Thursday, June 18, 2009

Evolution of Dad across the Atlantic

It's always interesting to see how trends in fatherhood are translated on the other side of the Atlantic. I was recently interviewed by The Times in Britain for an article on how the role of dad is changing. Aside from quoting me as saying 'mum' as opposed to 'mom' they did a really good job at presenting a balanced view on the subject of dads. Perhaps what's most intriguing is their perspective that us American dads are much more open to sharing our feelings on the subject of caregiving than our British counterparts. Ironically, while there may be an openness over here, the policies of our country lag behind England when it comes to paternity leave and such. No matter, the times they are a-changing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Conspiracy of Silence?

Yes, it's that wild and crazy time of the year when fatherhood is back on the cultural radar. I honestly have mixed feelings about Father's Day. It's great to have a holiday promoting the importance and appreciation of dads and yet, between the commercial push and the general shallowness of the media coverage, I find myself shaking my head.

I just came across an article from The Observer over on other side of the Atlantic which goes beyond head shaking to mere bafflement. The basic premise is that more and more men are coming out about how much they don't get or appreciate being dads.


Maybe this is a British thing. I dunno. I mean, are there days that I would like to throw my boys out the window? Are there moments when I feel like banging my head against the wall? Are there times when re-reading their favorite book of Thomas for the 10,000th time is perhaps the dullest experience ever? Absolutely! Boy, there was a moment this weekend when my wife and I were with our sons at the Olive Garden and, between the screaming, standing on seats and food throwing, I'm certain the twenty-something hipster waiter was thinking, "Who would want to do this to themselves?"

And yet, would I change a thing about having kids? Would I trade in the accrued gray hairs, the loss of time, the lack of sleep, the destruction of my home, to be single and free again?

Not on your life.

What also bothered me in particular with this article was the given assumption that somehow dads have no paternal instinct compared to women, so women are just naturally suited for the job. The research about how fathers have chemical changes as well as their counterparts has been substantiated again and again. Sure, being a father really starts on day one for most new dads, but at the end of the day it's on the job training where it's really about, for moms or dads.

I think there's a balance in all of this, of course. Spending all the time taking care of one's kids, just like spending all the time away from them, can be equally troubling for dads. I think it's important for dads (and moms) to keep their sanity by getting out once in a while, having another part of their lives taken up with work, etc. It's this balance which is the toughest in our society and really where the struggle lies.

Maybe it's different for British dads but I doubt it. Maybe there are other dads out there who just don't want to be around their kids. My response to that - don't have kids then! Obviously, fatherhood is not for everyone, but a 'conspiracy of silence'? Please!