A v interesting debate, the working mother one. A v interesting side debate that ensued was the one around ‘what makes a good father’. It’s a good question.
What does make a good father?
Is a career focused man, one who works hard, who by default therefore works long hours, perhaps travels, is he a good father? Is he a good father because he is providing for his family? Is he excused from the hands on parenting role because he is working so hard? Or is he a bad father for not being around the kids more? Why is a mother who works those same hours considered not a good mother?
If a man decides to take an ‘easier’ / more flexible / lower paying job in order to spend more time with the kids a better father? Does this make him a better man? Or do we think of him as less of a man?
Whose job is it to do the day-to-day kid stuff? In the job description of Father does “day-to-day kid stuff” come lower down the list of priorities?
Are father’s exempt from the ‘admin’ of parenting? Is it enough that they are there to see their kids for an hour before bedtime and on weekends? Is it good enough that they put food on the table?
We can’t define a good father as one who loves his kids, that’s too simplistic. One would hope that all fathers love their kids. We know that biology has nothing to do with being a father. Ejaculation does not equal fatherhood.
Let’s have an example:
Father A – works a 12-hour day, sometimes longer, does so in order that his wife can stay home and take care of the kids. He probably only sees them for an hour a day, if he is lucky, and tries to make up some time on the weekend. Because of his demanding work life, he contributes very little in terms of actual childrearing hours. Of course he loves his children dearly, and will try his best to spend as much time as possible with them, but his job, the commute, the hours means that he gets to spend very little actual time with them.
Father B – works an 8-hour day. Has decided to forgo a career in order to have a job that allows him to spend as much time at home as possible. Unfortunately, this means he earns way less than Father A, which means his wife has to work as well. Their children are (happily, well adjusted) in day care, but they spend as much time together as they possibly can.
Yes, these are simplistic examples, and not every thing is as polar, as black and white, but in these examples, is one father better than the other?
Of course the natural reaction is to say that each family is different, that what makes a good father for one family might not be the same for another? Yes, oddly enough, we don’t grant that same latitude in our judgement of mothers. Do we not often infer some type of negative judgement to the hard working, long hours in the office mother that we don’t do the father? We are so much stricter in terms of how we define what makes a good mother as compared to how we define what makes a good father.
Then, do children need a hands-on, involved father? If the mother is doing the parenting admin, isn’t the father’s love sufficient enough on its own? Or isn’t it?
How involved, how hands-on does the father need to be in order to qualify him as a ‘good’ father?
Do we as a society, both men and women alike, have different criteria in our judgement of what makes a good father in comparison to what makes a good mother? And where does that differential come from? Is it an historic thing? A reflection of our patriarchal society? A biblical interpretation?
It’s very interesting. If I look at my own life – I do the majority of the parenting admin. Marko works really hard, not just because he wants to, but because he has to. My job understands that I can’t work long hours because I have kids, his doesn’t. There are days that he only sees the kids for an hour or so. Does that make him a bad father? Not in my eyes it doesn’t. Am I then just as accepting of different measures we assign to mothers and fathers as the rest of society – perhaps.
Perhaps it is meant to be this way, perhaps it happens this way because this is how it works best. Or perhaps we accept it this way because we know no other way?
What makes a good father in my eyes? One who loves his kids, obviously; one who is involved, to a greater or lesser degree, in the upbringing of his kids. One who sets a good example, one who plays catch with his kids, who wrestles and tickles, one how treats the mother with respect. But you know what, in my opinion, what makes a good father, in my world, is one who DOES provide for his family financially, and if this means working hard, working long hours resulting in less hands on time with the kids, then so be it. Is it a double standard? Perhaps.
I don’t know, it is a very very interesting debate. What’s your opinion?
I’ve tried to do a poll on this, but it’s v difficult to encapsulate the essence of this question in a poll type format – if any one has any ideas pls let me know. In the meantime I’ve done a v simplistic poll to try and find out what people think the primary role of the ‘good’ father should be. Doing the polls is always tricky, cos you don’t want to leave any thing out, and you don’t want to sway the answers in a particular direction.