Father as Co-Nurturer
You and I live in interesting times, which, according to ancient Chinese wisdom, equates with being accursed. But womanly intuition prods me (ever so gently) to believe those wise men might well reconsider after learning the supersized changes in our species' parenting roles. Women are released from their household universe and finding satisfying roles in the wider world, while their children's fathers -- discovering a deep nurturing instinct -- are insisting on a much more substantive role in their children's lives!
When and how did this evolve? My best guess is that the seeds were sown in the divorce courts of the '70s, when they were bulging with restless marrieds intrigued by the lure of single life. It was usually the woman (my survey proved that) who insisted on the legal split. Men were reluctant to give up family life! They appreciated the warmth of family life, the cute children playing with an increasingly restive wife. Even though the man had -- as was the prevailing wisdom of those times -- handed over the parenting role to his wife (a study at the time found the average father spent 15 minutes a day with each of his children), the prospect of losing the emotional sustenance of the family was not what he wanted! But his woman -- high on the narcotic of liberation -- insisted on a fast and final split. The divorce courts were crammed with victorious women, their bewildered children and stunned ex-husbands, the last of whom were stripped of the home life they had assumed would always be there, and who found themselves suddenly and decisively singled -- and nudged to the outer edges of polite society.
It took awhile, but the shocks of involuntary bachelorhood led many men to think more deeply about their lives, their maleness and their beloved children. They may never fully comprehend their woman's hunger for freedom, but they were 100% certain they wanted to be a strong and loving part of their children's lives. (Again, the female's instincts pointed the way to greater fulfillment for the male. Not directly, and not always pleasantly, but as a result of her discontent with status quo. But all of that's for another conversation at another time.) Into the emptiness of men's involuntary bachelorhood came flooding a stronger, deeper appreciation for these young people he sired. His nurturing/protective instincts prodded him to be more actively engaged in their lives. (These changes were predicted by author Warren Farrell, who foresaw men being "allowed into the nursery," a metaphor for male participation in parenting. And why not?)
Just as there's nothing to keep the women out of the workplace, there's little logic to keeping the man from a primary role in nurturing. And for the skeptical, my nationwide survey of 1,900 unmarried men and women uncovered a deep male yearning for parenthood. Men lost their home and hearth, but it was their children they missed. And from that pain is coming the most wonderful era of male parenting.
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