Parenting is Not about Gender - Kimberly Hackett

Parenting is Not about Gender

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Steven, the lifeguard, had a baby. He’s working on getting paternity leave so he can bond with his son.

Every day I see dads pushing strollers and carrying baby packs. The other night a couple was having dinner in an empty restaurant. I watched them pass the baby back and forth, so each could eat.

Nothing special. An everyday thing?

I know from my practice that more dads are showing up alone to learn how to be a better parent. Often divorced, they feel unsure. Insecure. Cautious. They don’t want to be like their fathers were once with them.

They watched their dads go to work, leaving the “relationship” stuff to their moms. Dads came home with expectations. They pushed the agenda of success, grades, accomplishment. Moms were busy getting food on the table, finding band-aides.

Dad Role Questioned!

“What’s my role?” I’m asked. “I’m not the mom?”

We are not far from the time when women didn’t go to work after college. Instead, they became homemakers.

Here are two old-school definitions defining women’s roles when my mother was a young mother.

  • Homemaker — a person, especially a housewife, who manages a home.
  • Housewife — a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught law because she could not get a job as a lawyer.

Women stay home. Men go to work.

Generational patterns.

But…

Men and women are showing up differently today.

Maybe it’s because families can’t survive without two incomes. Perhaps it’s because 50% of marriages end in divorce.

With every challenge, there’s opportunity.

However, more dads are doing the work of mother and father, just as moms are doing the work of father and mother.

Parenting is genderless.

As a result, more dads are figuring out how to parent alone for the first time. Not like their dads parented them but how they want to parent. Being both mother and father, being a genderless parent takes time and effort, and it’s not easy. It’s new (relationship) terrain. Women have been doing the mother/parenting thing from the beginning. Dad’s are catching up.

Did you know that 42% of women are the sole breadwinner. Just as women have joined the workforce, men are joining the home force (for lack of a better word). Family balance requires shared responsibility.

A few obvious questions…

  • Are women more relational than men?
  • Is being relationship focused a gender thing or social conditioning?
  • Can men be nurturers like women?

Of course, they can, and they are.

In the end, it’s about every parent’s willingness to invest in connection at all costs.

When I was a kid, my mom was my everyday parent, and my dad showed up for dinner. Kids need both parents. Back then, nurturing was delegated to my mom only. My dad was somehow let off the hook. Generational? Probably. Conditioning? Yes. Assigned roles? Absolutely.

But still and always, a personal choice.

Parenting is not about gender.

Walking by a daycare center, I see a few dads picking up their child. One dad’s face reminded me of how I felt when I had my child back from wherever. I felt whole. He looked happy. Complete. His child was snug in his front pack, and they were going home together.

How you show up as a parent is up to you.

Steven knows this already and I think, how lucky his son is.

“I can’t do the work of carrying or giving birth to my son. But I can do everything else. My wife and I are co-everything.”

Co-everything.

Yes!

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