By Frank McGinty
Something happened the other day that made me feel uneasy. Yet I shouldn’t have felt that way!
My wife had left for work and I was hanging the washing out to dry. A neighbour from down the way was in his backyard doing the same. ‘Good day for drying’, he called. ‘Let’s hope the rain stays away.’
I had to think about what made me uneasy. Then it hit me. Two men hanging out the washing!
When I was a kid that would never have happened. That was women’s work, after all!
And that made me think about the changing role of men and fatherhood.
Change is seldom easy, hence the deeply buried sense of unease – even in someone like me who considers himself an enlightened individual!
The image of fatherhood has changed very much in recent years, hasn’t it?
We’ve come a long way from the distant, unemotional, patriarch figure. The god-like master who provided for his family, but didn’t expect to be troubled by family issues!
After World War II there was a definite shift. Men became much more involved in the play and leisure areas of family life.
Maybe this was due to the separation caused by the war and consequent feelings of vulnerability. But men still didn’t get involved in household chores!
Today we see a much more enlightened image of the male as a co-parent, getting involved in all aspects of family life and pulling his weight in the home.
Or do we? . . .
Are we really there yet? Some men are moving in the right direction. Others need a gentle push!
Perhaps they need encouragement more than anything.
Young boys tend to see their dads as role models and often absorb, even unconsciously, their dads attitudes and habits. So if some of today’s dads haven’t witnessed and experienced the input of an involved father, the role may not come easily to them.
And yet a dad’s involvement in family life has so much benefit both for the children, the mother and the dad himself.
By pulling their weight with the household chores Dads give a good example to their kids AND they help ease the burden on an all too often over-burdened Mum.
By getting involved in play and educational activities Dads can help build that vital relationship on which confidence depends: their own confidence as parents and the confidence of their kids to explore and discover their talents and abilities to learn the boundaries within which they must operate to absorb the values of the person in charge of them
So much to be gained, for all parties involved!
So if Dad is a rather reluctant participant in family matters, remember that as well as a firm push he may need lots of encouragement.
After all, the role may not come easily since hundreds of years on non-involvement are in his genes.
Let’s all look forward to the day when hanging up the laundry is no big deal for a Dad!