It’s not often I get riled up or offended by the fact that parenting magazines, articles and websites focus on the mom more than dad. I understand that, as much as things change, there are still a number of “traditional” one-income households. The majority of advice, columns, and even television shows target women because, let’s face it, most of the people using and sharing decent parenting advice are women.
But this week, a study started making rounds through the media and try as I might, I couldn’t prevent being offended by it.
The headline that got me the most, was in the UK Daily Mail: A mother’s love can boost a child’s brainpower, study shows. The problem I have is, not that the statement is untrue; it’s that it completely neglects dad. I get it, they’re targeting their audience. They’re looking to keep those readers whose eyeballs may only scan this article for a few minutes.
Yet the study, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, looked at the increase in a child’s intelligence based on the amount of nurturing and attention given to the child. That’s the study. Not amount of nurturing their mom gave them but, quoting the study’s lead author, “how important nurturing parents are to creating adaptive human beings.” Yet do a search for the study and you find everyone from CBS News, US News, the UK Daily Mail . . . all of them used that headline. One starts, others follow. Creative writing is a rarity in media, it seems.
If the statement is true, why do I take such offense to it? Because it completely leaves me out of the equation. It takes, at its core, a premise that dads are sperm donors and breadwinners and if you’re lucky they might spend some time at home. Mom is your only source of intelligence, empathy and caring.
This isn’t a problem for me because I lost my wife and am now the sole parent in our household. It’s a problem for me because I have always taken care of, loved, and nurtured my four children. You may not believe me, but let me give you examples that you can and should do with your kids. Many of these very things, when our first child was born, had my wife staring incongruously at me.
I talk to my kids. From the very moment they were born they were part of the conversation Not baby-talk, goofy, silly face Dad but actual conversation. Not that we didn’t do faces and talk silly, but if I was home, cooking, I included them in the conversation… “I think this could use some peppers, Abbi-Dabby, what do you think? Does it need more bell pepper?” Now, as they spend the summer with my parents, I block off my evening to talk on the phone with them and listen to what they have to say. Sure, I know more about Spiderman than I ever wanted to, but that is what’s important to them.
I READ to my kids. From birth. Be it the little books with one word on each page to Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to a chapter of Harry Potter each night. It increases attention, thought, and problem solving… and it’s fun.
I play with my kids… all the time. Maybe it’s going to the park, maybe it’s chasing them through the living room and tickling them. And sometimes, it’s things like this.
I let them know they’re safe with me. I am friendly with them, and I can be a friend, but at the end of the day I’m dad. Nurturing and love need structure and routine just as much. Without that, you’re not much better than the fun aunt who visits every so often.
And I hug my kids. All.The.Time. They are comfortable with it and it’s far better for them to have the contact than not.
So when I see headlines and articles slanted to remove all semblance of fatherhood from them, even when the study itself doesn’t limit the parameters to women, it angers me. Are you guilty of this? Do you think of yourself as the only nurturing one, or worse yet, let your husband or wife be the only one who is?
Don’t fall into that trap. Because, as anyone will tell you, I never let a conversation end without telling each of my kids I love them.
What about you? Do headlines like that get under your skin? Is it fair? What do the male GEMs think? And what do you think is the most important thing you do to nurture your kids? Be specific!
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.