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Why is it… January 9, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Love, Parenting/Children.

..that so many mothers assume that they have instincts toward parenting that surpass that of any father? I lost count of the number of articles that read “How to Help your Husband be a Better Father,” and “How to Provide a Nurturing Balance in your Home.” Now, to be fair, a good number of us with male genitalia are morons. I’ll give you that.

However, just because we enjoy a good poop joke doesn’t mean that we have no capacity for the Right Thing ™ when it comes to raising a child. I would contend that anyone’s instincts for parenting are based largely on their experiences as a child, and the subsequent reflection upon those experiences as either better or worse than the examples we see around us. If my assessment is accurate, what suggests that women have better experiences to draw from than men? I doubt that the stereotypical young girl playing “house” is truly preparing for motherhood any more than the stereotypical young boy is by catching snakes the field behind the house. (Actually, catching snakes may be preparing him for the the more adventuresome aspects of home ownership, electing members of Congress, and dealing with used-car salesmen.)

Going further, to simply ignore a father’s instinct runs the risk of losing much of the value of the two-parent home. One of the more insightful books I read quoted a study that suggested that men tend to carry children with them facing away from them, where women tend to carry them facing inward, toward them. The book suggested both approaches have merit and value.

Unfortunately, by the time the 3rd or 4th year of the child’s life rolls around, many fathers have had the worth of their opinion and instincts drilled out of them, either by the media telling us that we don’t have “mother love,” or by a spouse that’s read too many books from the same genre. For this reason, many fathers “abdicate the throne” to the clearly superior maternal instinct. This is unfortunate, and may very well be why so many of us lose interest in the ongoing process of childrearing.

Dad, have you given up your role? There are no shortage of potential influences waiting, like backed up planes at the airport, to land in a place of influence of your child. Mom, are you encouraging Dad to hand over all the parenting duties to you (until the son is 16, and ready for the sex talk)?


1. Tiffany - January 9, 2006

>> until the son is 16, and ready for the sex talk >>

I truly hope your readers aren’t waiting until their sons (or daughters) are 16 before having the sex talk! According to a very informative 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_024.pdf), 46% of females and males age 15-19 have had sexual intercourse. (Among many other interesting and scary details in the study: the first time was nonvoluntary for 9% of females; and 18%/25% of males/females didn’t use contraception the first time.) If the study included other sexual activities that could easily lead to pregnancy and/or STDs, the numbers would undoubtedly be much higher. My daughter is 14 and my son is 10, and we’ve been having age-appropriate sex talks with them at every reasonable opportunity since they first began asking questions. And, as you stress in your post, Mom and Dad both need to be involved in such talks with children of both sexes, so kids learn the full spectrum of physical and emotional factors involved in their decisions. Talk to your kids, people — talk to them about everything and anything, every day.

2. timthefoolman - January 9, 2006

Great point, Tiffany, and I thought about a follow-up post on this very subject as soon as I wrote that line. I’ll try to post my thoughts on that later today. Thanks! — Tim

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