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CAN MEN HAVE IT ALL?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN
PUT FAMILY FIRST?

19 June 2009 2,828 views No Comment Tags: , ,

5 Organizations that Support Fathers & Families


In 2000, my book “Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First” was published. It was the result of my exploration into the uncharted territory of “shared parenting.”

There were pioneers everywhere, but they were few and far between. As I wrote then,

“My first clue was the backpacks…Like the moms and baby-sitters trudging by, they seemed blissfully oblivious to giant rabbit or Mickey Mouse ears rising from behind their own. These were dads who knew–knew their own kids in that everyday way.”

I became curious. I began to ask questions:

Were men ready to do the dirty work? Make the trade-offs? Adjust their work life to include family life? Make the same kind of effort their mothers and sisters in the women’s movement had made to change the rules?

Were women ready to let men make their own parenting mistakes?
Give up the power that comes with a “Mom’s Knows Best” culture in regard to child-rearing?

It became a search for “good dads.” I interviewed dozens of men who in a totally unprecedented–and unrecognized way–were reinventing fatherhood. In almost every case, their anthem was: they were trying to become the fathers they wish they had.

Since I wrote “Father Courage,” the landscape has changed.

The biggest change is that there are now many millions of dads taking care – really taking care – of their children out in public. The fellow I interviewed back then who was treated like a potential child molester when he went to the playground with his son, now has lots of company.

At the same time as men have taken on some of the daily grind of childcare their wives have let go somewhat, but most women feel that the buck stops with them. And most women secretly feel that Mom Knows Best. And men complain about being patronized. Many couples, though, are beginning to trust one another’s “instincts.”

What has hardly changed at all is the workplace. Therein lies the problem and the reason “Men Can’t Have It All.” Just as women can’t have it all.


Political Pressure

While changes can happen within each family, it is only when we as a “critical mass” put political pressure on the system that the totally family-unfriendly workplace will change. We still hear about people who take family leave or ask for flex-time hours being marginalized career-wise. And the school day still ends at 3:00 forcing working parents to patch together childcare till they get off work. Not to mention the summer vacation. And we are still lagging behind the rest of the industrialized world in terms of childcare options. And salaries!

We need to insist that work and family are not conflicting commitments, that work can be a more flexible commodity than it is now, and that people – people of all ages and all kinds of family configurations – can work their best in different ways. Some of public policy initiatives include child care and early education, universal health insurance not tied to a wage earner’s job, paid family leave and family-friendly tax policies. And no discussion of family or care-giving or health insurance should omit recognition of those thousands of people who are caring for their elderly parents or even peers – on their own, with no support from society at all.

Those of us in Second Adulthood have common cause with young families, and I hope that we can unite forces to exert political pressure to open up new work/family/caregiving options for everyone.

What I hoped fathers and mothers would take away from my book is an understanding of how hard what they are doing is and how falling short is not failure of will, but a result of the difficulty and the newness of the undertaking. Every solution adds to the conversation, and the accumulation of those personal statements will change how we live. That is what revolution is about.

Share your experience:

Do you think men are doing more of the parenting?

Are your sons and daughters better at “shared parenting” than you were?


Organizations Committed to Fathers & Families:

National Fatherhood Initiative
dedicated to improving the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. Take their survey on “Being a Dad Today” at: www.fatherood.org

The National Center for Fathering
dedicated to inspire and equip men to be involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need.

National Center on Fathers and Families
established to research and practice that expands the knowledge base on father involvement and family development, and that informs policy designed to improve the well-being of children.

Families and Work Institute
a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization whose studies of the changing workforce, the changing workplace and the changing community result in action.

National Partnership for Women and Families (formerly the Women’s Legal Defense Fund)
dedicated to promoting public policies and business practices that expand opportunities for women and improve the well-being of our nation’s families.

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