It’s been an eye-opening 2013 for people who still live with the belief that parenting is somehow the domain of women. Study after study has revealed a ton of things we didn’t know (or were just ignoring) about men and Dads, and to me, this kind of attention is long overdue.
Consider some recent headlines:
- Actor/comedian/banjo virtuoso Steve Martin becomes a father at the age of 67, and the world seems to get turned on his head by the notion that there are men who – regardless of age – are passionate about fatherhood. Many hear themselves saying for the first time (albeit from a place of being judgmental), how important it is for a child to have an involved father in their life.
- A Pew Research study reveals that there are even more Dads than Moms who feel parental guilt about not being more involved, putting to rest the ridiculous ideas that Dads are passive observers of the parenting process.
- Various media reports introduce us to the “hands-on Dad” and illustrates the offensiveness behind the thought that when Dad looks after the kids, it’s merely “babysitting”.
And now, we have a new piece of research out of Britain that suggests that nearly twice as many men as women “experience isolation” as a result of not having children. In fact, the numbers suggest that men without kids experience negative emotional consequences far more often than their childless female counterparts.
This might come as a complete surprise to many, in part because let’s be honest, men typically suck at sharing their emotions. It’s quite possible we’re genetically engineered to downshift to sports talk at the first hint of some kind of emotional connection, especially with other men. When’s the last time – outside of a sitcom – that you heard one man say to another, “Do you need a hug?”
However, now that all this information is out in the open, I’m going to invite Moms and women everywhere to take full advantage.
In short: Use us!
Is your guy one of “those dads”?
Keeping in mind that men are lousy at “sharing”, have you had the conversation about whether he wishes he were more involved? On behalf of men everywhere, let me beg this one thing of you: Please stop relying on your intuition, especially when it comes to important stuff. The statistics suggest that your guy wants to be more involved, and is actually kind of messed up over it. Don’t assume. Ask him.
Find more Dad stuff for him to do
Now that we’re past the insulting idea that Dad Care is “babysitting”, maybe help him get out of his involvement rut by coming up with things he can do with the kids – and if you’re really brave, make them solo trips or activities. If there’s still that part of you that insists on stereotyping, suggest he teach them about baseball, or hockey, or carpentry. Pick some cool DIY project that he and the kids can tackle together. You know the stuff that makes you melt when you see a celebrity Dad doing it? Chances are, your kid’s Dad wants to do those things too. Be an enabler.
I’m doing a certain amount of stereotyping myself here, and I fully expect that people will find something here to be offended about. And if you want to argue with science, that’s fine. The numbers say I’m right, and that there are large numbers of men out there that just don’t know how to take the first step. I can introduce you to thousands of men who will tell you that for some of us, planting a stake in the ground when it comes to parenting sometimes feels like we’re overstepping – we live in a world, after all, where the “involved Dad” is a relatively new thing. But it’s real, and the statistics reveal that we’re slowly working toward seeing men becoming just as involved in parenting as Mom is. Is it overdue? Of course. But don’t penalize us for coming late to the party. Everybody wins if we’re encouraging, positive, and find ways to make this work.
MORE THOUGHTS FROM NEIL HEDLEY: