What is a father?
Had that question been asked 40 or 50 years ago, it’s likely that those who responded would say that a father is the male person who goes to work in the morning and then comes home at suppertime and flops in his favourite chair in front of the TV. For the most part, they would be correct.
When I was growing up, parents had visibly defined roles. Even though I was part of a fairly new phenomenon in that I came from a household where both parents worked outside the home, the parental roles were clear and distinct.
Think June and Ward Cleaver or Ozzie and Harriet.
With the help of her children, mom was the one who did the laundry, cleaned the house, grocery shopped, nursed cuts and bruises with Band-Aids and kisses and generally kept the household running smoothly.
Dad was the stern one who meted out the discipline when needed, waxed and polished his car every Saturday morning and took care of all yard duties and house repairs.
I don’t remember mom ever swinging a hammer, nor do I remember dad ever preparing a meal. Ever. It just wasn’t done. That’s just how things were back then. Everyone had their place within the family and everyone in the family knew their place right from the “head of the household” (dad) down to the “caboose” (my brother, the youngest of all the siblings).
We all had our duties, and we all had our roles. Back then, those roles were more gender specific than ability specific. Everyone knew what was expected of them. There was no guessing and there were no excuses should you fail to execute those duties. Figuratively speaking, we were all were born into this world knowing what was expected of us. What a shame! When you really think about it, you can see how that sort of stereotyping did us all more harm than good and became more and more constricting as the years passed.
After all, why couldn’t a man diaper his child? Mothers did it all the time, and while it’s not the best chore in the world, it was moments such as that in which mother and child bonded while the father was sidelined. Until most recently, fathers were left out of that heart-tugging equation, just as mothers were left out in other ways.
Think of the poor woman who suddenly finds herself widowed after 30 years. A simple task such as hammering a nail into a wall in order to hang a picture can appear insurmountable when one is grieving.
I, for one, am glad that most men want to be fully involved in every way while raising their child. Late night bottle duty? No problem! Diaper changes? Absolutely!
Parenting beyond male stereotypes is becoming more common and it’s not unusual to see a father walking down the grocery aisle with his child safely ensconced into the baby carrier tied to his back.
It warms my heart to see both parents, especially fathers, fully involved with raising their child. Today’s parents are a lot smarter than we were. They see and approach parenting as a pleasure and a privilege, not as a duty.
Today’s fathers are real men in the sense that they feel comfortable enough in their own skin to participate in what was wrongfully and traditionally considered “women’s work.”
They are better for it, and so are their children.
Well done and happy Father’s Day to each of you fathers who make the conscious decision to be present and involved in your child’s life.