Just the other day I picked up a parenting magazine to read. In it was a story about a wife complaining that her young kids throw fits if she leaves them with her husband. Even for a few minutes. The kids, she says, are so attached to her. She says she feels badly for her husband to be rejected. But she feels trapped--because she can never get a break. A parenting expert suggested that she leave the kids with her husband and get out of the house. The kids, the expert insisted, would get over it. She told the wife and mother that such scenarios are common and there was no need to worry.
Not to worry?
Why are we not outraged? Children refuse to go to their fathers because the children don't know their fathers. They're strangers. And babies often cry in the arms of strangers. Isn't it a problem that this is common?
Dads alone are to blame for failing to get involved. But moms are the enablers. They make it possible for that behavior to continue. They make excuses for their husbands: 'He's tired from working late; he's not good with babies; he helps out in other ways.' These wives then turn into "super wives" and dads end up doing nothing. As the years go on, dad still doesn't know his children; they don't know him, and mom is exhausted and becomes resentful.
It's no secret what it takes to bond with a baby: Caring for the baby. That means waking up at night when the baby cries; changing diapers happily and often; and reading bedtime stories. It means hugging and cuddling and kissing and wrestling and dancing and singing.
What if dad works? What's your point? So what? This should apply even to dads who work. Especially to dads who work. They should be maximizing their time with babies while they're away from the office. Besides, being tired at the office is part of being a new father.
Fathers who take the time and make the effort to be involved with their children will grow close with their kids and form an amazing bond. Fathers can get as close to their kids as any mother. In some cases, even closer. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. (The only advantage a mom has is breastfeeding, which no doubt connects mom and baby.)
Yes, dads should take the initiative and take responsibility for what they have helped create. They should read parenting magazines like Interactive DAD and become an equal partner in the raising of their children completely on their own. It would be nice if that came naturally.
Moms need to stop being enablers. If dad is not doing things on his own--then moms should show him the way. They should insist from day one that he be an active participant. They should provide a gentle nudge and the reassurance he needs to jump into parenthood. Then moms should let him do it his way. Moms should be careful not to criticize her husband about his parenting skills (same goes in the reverse, by the way).
Yes, moms shouldn't need to push their husbands. Yes, they've done enough already. But consider the alternatives. If moms do it all themselves, and let their husbands' skate, they're robbing their children to know both parents well and grow up feeling totally safe and secure.
When both parents play an active rold, every one wins. Moms get a break, because she's not doing it all--ever. Dads get to know the "feeling" moms have known for centuries. And the kids win because they get the comfort and security of bonding with their mothers and fathers.
Oh, one more thing. Parenting experts need to stop condoning this lack-of-involvement behavior. Just because it's common doesn't make it right.
When a child consistently refuses to go his or her father, they should call it what it is: Fear of a stranger.