The future is responsible and egalitarian fatherhood
In the last few years, we have witnessed how society is reformulating concepts such as what a man is, what that represents, what that means for others, and what it takes for us to become involved in these cultural shifts in a healthy and responsible way. But most importantly, we are seeing changes in the actions that we take to achieve this.
There are many different kinds of violence that stem from the traditional gender role system, but one that is the subject of heated debates these days is the issue of fatherhood as a hegemonic role.
For many of us, our father was an antagonist of sorts who came home at night right before we went to bed. His job was to provide for the family economically, while our mother took care of everything else. Absolutely everything else. On the weekends, there was more time to spend with him, but he was a “strong” man with a short temper and tough character. Yes, it was a different time.
Although we still have a long way to go and geographical as well as socio-political circumstances also play a role in determining what fatherhood looks like, these days the terms “responsible fatherhood” or “egalitarian fatherhood” are being embraced. They do not provide a new formula for how to take care of or raise our sons and daughters; what they are really about is being a father who is actually there, a father who really participates in parenting.
Some fathers believe that it is not their job to take their children to school or to their doctor’s appointments. Do you even know what their friends’ names are? These details from the lives of our children end up allowing for conversations that we might not have had as children and that we needed in order to become more emotionally intelligent.
Ask them how they feel, talk with them about their interests, their fears and insecurities. Let’s not be the fun “weekend dad:” let’s be responsible for their care. Check on them, ask them how they’re doing, monitor their academic and emotional development, and do everything it takes to be present in their lives.
It is not as easy as it sounds
When we talk about responsible or egalitarian fatherhood, we are talking about the fact that, as fathers, we have other duties besides providing economically. It all starts from the beginning, when we plan or choose to have children, and when we participate in the pregnancy and postpartum period as much as possible. And it also means taking part in household chores, child-rearing, schoolwork, and other activities traditionally assigned to mothers.
Just think about every time a child “misbehaves” and how someone always says: “their mother didn’t raise them right,” or “where was their mother?” We tend to make mothers responsible for their children’s upbringing at home.
This is why families need support from the government.
According to a 2017 study on fatherhood in Latin America, around 80 percent of men will become fathers at some point in their lives. Many of them will be willing to participate actively in child care, spending more time with their children, and getting involved in their academic and emotional education. This would create a positive impact not just in the home, but also on a social and personal level. However, we need a change in laws to achieve this.
In Mexico, for instance, maternity leave covers 84 days, while paternity leave (created in 2017) is only 5 days. The State of Mexico is the exception: there, the law gives fathers who work in the public sector 30 days of paternity leave, while single fathers get 45 days.
Meanwhile, Germany offers fathers a 9-week leave; France, 28 weeks; and Spain, only 2 weeks.
In 2020, Finland announced that fathers and mothers would get the same number of days after having a baby. Their parental leave is almost 7 months long and it is paid in full. People who are pregnant, in turn, get one extra month (starting this year).
A structural problem
Since women tend to be the ones who stay home to take care of housework and child care, their professional opportunities lessen, while the gender gap in the workforce increases. Women’s participation in the workforce is only about 53%, while men’s is closer to 95%. Also, men tend to earn more money, while many more women than men perform jobs that are underpaid or even not paid at all.
Social and cultural hegemonic structures have driven us away from the emotional labor of being with our children, taking care of them, and raising them, so that, in the end, we only carry out our duties as providers.
It is so important that we make an effort to share household chores and child care duties equally. This way, our sons and daughters will benefit greatly: our sons will have positive, non-sexist male role models, and they will have greater chances of growing up to become emotionally responsible men who do their fair share of work in the home and have more progressive gender notions. Meanwhile, our daughters will be free to take up the activities that they are interested in without being overloaded with tasks only because they are girls, and they will grow up with empowering, gender-role-challenging ideas that will enrich their lives.
But our children are not the only ones who benefit: we do, too. We are more relaxed, our mind isn’t focused only on work; we invest time in planning fun activities for our family, we pay more attention to our attitude, and we also take better care of ourselves.
Responsible and egalitarian fatherhood is great for everyone. Do it for society’s future and your family’s present.