The importance of fathers

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Registered: 03-26-2003
The importance of fathers
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Sun, 07-06-2003 - 2:27pm
Engaged dads help women avoid the mommy trap

By SHELBY MURPHY

Special to the Leader

Funny how sometimes we need statistics to tell us the obvious, or at least confirm what we already suspected. Here's one of those conclusions, guaranteed to shock no one: studies have proven, conclusively no less, that fathers should be intimately involved with their offspring.

Now that nobody has fallen over in disbelief, let me dazzle you with another big duh. When fathers participate in their children's lives as diligently as most mothers — or at least within the same ballpark — those children, fathers, and mothers benefit enormously.

In her book, "How to Avoid the Mommy Trap: A Roadmap for Sharing Parenting and Making it Work," Julie Shields ticks off study after study showing the pluses of men being engrossed in their children's lives, especially early on. Children with dads actively involved during the first eight weeks of life manage stress better during school years, reports Shields. Greater frequency of paternal visits to newborns in the hospital correlates with higher infant weight gain, and, later, a more secure child, she adds.

One study found that the more fathers do everyday repetitive tasks such as bathing, feeding, dressing, and diapering, the more socially responsive children become. The children in this particular study developed more advanced problem-solving, personal, and social skills than the norm. Another study observed a positive connection between children's verbal and math skills and the amount of contact they have with their fathers.

Shields's conclusion, that men and women bring a different and complementary skill set to the role of parent, echoes prominent leaders as disparate as Dr. Laura Schlessinger, James Levine, founder of the

Where moms often nurture, dads play and challenge. Kids who get equal doses of both, as well as the parental strength and guidance of two individuals rather than one, can't help but thrive.

If that isn't convincing enough, Shields throws in a kicker. Fathers who contribute at home report increased happiness, better marriages, and more frequent sex. One would think that alone would send a stampede of men into bosses' offices, demanding a more family friendly or flexible work schedule.

Problem is, we are, for the most part, culturally incompetent at setting up our lives in a manner that allows fathers to contribute much beyond a paycheck. We let dad take a couple days of paternity leave to bond with his new baby, then tell him to ignore the pang in his chest as he spends 40 or 50 hours a week away from his child for the next 18 years.

When fathers participate only occasionally in the lives of their children and are too removed to help out at home, the overwhelming responsibility falls on the shoulders of mothers. The women's movement did very little to engage fathers at home, so without cooperative thinking on our part, we women may carry alone that responsibility forever.

Our society lives by the 1950s template that if a family prefers a parent to be the primary caregiver of children, it is most often the mother who stays home, accepting the full load of child rearing and domestic duty without respite. Or we live by the 1970s template that if a mother must work or chooses to, nearly all of the family and household obligations ambush her at 5 o'clock.

This is what Shields calls The Mommy Trap - a life model where both parents spend excruciatingly long hours at work, come home stressed and overwhelmed, the mother then starts her second shift of cooking, dishes, baths, and laundry, and the children get few benefits of either parent; or the mother sacrifices her interests, and sometimes her identity, to make raising the children her job 24/7, and the children benefit mostly from what she alone has to offer.

Because The Mommy Trap affects both full-time mothers and working mothers equally, it is a dark void where almost every woman has fallen at one time or another.



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Avatar for cyndiluwho
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Registered: 03-27-2003
Sun, 07-06-2003 - 7:13pm
It's about time someone said the obvious in a big way. Dads are just as important as moms and kids need two parents. I hate it when I see dads reduced to little more than a paycheck. Kids get short changed when that happens.
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Sun, 07-06-2003 - 9:43pm
The other thing mygarnetboy is missing is that even if her DS is a mommy's boy, her DS still needs Dad. Heck, my younger one is a total momma's boy, which means I make a conscious effort to get him and DH to spend time together. My dad knew my mother was more than capable of being a strong enough presence for both of them, and I believe both my brother and I suffered because of it.

Even if the children prefer Mommy, they still need daddy!! I need to dig up the link, but I know there's research to show that a strong relationship between father and dds helps prevent bulimia, anorexia, out of wedlock pg, etc. Makes sense, doesn't it?

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Registered: 12-29-1999
Sun, 07-06-2003 - 10:42pm
SIGH...I said DH was superfluous in the day-to-day things, I did NOT say he was superfluous in DS's life. If I felt that way, I would have had my child via a sperm donor and skipped marriage entirely. C
Avatar for virgogirl914
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Registered: 03-25-2003
Sun, 07-06-2003 - 10:52pm
I'd still be interested in seeing your response or reaction to the CONTENT of the article texigan posted.

Increases in problem solving and social skills have been found in children with fathers who ARE regularly engaged in repetative tasks such as bathing, diapering, feeding, etc.

Interesting considering your family arrangements.

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Registered: 09-07-1998
Sun, 07-06-2003 - 11:19pm
(Long time lurker don't get to post much)

I guess I don't understand the distinction. Day-to-day things ARE a child's life. Yes, he would be superfluous in changing a diaper if you were already doing it, just as YOU would be superfluous if you left the child home with Daddy while you went grocery shopping or whatever. I think the point of the article is to make every effort to make Dad NOT superfluous in the humdrum stuff of a child's life. IMO it can only make a child more secure to know that BOTH parents are capable of taking care of ALL things.

Pat

Pat

"If you need something done, ask the busy man. The other kind has no

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Registered: 03-27-2003
Sun, 07-06-2003 - 11:29pm
She's right of course, men and women DO bring different and complementary skills to the role of parenting and both are equally important but I'm wondering about the following:

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In the working mom example, if she allows herself to become stressed and overwhelmed shouldn't SHE assert herself here? Why is it HIS fault if she volunteers to take on the second shift? Is Shields suggesting that mom take on additional work hours to FORCE him to become more involved?

And why is it if a mom is with her children 24/7 she is automatically sacrificing her interests and identity? Maybe that IS her identify at that time in her life. And how would her cutting back her time with her kids increase his time with them if his job has set hours?



iVillage Member
Registered: 12-29-1999
Mon, 07-07-2003 - 12:04am
Why? DH does change diapers (did more than half today) and give bottles (fed DS breakfast Fri, Sat, and Sun morning AND does the morning bottle EVERY morning) and occasionally give baths.

I will comment on the study (I'd like to know where/when/and by whom the study was conducted), but it will have to be tomorrow...I've had a long day and my brain is fried from the sun. C

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-29-1999
Mon, 07-07-2003 - 12:05am
He is capable of doing it and does it when he's around. C
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 07-07-2003 - 6:26am
That paragraph seemed kind of over the top for me also. I think that both of those are examples of what can happen but not of what always happens or what has to happen. In both a WOHM and a SAHM situation you can have a more balanced situation. I think that that is why she refers to it as the Mommy Trap, because both are a dynamic that you want to avoid getting into.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 07-07-2003 - 6:28am
If he does all of those things then why do you call him superflous?

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