Where do dads turn to brainstorm parenting struggles and celebrate parenting successes?
Do they comb websites or book stores to find answers to their daughter’s biting issues or son’s potty training regression? Or, like in our house, do they turn to the “all-knowing” mother for guidance?
I e-mailed Jeremy Smith, author of the new book, The Daddy Shift and blog, Daddy Dialectic, to ask if dads, especially those serving as primary caregivers, seek out parenting advice at the same rate as mothers serving as primary caregivers. This was his response:
It’s safe to say, no. Moms buy way more parenting books than dads, and, anecdotally, I’d say moms are way more likely to read them. This is sometimes taken as a lack of commitment to parenting, but I think it’s more accurate to say that dads can’t relate to most of the books out there. I’m an avid reader of parenting books, and I find that dad is often a marginal or even scorned figure in these books. That said, I do think it’s true that many guys have a more laid back, learn-as-you-go approach to parenting, one that makes them less likely to read obsessively. There’s wisdom in that approach, I think, because moms’ reading is often driven by anxiety and sometimes feeds anxiety. I sometimes think that moms should read less!
Parenting is the most challenging job, for which there is no training. Our instinct, intuition, and the best intentions often don’t nurture the child’s basic needs, let alone effectively address parenting calamities.
Imagine if you went to a surgeon who said, ” I don’t really know anything about surgery, but I love my patients and I want them to be happy.” It’s a similar vein with what so many parents say about parenting.
Parents, like surgeons, need to understand our job-at-hand. We definitely have some instinct toward parenting and gain wisdom through experience, but much of parenting is not instinctive or intuitive. Some moms get this. It seems that fewer dads do.
Is it because fathers often feel marginalized within their families? Once kids enter the picture, dads are often no longer the center of the family dynamic, but pushed out on the fringes.
Parents can work together to avoid this dynamic, but it means the dad has to own his responsibility of parenting, rather than hoping someone else will do the “dirty work”. And, mom needs to encourage his participation without micromanaging the details.
Do you share this perspective?
I’d love to hear from you, dads, what your process is with parenting (help, moms, by forwarding this post along to 3 dads that you know). How do you gather information to help steer your decisions?