It is on most evenings that I try not to let the daddies picking up their children, see me brimming with joy, as more and more men seem to be taking on the after school care of their children. Both you and I see an ever increasing number of children with their fathers … exercising, playing, bonding before school, before work. I engage them constantly and delight in the stories they tell of escapades they get up to – daddies and their children.
In more and more countries around the world, parental leave, that is, parents and/or couples are together, whether they live under the same roof or not, they are deciding how they will parent their children. They are deciding who will take leave from their work and for how long – to raise their child, their children equally. Countries have created this option for their people.
Parents are thinking through how they will raise their young ones, opting for the best strategies, plans and maps, as their implications have astounding impact on not only the children, the family but also the community and society, they interact in.
Who will take on picking up the children from school? Who will make sure they have nutritious meals for breakfast and dinner? Who will discipline and train them – how and when? Who will ensure they have a good moral footing – day by day, hour by hour – training?
Roles of child rearing and home-making are no longer ascribed. We sometimes wonder whether they ever were…or whether what was workable, was always the order of the day.
Whatever the impetus that has societies changing — habits are changing, roles are changing…ascribing specific roles to mummy and/or daddy – has throughout history been transforming. And the roles have always been ascribed according to what worked best at the time.
We now have a more individualized society, so our parenting roles will need to change according to how parents conceive them and what will work best for their families. The ‘make believe world’ of woman’s work and women’s roles is no more. I know this is sad news for many.
Today, with mummies and daddies working outside the home…with mummy or daddy living in different homes…the variables appear endless. Parents around the world are making their lives work, while maintaining and ensuring both parents’ equal responsibility, equal bonding, equal loving time, equal caring time with their children.
There is no natural selection where roles are concerned…. They are defined. They always were. Perhaps one of the biggest lies ever told to boys and girls, men and women, is that a mother can parent a child better than a father can. It is not a biological distinction. It is a socialized one. A man can parent a child just as well as a woman can, period. It is simply what is so.
Both MUMMY and DADDY have equal right to love, care for and guide their children…make their home. With both men and women working outside the home, it is imperative that we plan how we will best divide our time and resources, for our family’s maximum benefit.
In Namibia, Finland, South Africa, Iceland, Argentina, Norway, Sweden, … countless countries over the last three decades, people have been looking at their lives, their time together, and choosing to use their time and resources, changing things up to have their lives work better. Countries have responded to their citizens’ lived realities, and have begun experimenting and have quantified the results in some rather astounding data.
With the case of mummy and daddy having equal opportunities for parental leave, with couples deciding who will take leave and when, the children having bonded especially in those early childhood years, with both parents, are seen to be more grounded, more confident, more willing to take educated risks, more sure of themselves in the teenage years, more interested in being brothers’ or sisters’ keeper, steady bulwarks of their peers and colleagues, society.
Who knew that this sure and solid grounding with mummy and daddy could produce such differences in human development. Tracked data in these countries point to the first months bonding in a child’s life, as being essential, but the practised and equal participation of both parents in the child’s growing up is invaluable.
Can our culture change? Can we begin to socialize ourselves into the understanding that men can parent their children just as well as women can…. and when done in tandem, we produce extremely fascinating human beings?
Here we see much visiting of homes by men who’ve ‘no interest’ in staying. . . much impregnating of women by men . . . a historically learned behaviour . . . or remembered behaviour.
. . . As the needs of a slave driven economy called for more and more hands, slave owners routinely moved ‘families’ around.. . . More often than not, moved fathers, husbands around to distant plantations. But historians have repeatedly told the stories of our men, after being removed from their children and family, repeatedly running away to see them.
We can see the hurt and pain lived and remembered, manifesting itself in fathers, now reticent to accept parental responsibility, attachment and loving of what their sperm has wrought. A very different story from what was before slavery, with the men from all parts of Africa, greatly valuing family, prizing it above all else, paying close attention to the development of family and children.
Today, more fathers are remembering who they are, taking the time and making the care of their children, their number one priority. We see our social development benefitting. There is a relationship between fathers investing time, effort and love in raising their families and societies growing the way we want them to. Chart it yourself!
When we give human beings the benefit of exploring the whole gambit that the world of parenting offers, it follows, we will have a more productive people, society. If we are saying we honour and value our fathers, just as we value and honour our mothers, we are understanding that the care and attention that daddy gives to his children is as valuable as that of mummy’s. We are saying that we consider paternity equal in importance to maternity. Full stop.
(Michelle Cave is a teacher and past president of Soroptimist International of Jamestown)