…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.
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.