Are women better parents than men?…

…is the topic of Sara’s Prompt this week over at Mum turned Mom. The answer is no, of course we’re not. But what I would say is that, as women, we are hard-wired to fulfill a certain role for our children. Gender roles exist, largely springing from what are still marked biological differences despite the leaps forward in evolution since the era of the caveman. If they didn’t, then there would be no difference in the way we parented but as it is, women will always have the first physical bond with a child (through pregnancy) and they are very much the primary care-givers for a newborn in the majority of cases. I think women can be a lot more in tune emotionally and childhood can be a pretty emotional time.

male vs. female

Because of the way society tends to run, women are gifted with maternity leave whilst men are expected to return to full time jobs, and again, spending that amount of dedicated time in the company of your rapidly growing and developing child leads to a knock on effect of imprinted need and reliance on the mother by the child which, in turn, leads to a mother who has that much touted ‘instinct’ and an ability to pick her own child’s cry out of a room of crying toddlers, or understand half-grunted, half-signed language which might baffle another person.

Although it may be entirely unfair to men who would like to devote more of their time to their children and do a wonderful, nurturing job in the evenings and on weekends, any true comparison is never going to be forthcoming unless every single one of us does exactly the same share of the money-making and the child-rearing. For every example of a friend of a friend who reversed roles with her husband and found that she was returning from work to discover piles of laundry and washing crusting from breakfast in the sink (or worse, not in the sink), there will be someone who can produce the perfect SAHD – but any perfect SAHD must surely rely heavily on the feminine side of his make-up, if you will; the side that knows the difference between Sudocrem and Metanium, the difference a well-timed nap can make, and the part which is happy to succumb to domesticity and routine. It isn’t easy for dads to fulfill that role simply because they are in the minority and it takes a brave man to face down the all-female Toddler Group Clique who may eye him suspiciously across the squash and biccies.

And what of the judgement from male friends, or that sneaking feeling that the role itself is somehow shamefully emasculating? Maybe I’m not giving enough men credit for being enlightened souls who don’t actually give a toss about what their peer group might have to say.

When it comes right down to it what exactly is the ‘best’ parent anyway? The one who the child turns to first when they fall and hurt themselves, or the one who works long hours to pay for the roof over all their heads? Making it into a competition is not helpful – I say as long as both parents are pulling together in their different ways to ensure the health, happiness and security of their children, mentally, emotionally, financially, then everyone is a winner.

 

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14 thoughts on “Are women better parents than men?…

  1. This is a brilliantly thought through piece, and I think you’re right that each parent brings different strengths to the partnership and it is the combination of skills that makes for good parents. I think it’s sad that so many dads don’t feel that they can take on the roles you describe though, if they had the opportunity to learn the skills they would be just as good at it. I had to learn them all, I certainly did fall into motherhood easily. I worry that societal pressures (like maternity leave etc as you mention) perpetuate/reinforce the idea that men can’t be as nurturing and bonded and instinctive with their kids as mothers. Really interesting discussion Sam, like Sian, I love how you’ve debated the question. Thanks so much for linking to #ThePrompt x

  2. Really interesting read.

    I’ve been a SAHD for nearly three years and I’m in the middle of writing a post about it, but the more I write the more I’m questioning if it’s any different for a man than a woman.

    I’m messy by nature, so taking on the housework etc wasn’t exactly a perk of the job, but do women really succumb happily to it, or like me is it just in the job description?

    I quickly learnt the benefit of a nap but don’t mothers also learn this?

    And I’ve also faced the all-woman playgroup clique but the more women I talk to the more I realise they do to, and anecdotally to a greater and more catty degree.

    I’ve not found it in any way emasculating either. Yes friends make jokes about it but beyond that a lot of them are genuinely envious.

    I still can’t make my mind up but reading this was a really interesting insight.

    Sorry for writing so much.

    P.S. I still don’t know the difference between Sudocrem and Metanium. Should I? 🙂

    • You’re probably a better parent than me to be honest Mark as I’m not even a SAHM – I work part time. I have utmost respect for anyone who stays with the kids full time because I know I wouldn’t want to do it 🙂 I’m glad to hear that dads are enlightened enough not to feel emasculated by what has traditionally been a woman’s role and I think you’re right that toddler groups can be equally as intimidating for women sometimes! FYI Metanium is a *lot* stronger than Sudocrem and much better if your baby/toddler has a really bad nappy rash bordering on ulceration. My other half didn’t even bother putting any cream at all on our two year old when he was in that state recently (and it was his day to look after him while I was working) so frankly, anything is an improvement on that!! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. Thought- provoking and well-written. I agree with your statement about the role being “seen” as emasculating (which it’s not- there is no shame in bringing your kids up. How can choosing to raise your offspring possibly be negative?) Making it a sad state of affairs for most fathers who wish they could be more at home and less at work during those early years. There is lots of gender discrimination in discussions regarding the role of the mother or the role of the father, but, as you state at the end, it is the role of both parents that makes a difference. X

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