Robin Booth
Robin Booth

Male caregivers need support too

I thought I had made a good point.

I was talking to the scriptwriter of a television series interviewing me on the topic of raising emotionally intelligent children. My point was that the by-line of each episode was (more or less) “remember, you are great mommies”.

I think it’s great to support parents by taking away the judgment of being “bad”. I often feel parents stress themselves out. But my point was “why just mommies?” What about the dads out there, those that actually want to be involved and need more support than many moms?

They are the ones that have the stereotyping going against them.

It reminds me of shopping queues and looking at the many magazines on Mother’s Love and Your pregnancy and the many others which support moms raising children.

So then where does the modern, conscious father go to get support and inspiration let alone just the basic affirmation that they are also “great daddies”? Will we be “men enough” to say to the check-out lady “Yep, this is my bedtime reading tonight,” or will we smile and say “this is for my wife”.

The script writer said their target market were stay-at-home moms. No doubt the same argument applies to all the magazines out there. Must we draw the conclusion then that men aren’t interested in magazines that support them in being better fathers?

I was deeply impressed when I read that some European countries extend the same amount of paternal leave to fathers as maternal leave to mothers. They may not feel the need to take it but the recognition is there that they are also the primary caregivers.

The recent post-election debates on gender equity were interesting to listen to in light of the above comments. Cabinet ministers, affirmative action, BEE programmes, racial equality in sports teams etc.

Some criticised that the equality is still not there. Well, let’s extend this observation to the deeply rooted societal context of child-rearing and child development as well. Anyone who knows about the real power of a culture will also understand the critical role that a caregiver and education play during these formative years.

  • Alisdair Budd

    Glad you have noticed.

    Now try asking SA Soaps to start writing characters such as a Male Nurse that isn’t a psychiatric nurse.

    Or a male care assistant at a nursing home.

    Let alone a male nursery worker or a child minder.

  • Lyndall Beddy

    Give men equal maternity leave and a man like Zuma with 18 children from 8 women would never be at work! What would that do to our productivity?

  • Thabani

    Interesting article man, very valid in this day and age where fathers are heavely involved in the upbringing of their children. I just think that the media and society at large needs to be accomodating in welcoming and accepting men into predominantly female territories.

    As men we also need to talk about these issues and start engaging with relevant stakeholders so we can change the stereotype that is currently present.

    Nice articl indeed1!!!

    Society and the media should change their mentality of thinking that equality applies to women being ascended to positions previously held by men. It should be equal all round.

  • Marjon

    And why not take it a step further: If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks of family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”, then you’ve got a point too. Fathers are indispensable for healthy families that lead to sustainable futures for our societies. So why not give them the (moral) support they need to fulfill their role?

  • Kit

    Since maternity leave is rarely paid for much anyway, what sense would there be in someone with 18 kids taking months and months off work anyway just because?

    I personally think it’s about time the marketing people got out of this ‘men work, women sit around the house, look after the kids but that’s not really work, is it?’ mentality. Real life guys actually do take care of their children, whether it’s as a primary caregiver or part of a relatively equal arrangement. (and no, equal does not mean ‘the exact same'; it means sensible division of labour).

    ‘Parent leave’ is a much more sensible way to do things. Let parents split the non-medical leave however they choose. That way, if Mr 18 Kids wants to take a couple of months social security-paid leave for all of them, their mother doesn’t. The problem for him is he’d have to actually (a) be the kids’ primary caregiver and (b) take a mega pay cut. It’s a non-argument against equal treatment of male caregivers.

    And it’s absolutely time for these magazines to get with the programme. How can they be relevant when they spend pages whining about ‘women’s issues’ like How Awful It Is when their housekeeper takes leave at Christmas? …and some generic ‘mommy’ advice, the likes of which their target market could easily find on the net since those are also the people with internet. I’m surprised they survive.

  • Robin Booth

    I think there is another thought that says that the ‘parents’ can take a total of (x amount) of time as parent leave. So if there is a total of 9 months per child, then the couple can decide how much each individual parent wants to take. In that way, it allows for greater flexibility between the genders according to ACTUAL interest and not some predetermined stereotype.

    Another slant is to look at this concept of ‘productivity’ in a longer time frame. Yes in a short term the parent figure may not be as ‘productive’ (economically?) during that time period, but it may also be possible that that time invested then has far greater results in child development, bonding etc which may also deeply impact life productivity opposed to short term measures.