For all our lip service about the family being the foundation of society, for all the (renewed) prejudice against working mothers (at least in my neck of the woods), for all the articles and Chris Rock-straight-to-video movies about soccer dads and stay-at-home fathers, it’s telling that a headline like the one from Sunday’s NY Times still seems like news, like a point that needs to be made: Why Fathers Really Matter.
Admittedly, I’m biased. Most of the time, because of the relative flexibility of my schedule, I’m the primary week-day parent. This role has given me frontline experience in how our culture, perhaps unwittingly, acts as though dads DO NOT really matter or, at best, they’re a nice extra feature.
For example, I can’t tell you how many people, how many times upon seeing me with my kids during the day refer to it as ‘babysitting.’ As though they’re my wife’s kids and when she gets home I’ll get paid $10/hour. I’m even told that Dads watching their kids counts as ‘childcare’ according to the IRS. That’s hardly the only example. There’s the obviously surprised, awkward expression that creeps across a teacher’s face when you’re the one who shows up for the beginning of the year parent-teacher conference. There’s the bemused reactions in the grocery when folks see a DAD (!?) shopping for dinner.
While I’ll be the first to admit ours is a sexist culture, I’d also be quit to point out how another manifestation of our sexism towards women is how it renders fathers.
Back to the NY Times story. Recent research demonstrates what any sane person already knew: that fathers are every bit as important during pregnancy as mothers. As the father of two adopted boys and as a son who had no father active in his childhood, I would only add that a father’s role and impact on children doesn’t begin or end with biology.
Here’s the link.