There’s no doubt the sociological upheavals caused by the so-called Women’s Liberation Movement have done much harm, but one great thing to come out of that time is a greater closeness between fathers and their children. 

My father was always actively involved with his children—unusually so for that generation, I believe—even before my mother’s early death forced him to take on double parenting duty.  And yet in his journals of our early years he always refers to the times my mother was not at home as times when he was “babysitting the children.”  No one I know with young children in this century would even think such a thought, much less express it.  How can one “babysit” one’s own child?

My own generation was at the cusp, I think.  Most fathers I knew still thought of their time alone with the kids as babysitting duty, at least when the children were very young, but overall they were beginning to be more involved in their care. That happened most as the children grew older, however—and dirty diapers were still the mother’s domain. 

Now—with the notable exception of breastfeeding—fathers seem to be doing everything.  Some even specialize in dirty diapers!  If the father is the family breadwinner and the mother the homemaker,* then there is necessarily a difference in the quantity of time each has with their children, but functionally dads have taken on parenting in a way that only mothers had enjoyed.  It’s not that they’ve become mothers—watch a father playing with an infant and you’ll say vive la difference! once your heart rate returns to normal.  They’ve become better fathers.

Today I’m thankful for fathers, past and present, who learned the awesome truth that no selfish pleasure brings as much delight as nurturing a family.


*“Homemaker” has positive connotations for me—there can’t be many professions nobler than making a home—and the term “stay-at-home-mom” sets my teeth on edge.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 6:18 am | Edit
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