As I said it was a moving documentary, but it also made me very angry. In fact, the air was blue as the program ended and I was screaming at the telly: 'Where are the fathers in all of this?!'.
The women in this documentary, the women I know who are single mothers, are doing it all. They strive and strive to do their best, to provide emotionally, physically, spiritually for their kids. Yet they always seem to be asking 'What more can I do?'. They feel they have to fight society for more recognition, for more equality, for a break and more understanding and empathy. Yet again I ask 'Where are the fathers in all of this?'
No where that's where, they are just not present, and in my book that is not on!
In our culture fatherhood seems to be optional. It may take two to tango, but it seems like tango-ing is as far as it goes.
When I had only Rebe, before my boys were born, I was chatting with a friend one day who had only boys. She said to me that she was glad she had boys 'because they can't come home pregnant'. Now here my friends, for me, is where the problem lies. We teach our children from a very young age that parenting is the role of the women. My friend's statement is so telling of our society's attitude to fatherhood. It is, quite simply, optional.
For a girl/woman who gets pregnant there is no choice, she is a mother and she has to be the best mother of all, or she will be faced with a barrage of criticism and scorn. The guy who provides 50% of the pregnancy can walk away...and we allow this to happen. Yes we do!
We, as a society, need to change our attitude to fathering, to parenting. I do feel that children need to be taught that when a baby is made it is made of both parents and it is therefore both parent's responsibility. I do think that men and boys should be encouraged to take a role as father, an active role providing financially and emotionally for the people they are responsible for bringing into the world. I know that if one of my boys came home and told me that they had gotten a girl pregnant I won't be taking the attitude of 'oh well that's her problem', it will most definitely also be the problem of my boys!
But this has the potential to go wrong unless we take a holistic view of fathering. Fathers should have and do have responsibilities, but they should also have rights. They have a right to be a daddy. They have the right to see their babies being born, to hold their babies, to bond and connect with them, to feed and bathe and care for them. To run and laugh and cry together. To be there for the first steps, the first day at school, the first date,the whole lot . They have the right to be respected as loving, caring parents. This needs to be recognised in law, social policy and in society in general.
It is something that people are working on, there are pressure groups and fathers groups who are working hard at the policy level. But really it is up to us. We are the people raising the next generation, we are teaching what is normal and what is not to our boys and girls. As we raise our boys and girls we are creating/inventing what the next generation thinks about parenthood and fatherhood. So, lets change it!
'Fathers are parents and they are men; unfortunately, they get much more training in being a man than in being a parent. Some of that masculinity training actually gets in the way of fatherhood, especially with connecting playfully or on a deep emotional level.' Cohen, L ~ Playful Parenting.
We need to allow our boys and girls to learn parenting equally as children. They need to be able to act out the parenting and fathering that they see. All boys need dolls! All girls need to share their dolls with boys. By dolls I am talking of baby dolls, not action figures. I've seen so many boys display such tenderness and care towards dolls. It is as natural in them as it is in a girl. It needs to be celebrated and encouraged and if someone questions it, I think the kids need to hear you defend them! They are right to be caring and loving, this is the training for adulthood.
What else? We can talk to our partners, tell them how important their fathering is. We can help them to be proud of their role, be proud of their love for their kids. We can encourage them to show it not just by providing money but by providing the everyday care that children need, bathing, feeding, cuddling, stories and games. I think that baby wearing is a wonderful way for fathers to connect with their children. They feel the closeness so often reserved for the mother and they gain one of the most satisfying aspects of parenthood; comforting your baby, holding them and letting them know with every beat of the heart that they are loved and will be forever more.
What else can we do to guide our boys to be good dads? To teach our girls that when they have a baby it doesn't 'belong' solely to them but also to the man who fathered that baby.
Do you agree? If so please share this post, share your thoughts, lets change fatherhood for our children