The media’s darling for attention-getting in the parenting world is “the mommy wars.” According to this concept, women are catty and mean to each other, trying to outdo one another with their devotion to their children. But what the media rarely discusses is “the daddy wars.”
The daddy wars don’t exist in the same way as the mommy wars — but the parties are divided along the same lines that the media claims the Mommies are: working versus staying with the children.
For men, it’s more of a manhood war. Any man seen to value his family over his work is open to attack. This was illustrated all too well by the recent attack on the Met’s second baseman Daniel Murphy for taking a whole three days off (which unfortunately for him and aggravatingly for sports radio hosts included opening day) to help his wife with their new child.
“Help his wife?” Did anyone catch that?
Men do not take paternity leave to help their wives or partners. Although that might be the way it is often phrased, that statement still puts all the responsibility for parenting on the mothers’ shoulders.
Ironically it is the same boneheads who believe single mothers are a drain on society who often believe that men merely serve a supporting role in parenting and should be replaced — as promptly as possible — with hired help so that they can get back to their important man work.
How a baseball game is more important than the nurturing and fostering of a young life, I’m not sure.
But the prevailing attitude in many workplaces is that income earning work of any nature is more important that child-rearing. While employers are more often offering paid or available paternity leave and our own federal government allows men to share in the paternal benefits, men are often still reluctant to take this time due to perceived lack of support from supervisors and co-workers.
In 2002, the Families and Work Institute found that men in dual-earner couples experience significantly higher levels of stress in the conflict between work and family than their female counterparts. They also found that men who felt their employers supported their need for balance between work and family life reported much higher levels of job satisfaction. In fact, 70 per cent of employees with supportive employers reported high job satisfaction as compared to only 19 per cent with unsupportive employers.
I’m not sure where Daniel Murphy would fall in that range, but considering baseball is the only major league sport with paternity leave written into players’ contracts, I’m sure he feels much more supported than, say, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat who was playing basketball the day his son was born.
It’s not just the sports world that has to deal with this conflict, men in all areas of employment feel the same pressure to show more loyalty to their job than to their own child.
And a man’s contribution to the family is more than as a “breadwinner” or as a helper to the mother. Study after study shows that men parent differently than mothers and that such parenting is valuable in the child’s development.
On the whole, children with involved fathers are more socially developed and more self-aware and confident than those with uninvolved fathers.
There are any number of reasons for this, but a part of it is because of the way men parent. Men are more likely to encourage their children to take risks. One of the major failings of my parenting generation is that our children are not being permitted to fail and so cannot handle failure of any type.
Fathers are much more likely than mothers, on the whole, to allow children to experience failure, even encourage it and thus allow them to develop resiliency — something many children these days are lacking.
In 2008, a study titled “Father’s Involvment and Children’s Development Outcomes” analysed 22 earlier longitudinal studies. It found that fathers who were engaged in their children’s lives had a positive outcome in their child’s social, behavioural and psychological development.
It is not difficult for employers to allow fathers to be engaged, to show them from the outset that their child is as important as their work. When they do so, their recruitment, retention, and job satisfaction rates for men increase and their employee’s stress decreases.
Personally, I don’t care what a man does to earn a living, I care who a man is.
And to me, and I would like to hope for most of our society, the ability to be caring, nurturing and responsible are more important than the ability to bring a home a major league paycheque.
Placing job attendance above family is a major step backward in recognizing men’s contributions to the family — regardless of what it does for women’s gender equality — and thus a step backward in building a healthy generation of responsible citizens.
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