Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The #1 Reason Why Dads Get Involved

I've mentioned Jessica DeGroot from The Third Path Institute in these annals before and here I am doing so once again. Jessica is someone who truly understands the larger issues of what is happening regarding balancing family and work and I am ever so grateful for her contributions to the project. The reason I'm waxing poetic about her is primarily due to an email she recently sent. We had been discussing some of the factors that help dads get more involved with their families. Here's #1 on her list:

"I think the number one reason men in professional jobs get more involved with family is because of the mother's attitude - for some reason she feels very strongly about having the dad involved."

Jessica's assessment seems to cut to the core of the issue. If moms really want dads to get more involved with the family then they have to be not only willing to give up some of the power in their 'separate sphere' of the home, but they must expect that involvement. If this expectation isn't there then the likelihood, especially given the current attitude of most companies, is that most dads will fall back into the traditional role of detached breadwinner.

Now, the good news is that we are in a current state of flux as to perceptions about what men and women can do in areas they were previously unwelcome. Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency is of course the most visible current example of this. Unfortunately, there's still a long way to go. Most moms and dads have a hard time with difference. Their identities are so wrapped around being the breadwinner, the supermom or what have you that they aren't willing to let go enough to let their partners in - even though doing so would make for a healthier and happier situation.

Author Julie Shields wrote in her book, How To Avoid The Mommy Trap, about how important it is for couples to sit down and really discuss these issues before having kids. This is a team effort and the more that men and women are willing to let go and be more inclusive, the more involved everyone will be and the better off we'll all be.


Sudha (Su) Jamthe said...

Very interesting and honest writing. I am going to track this blog.

I think Dads who want to participate as Dads balancing work and family today are in the same state that women had to go through to become working Moms in the last two decades.

By that I mean, it takes a conscious effort on part of the dad, a good support structure, meaning Mom who shares the same ideals and rest of their life structures be it family, friends, work etc.

From a practical stand point, similar to a single mom forced to get into a career, I find working moms who cannot give all the emotional attention to be supermoms makes it easy for the dads to gracefully do their part.

Dana said...

Thanks for you insights, Su. I totally agree with you on all counts. There's a lot of work that needs to be done but I'm optimistic that more and more people are going to find a better balance as time moves along.


WorkingDad said...

Deroot has it right. The best co-parenting couples I know work because the mom not only wants the dad involved, she embraces it and is comfortable ceding him equal authority on parenting issues.

chicago pop said...

The interesting thing as I move into year 2 of at-home-fatherhood, is that, now that I've conquered the pile of angst surrounding the "breadwinning dad" stereotype, I'm realizing that there's a different pile of angst that I can only deal with indirectly, involving the "supermom" stereotype. I call it the "Martha Stewart Approach to Mothering," in that it poses a ridiculously high bar. Even working moms seem to be tormented by this ideal, which can make it hard for them to let go of some areas where the dad can just come in and take care of things (like doctor's visits, for example).

I'm looking forward to being at the door, a few years from now and on crappy days like this one, with a plate of cookies for the youngin's after school. Then we'll wrestle in our underwear.