenting. The research suggests involved fathering makes him a better man, not one who is compromising his education, intelligence and self-worth.

If you doubt this, you need only look at the research. The work of people like John Bowlby (the father of attachment theory), Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Jennifer Kolari, speaks volumes about the importance of children being deeply attached to their parents, and dads are parents too!  This is nature’s way.  These deeply attached relationships render children teachable, and thus easier to parent.  Could it be that some of our parenting struggles come from the detachment that is a direct result of the way we are choosing to live our lives, our cultural priorities, and technology?  Parents and children were designed to be together, and while our culture has changed at lightning speed, the trajectory of our brain development has not.  No one is better equipped to raise children than parents, and that means dads too.  How did raising children become a second class job, worthy of public expressions of condemnation by some who may choose a different path?  Parenting is a serious, exhausting, joyful, lifelong commitment, and aren’t we fortunate here in Canada, to be able to decide on how we wish to parent.

So kudos to all the families who choose attentive, involved parenting as a measure of your success, however you do it.  March on and continue to fight for your children, even in the face of disdain and disrespect.  For you are the ones who will look back in 20 years and deeply know and understand the souls you brought to this earth, and revel (finally) in a job well done.

For those of you interested in more information about perspectives on parenting, attachment and involved fathers, I would suggest the following links as potential food for thought.

Gordon Neufeld:  an expert on attachment and the devastating effects on children when we don’t have it

Jennifer Kolari: a child and family therapist that suggests empathy is always the first response to our children

Father Involvement Research Alliance: compelling research in the area of involved fathers

Dad Central: committed to strong, healthy children by affirming and valuing the bond between fathers and their children

Let it Be Me:  a powerful poem written by a dad to his children