If you aimlessly scroll through Facebook (or any other social media outlet), you will find a variety of pictures and memes that friends have liked.
And lately, what seems to be trending are humorous yet heart-warming illustrations detailing a mother’s day of raising kids.
I ruminated a bit with the accuracy of this because something didn’t feel right. And then it got me thinking: There are relatively no inclusions of a father figure in the majority of these social media depictions, and that has the ability to be detrimental to the family as a whole.
Assuming these depictions are talking about a single mother raising children, I think it’s great that there are mothers out there that are prided for their hard work.
However, I believe that there is a disservice being done towards the fathers and potential fathers in a family. Perpetuating the stereotype of the mother that does all of the work and the father that “doesn’t know any better” about raising children is harmful, especially in a nuclear family where the parents are still together.
It gives the impression that it’s normal for fathers to be invisible when it comes to the hard part – raising the kids.
Equal parenting is important to a family’s stability.
Like any social situation, the relationship only works favorably if both parties are willing to help.
If one parent is putting in most of the work and the other is barely raising a finger, feelings of insecurity, neglect, and stress can thrive.
However, when both parents have an even responsibility in raising the children they both evenly created, love and compassion flourish.
So here are three ways that we can promote parental equality:
1. Put Faith in Men’s Ability to Nurture
An excellent example of this is a mom that I know that lets and encourages her three-year old son to play with and take care of dolls.
Seeing our young sons reach for a baby doll shouldn’t warrant correction; on the contrary, we should let them explore their playing options and nurturing capabilities.
There is nothing wrong with letting a boy or a man be gentle, for this can facilitate a great inner strength, as well as foster excellent (and necessary!) emotional intelligence.
Part of changing the notion of incompetent fathers is to make sure that it’s instilled in males at a young age to be secure with themselves, whether they’re rolling around in mud or helping to watch their baby sisters.
Change can also be brought about by speaking up when the time is right.
We cannot let friends or family scoff when they find out Dad is the one doing his daughter’s hair. We cannot idly let people demean a father’s position when he was doing his job right, yet praise a mother for doing the same exact thing.
These double standards are visible in our contemporary culture, mostly because our culture has prolonged them without question.
We don’t appreciate when society tells women they are only good at being mothers; why let society restrict fathers as well?
By allowing and encouraging men’s potential to nurture, we can liberate and expand the definition of what it means to be a man.
2. Challenge the Beliefs We Grew Up With
We organize roles for fathers and mothers based on schemas, a psychology term that excludes important information to focus on things that already validate our pre-existing beliefs.
For instance, maybe growing up, we always saw Mom being the only one making our school lunch, and then it was ingrained in our heads to do the same for our children.
We can challenge this by having a set schedule for lunch making; alternate each school day so each parent has a fair turn to prepare the kid’s lunch.
Another way we can alter outdated parental roles is by actively changing how we ourselves do things, and being proactive.
Almost all women take maternity leave after having a child, but I would love to see men take paternity leave as well – when it’s available to them.
Some states, like California, are already starting to think practically. For instance, starting on July first, all workers will be covered by Senate Bill 770. This allows parents to receive Paid Family Leave for up to six weeks, in order to bond with a new child.
I urge new parents, especially fathers, to take advantage of this.
The first few weeks are critical to forming a connection with your new family; it is not only a mother’s bond that should be treasured, but a father’s as well.
And if you are a father, society has made it harder for you to cultivate that bond with a new infant, often due to unpaid leave.
This new legislation is promising news for families that are just beginning, and those that have already started. If you don’t live in California, research your state’s legislation to see your rights regarding paid family leave – and advocate for paternity leave
And remember: Change of the conscience begins at an individual level.
If we always believe that men will never be fit to parent, then it will always stay that way.
However, if families approach parenthood equally, it can perpetuate new ideals for the betterment of society.
3. Use Social Media to Initiate Change
Whether we like it or not, many outdated ideas on gender and parenting roles are continued through outlets like Facebook or Tumblr.
But when we see more positive examples in the flesh (and especially online), it can ignite a catalyst, even if individually, that can change the way people raise children.
Seeing a cute illustration of a dad taking his kid’s temperature in bed or helping the kids with some homework would be a great addition to media portrayals!
If we see more depictions like these, something as simple as hitting the “share” button can help spread awareness to our family and friends. If images like these are sparse, we should harness our creativity and generate our own.
Furthermore, there are hundreds of “Mommy” pages and blogs all over the Internet, which are an excellent model for parents to follow. An “Equal Parenting” page on Facebook for instance, could be a community for parents to share their own tips, quotes, and images regarding the family.
Similarly, a blog of the same concept could chronicle the daily lives of dads and moms sharing responsibilities, thus proving that father incompetence is merely a myth.
If men saw more examples like this, I know it would help them question their existing preconceived notions about fatherhood.
More positive visuals of fathers putting themselves out there and helping to rear children could foster the individual and ultimately the population to do the same.
Just recently, The Los Angeles Times posted an article stating that 16% of stay-at-home parents are dads, up from 10% in 1989. Media outlets that have a powerful presence in the country, such as The Los Angeles Times, are key in gaining momentum for the cause.
We cannot be what we cannot see.
If we hardly see media examples of fathers ironing kid’s clothes, staying up late for them to come home, or cooking them dinner, we will continue thinking this is only a mother’s job.
Not only is this putting significant pressure on mothers, but it’s also not allowing fathers a chance to grow internally and be a supportive factor in their children’s lives.
I am not asking for mothers to be granted an indefinite break.
On the contrary, I would love to see parenting become something that fathers and mothers can share and enjoy equally.
Leaving one parent to do the grunt of raising kids is an immense amount of stress, be it the father or the mother.
Making parenting more accessible and normalized for fathers is a great step in enhancing the quality of happiness for a family, something we should all strive for.