June 17, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
This article in the Washington Post strikes a blow for men as fathers (Washington Post, 6/6/15). Specifically, it’s about changing parental leave laws and policies to allow dads to spend meaningful time with their kids in the first weeks of life. That of course is a good idea. Mothers biologically bond with their children during pregnancy; fathers do so mostly after their kids are born when testosterone levels take a sharp dive and prolactin levels rise. And children need to see, hear and feel their dads early in their lives to form the usual child/father attachment.
So parental leave for fathers makes sense for dads and their kids.
But societal norms interfere with that. The WaPo article makes clear that expectations of men to be the breadwinner in the family intrude on the father-child dyad. It’s not news that fathers spend much more time at work than do mothers. That’s a behavioral norm that’s evolved over (potentially) millions of years in every known human culture.
And yet, humans, unlike the great majority of mammals, are a bi-parental species, i.e. both mothers and fathers come equipped with the hormones that connect adults to children and produce parental behavior. So it’s no surprise that the great majority of fathers want to be actively involved in their children’s lives. The WaPo article cites studies showing that Americans strongly believe that “bringing home the bacon” is only one of the contributions fathers should make to their families. Being present, active fathers to their kids is as or more important.
Good for the Washington Post for promoting men as fathers. Someday, maybe state legislatures and courts will get the message.