Fatherhood is more than sperm donation
In my clinical practice I have often observed a look a surprise, perplexed frown and exchange of gaze between parents (given that both show up for the consultation) when I ask if the pregnancy was planned, the reaction of father as well as the mother to the news, were they happy, did they want the pregnany, did they think of not continuing it?
Pakistan is dominantly a patriarchal society but Parenting is gynarchial; composed of the grandmother, mother, aunts, unmarried daughters, female maids, midwives, neighbors who act as substitute mothers. Influence of cultural practices in Pakistan include lack of parenting resources for fathers, lack of knowledge of parenting skills for fathers, society view and pressures fathers face.
The whole implication changes around the childcare and parenthood when even one of the parents is not ready to embrace the role. Our knee jerk reaction is to think of mother as she is the one who has to face physiological and psychological changes and of carrying the child in her body. But we often forget about how fathers perceive this change of role and responsibility.
Fathers who are involved during pregnancy and the care of mother and the baby continue to remain involved in the child’s life after delivery. To foster this connection, some researchers recommend that healthy mothers and newborns should return home as soon as possible after delivery, especially if the father is not allowed to stay overnight in the hospital. Although, Senate passed Maternity and Paternity Leave Bill, in 2018, in our culture fathers are not allowed to see their newborn at the role of birth. Most men experience carrying babies in their arms for the first time when they have baby of their own.
Joanna Kitlinska of Georgetown University, who condicted a study om this topic in 2016 said:
“We know the nutritional, hormonal, and psychological environment provided by the mother permanently alters organ structure, cellular response, and gene expression in her offspring.. but our study shows the same thing to be true with fathers — his lifestyle, and how old he is, can be reflected in molecules that control gene function.”
Fathers often find themselves wondering why they should even bother investing time and energy into infants who, for at least another couple of years, won’t care or remember. For example, they don’t miss father much when he travels.
No doubt, mothers tend to use the dominating role of the father to be
able to control the children. Using threats and referring the father to ensure that the children stayed quiet and controlled. This may unknowingly make fathers take up the role of being stern and strict.
By giving threats referring to father, mothers undermine their own authority. It is very crucial for both parents to realize that children benefit from experiencing a variety of styles of leadership and control by both parental styles. Given these styles complement each other and not demean.
In child care, fathers can certainly give bottles, feed solid foods, change diapers, select clothes, wipe away tears, blow noses, bathe, put to bed, read stories, fix toys, break up quarrels, help with questions about homework, explain rules, and assign duties. Fathers can participate in domestic work like shopping, food preparation, cooking and serving, dishwashing, bed making, housecleaning, and laundry.
There is no reason why fathers shouldn’t be able to do these jobs as well as mothers, and contribute equally to the children’s security and development. But the benefit may be lost if this work is done as a favor to the wife, since that implies that raising the child is not really the father’s work but that he’s merely being extraordinarily supportive and generous.
Just watching television together, for example, isn’t going to help much. Fathers are more than just sperm donors. When I say just, I dont mean to discount the importance of sperm. Of course, perhaps no greater and more universal Father Effect than genetic information.
Being around is one thing, being engaged is another. Fathers who spent a lot of time with their kids but are dismissive or insulting tend to have only negative impacts. Involvement, in principle, means
participation, association, interaction and a bonded relation. Hence, an involved father is the one who is responsive to the child’s needs, interacting with the child, poviding care and nurture. Yes nurture!
There are various factors that affect fatherhood which in turn affects marital relationship between parents that directly and indirectly affects the child development, childs relationship with the mother as well as the father.
Off course there are variations for single parenthood and same sex marriages that require individual considerations in separate posts.
Originally published at http://childpsychling.wordpress.com on April 6, 2020.