We hear a lot about the supermom syndrome, but rarely about our superdads. We place higher expectations on fathers in today's society than ever before. Unlike previous generations, dads today are expected to take a proactive role in caring for the children physically as well as financially.
Gone are the days when a man arrives home from work, loosens his tie, slips off his shoes, and reclines in the Lazyboy with his newspaper, which he thumbs through as he waits for his dinner to be served.
Today, many dads don't get that decompression time after a day at work. Some of the dads pick up their children from daycare on their way home. Others are immediately struck with the hassles of the day, while they struggle to make the instant transition from professional to father.
As a stay-at-home mom, I have often wondered why my husband sits in the car for a few moments after he pulls into the driveway. Until, that is, one day that my husband watched our one-year-old, and it was my turn to come home exhausted from a busy and hectic day. How I wished I had stayed in the car just long enough to take a few deep breaths.
Today's dads, much like many of today's moms, must juggle the guilt of not spending enough time with the family with the guilt of not giving it their all at work.
But women seem to have more support with their struggle. Magazine articles, support groups, and websites warn moms of the risks of burning out and the importance of taking care of themselves. They dole out advice on balancing life and relationships. Fathers don't often band together like moms do.
Even while men are expected to independently take on a more nurturing role, they are slammed in the media. We watch television shows that too often portrays fathers as bumbling idiots, scared stiff of changing their own baby's diaper and incapable of anything other than watching a ball game and slugging beer. We sit through news reports of deadbeat dads and women who have beaten the odds despite, not with the help of, the men in their lives.
As natural nurturers, women have long taken on the social stereotype of being the dominant parent. Sometimes--and I hate to admit that I'm guilty of this, too--we may subconsciously sabotage their parenting efforts to make ourselves feel more important.
It's important for us to recognize that dads interact with children differently than we do. These techniques are neither better nor worse. Just different. Dads may tend to allow the child to reach a higher level of frustration than a mother would, which may be an important lesson in resilience.
The role of a father serves an integral part in a child's life. Spending time with both parents helps children develop an understanding of separation, transition, autonomy, and gender roles.
Momscape applauds all of the great dads out there, and all of the men who strive to be great dads. Here's to my husband, who would make a better stay-at-home parent than I. He is much more patient and more experienced with children. He never gets bored, even on the afternoon's eighth reading of Green Eggs and Ham. In his downtime, he does a load of laundry and whips up a heaping platter of Beef Stroganoff when all I see in the fridge is pickles and ketchup.
I'm going downstairs to interrupt Dr. Seuss and to tell him how much I appreciate the work he does. Maybe it's time we all spent just a few minutes thinking about the pressures our husbands, and to applaud them for all the things they do.
Copyright 2000 by Susie Michelle Cortright
About the author:
Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder and publisher of Momscape, an online magazine devoted to nurturing the nurturers.
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