They Say: You're Doing OK, Dad


mamasays_bannerThe National Fatherhood Inititiative released a survey three years ago that looked at men’s attitude towards fatherhood. Well, now it’s time for the mothers to weigh in. In late 2008, researchers working for the group surveyed 1,500 mothers of children under 18 who were themselves at least 18 years old for the “Mama Says” survey.

Here’s the good news: Overall, we women think you guys are doing a good job. Here’s the bad: When you break down the numbers, it’s women who live with their children’s fathers (whether married or not) that give the dads high marks. Women not living with their children’s father held considerably more negative views of the job their children’s fathers were doing, and that dissatisfaction got worse if the men had remarried or become a stepfather.

As children become teenagers, their mothers rank the closeness of the children’s relationships with their fathers as considerably worse than it once was, with only 26 percent calling the relationship “very close and warm.” For younger children, those percentages are better, 38 percent for fathers with children ages 6-12 and 59 percent for fathers with children ages 0-5.

Two factors were most important for all groups of women in evaluating how their child’s father was doing –the closeness of their relationship with the child and their ability to maintain work-family balance. Similarly, most women across all groups say that they’d be able to achieve better work family balance if they had more support from their spouses.

Work responsibilities are the biggest obstacles to a better relationship between fathers and children, the mother said. Others were the relationship the father and with his own father and lack of education about how to be a good father.

Not surprisingly, given that this was commissioned by a group that promotes the importance of fatherhood, researchers expressed alarm that both fathers and mothers mostly agreed that a mother acting as both mother and father or a close male friend or relative could replace the father role.

Sometimes, based on conversations with friends, reading blogs and generally living life, it can seem like there’s a lot of frustration between women and men when it comes to child raising. It’s nice to know there’s actually a lot more goodwill here than we might think.