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Will parenting ever be truly gender-neutral?

From NBC's "Parenthood." Image credit: Danny Feld/NBC

From NBC’s “Parenthood.” Image credit: Danny Feld/NBC

Will parenting ever be truly gender-neutral? This is the title of the the panel I’ll be moderating at the Dad 2.0 Summit at the end of the month. It begs another question:

Should it be?

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say no. In my family’s experience, it’s a good thing to have more than one communication- and problem-solving style flying around (I’m the intuitive one, Rael’s the systematic one). Of course, differences in communication style have as much to do with individual temperaments as anything else, but to pretend that gender plays no part is naive.

I think few of us would argue that mothers and fathers should parent the same way. But the stereotype remains that nurturing and emotional support are primarily womens’ strengths. Men are great playmates, disciplinarians, and backup parents (so the stereotype goes), but recognition as competent parents in their own right is still developing. Think about it: when Mom goes out for the evening, how many people refer to Dad as “the babysitter?”

This is the real story, I think: the emerging cultural belief in fathers as competent parents, not just mother stand-ins. The outdated caricatures of bumbling guys who can barely pour a bowl of cereal are gradually giving way to more nuanced images of fathers as strong, emotionally-connected caretakers.

I don’t think it’s too much to say that fathers online are rewriting the narrative; crafting a new and varied definition of today’s dad. At-home dads, working dads, married dadsdivorced dads, gay dads, lesbian dads, geeky dads, stylish dads…the diversity of voices is amazing and enlightening. “Mommybloggers” may have gotten the spotlight till now, but “daddybloggers” are on their way, speaking up and out with humor, strength…and masculinity.

I think it’s important to say that. I’ve spoken to a number of fathers over the years who told me they’ve wanted to talk about parenting all along, but the conversations, either in huddles on the schoolyard or online, were decidedly mom-focused. No one felt this was a problem, just that they longed for a gender-neutral (if not dad-focused) forum. Parent Hacks has been that forum for some. But Parent Hacks is limited in scope…the conversation about and among dads is so much bigger.

Who knows. This generation of dads may influence more than the pop culture image of fathers…they may change the conversation about what it means to be a man.

What do you think? Is the story about dads changing?

What’s your favorite dad blog? Please leave a comment — I’d love to explore some blogs I’ve never read before.

Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.

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