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Dads are doing better

Opinion: Dads are doing better

The current crop of Dads is doing really well, according to John Cowan, writer and researcher with The Parenting Place. “Men are taking their
role in the family more seriously. ‘WHICH men!?’ you might snort derisively. Okay, my gender has a long way to go – Mums are still shouldering
the lioness’s share of the parenting burden – but I have observed a steady improvement. I cannot cite any research on this but I have had a ringside
seat in observing family life over my eighteen years as a parent educator at The Parenting Place and I am impressed at how men are picking up their game. It’s not hard to find dead-beat dads and examples of appalling parenting but I see an increasing willingness by men to get involved with their children.”

Cowan points to the attendances at the recent Fathers’ Breakfasts in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. “Hundreds of men turn up. They know they are important to their kids and they want to do better. I was also amazed at how many men turned up at a ‘Dads and Babies’ seminar I ran at the Baby Show. So many of these new dads are really informed and confident and quick to show off their prowess at looking after their infant.”

The tide may be changing but Cowan is still concerned that too many men still retreat from their babies. “Many Dads are scared to get involved with their kids. It probably starts early on in our parenting when we think that we aren’t as well equipped as women for handling small children. There’s no pelvic shelf for parking an infant on while you’re walking around. There’s no built in lunch bar. We also lack some of the instinctive parenting skills women seem to naturally know. Men don’t come with the hardware or the software, so we back off and leave child-rearing to the apparent experts, that is, the women. But if we step back when our kids are babies, everyone loses.”

Cowan urges men to get used to holding and hugging their infant. “If you’ve got a baby, learn to handle her. Babies are not as tough as a rugby ball, but not as fragile as a Flake bar. You should never shake a baby or handle them roughly but as long as you support your baby’s head, and don’t drop them you’re probably doing it okay. Handled with care, a baby should last a lifetime!”

“I really like the way modern dads are less shackled by stale masculine stereotypes,” says Cowan. “They’ve grasped the idea that you are no less manly when you get involved with children; in fact it is a very masculine thing. They realise they are not just ‘mums without the bumps’ but are dads, and dads do things a bit differently. For example, one thing the testosterone-laced nature of a man teaches children very naturally is that the best bits of life are out beyond our comfort zone. What is a Dad doing when he is throwing a child in the air and catching him? Well, he’s alarming his mother for a start! But, for the child, it’s fear, followed by reassurance. The edge of terror, and then back again to safety. A Dad will run with the push-chair, heave the swing up to shrieking height and lift a child up just before a wave hits them. All terrifying, but if Dad is holding their hand, it’s safe and it’s fun. Dads teach that the best adventures and life’s greatest treasures are very close to that edge of terror and that courage unlocks life.”


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