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"The New Macho": 7 Ways To Embrace Modern Fatherhood

By ceridwen |

Hanna Rosin declared “the end of men” this summer in The Atlantic: Men make up less than 50% of the workforce now, and traditional men’s jobs are in short supply compared to professions more typically held by women.

This week, Newsweek‘s cover story, “Men’s Lib”, by Andres Romano and Tony Dokoupil, looks at the state of masculine affairs and comes to the conclusion that, in order to get back on track, today’s man needs to “be creative” and re-imagine what he can do “in the workplace and at home.”

In short, he needs to embody “The New Macho,” a definition that includes “both Mr. T and Mr. Mom” and is best exemplified by the cargo pants-wearing, retro-tough guy and hands-on dad Brad Pitt. (Though, in fairness to every other dad in the world, I think it might be easier to take on creative family roles when you have dozens of nannies and housecleaners to back you up.)

“Ultimately, The New Macho boils down to a simple principle: in a changing world, men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work, and schools, policy-makers, and employers should do whatever they can to help them. After all, what’s more masculine: being a strong, silent, unemployed absentee father, or actually fulfilling your half of the bargain as a breadwinner and a dad?”

I thought I’d run with this concept and came up with some handy tips for expectant and new fathers to help them get “on track” and find their inner New Macho right out of the gate.

1. Take paternity leave…

…If you can. We are nowhere near other countries when it comes to parental leave. But, as the Newsweek article points out, a surprising number of dads in America do qualify for some period of paternity leave under the The Family and Medical Leave Act. Recent polls show that the majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents support the idea of paid leave. But in California, where a program of paid leave was recently launched, only 26% of men took advantage of it compared with 73% of mothers. Though the “motivation is certainly there” (men are increasingly suffering “work-family conflict”), babytime is still considered a woman’s work. Men need to take paternity leave and support legislation that makes this a more acceptable (even enforced) policy. Studies have also shown that the more time a dad spends with his infant, the more closely they will bond and the better dad he’ll be. Guys have bonding hormones, too. But they won’t flow without a baby there to trigger them.

2. Co-parent.

For some it means exactly 50/50 of all childcare and domestic responsibilities. For others it’s: you do this, I’ll do that. The division of labor needs to be creative and personal. Dads can do every single thing parenting involves except for give birth and breastfeed. Mom, this one is on you, too: the more a dad is given these responsibilities, the sooner he will feel comfortable with them. Look, Dustin Hoffman’s character in Kramer vs. Kramer only figured out how to make French toast when mom abandoned the family. Maybe all she needed to do was sleep in one day?

3.  Read at least three books on infants and children.

I say three because one can be dangerous — multiple perspectives are helpful in forming your own parenting style. Often moms read the books and tell dad what to do. If dad has actually picked up Penelope Leach’s Your Baby And Child: From Birth To Age Five you cut out a lot of explaining and also avoid the syndrome of mother having to tell father how to parent all the time. Your reading habits should continue through childhood and adolescence. There’s always something new to learn about developmental stages and ways to help your kid grow and develop confidence.

4. When you can’t do something, figure out something you can do.

This is especially important around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Yes, she’s doing ‘all the work.’ You are the useless thug on the couch next to her, or the guy in the labor and delivery room feeling ‘in awe of women.’ But you can get involved in pregnancy — maybe read one of those books during pregnancy, for example — and do what you can do: nursery painting and crib assembly, car seat installation, stroller decisions. These things will be done with your partner obviously, but just because she’s got a baby kicking her in the ribs doesn’t mean she’s the one who has to Google and print a list of local pediatricians. Also, take a good childbirth education class. A lot of the classes I teach are directed at men. Partners are incredibly valuable during labor and postpartum. Women are not getting the support they need from other places.

5. Move on from early buffoonery and fumbling mistakes and don’t look back.

Women having babies for the first time have tremendous instincts but so do fathers. But those instincts only get you so far. You still have to just flat-out learn a ton. My husband melted all of our plastic pump parts when he sterilized them the first week at home with our baby. OK. Moving on. It could have happened to a distracted new mother, too. We’re all on a huge learning curve, try not to let some dumb old daddy Huxtable mistake make it OK for everyone to settle into retro-sexual roles.

6. Don’t be afraid of the more traditional “feminine” jobs.

As Newsweek points out, we need to break away from the Meet The Parents mold whereby the idea of a male nurse is hysterically funny. Brad Pitt, were he not a mega-movie star, would be super cute in a pair of scrubs wheeling out meds in a children’s hospital. Come on, as long as there are cargos under those scrubs, nursing is A-OK. If you’re at a crossroads about your job, consider careers traditionally pursued by women: nursing, teaching, home health aids and customer service rep. You might also consider being a stay-at-home dad; only 3% of men have taken this on, despite the fact the majority of workers in America are women.

7. Stay, for lack of a better word, “manly.”

Maybe you’re not like this to begin with and that’s fine, but the message here is that men are plenty different from women. There’s no reason to pretend we’re JUST THE SAME in order to share in the work of being a parent. There are a bunch of books (Fatherneed) and articles out there about how “father care is as essential as mother care.” Apparently — due to some combo of nature and nurture — dads parent differently from mothers. And that’s not only OK but good. You are also allowed to wear hunting gear and hiking boots even if you spend all day in a minivan or on the uptown bus.

photo: INFphoto.com

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About ceridwen

ceridwen

ceridwen

Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “"The New Macho": 7 Ways To Embrace Modern Fatherhood

  1. Joel Schwartzberg says:

    Reading parenting books is a good idea but an ever better one is trusting your instincts. That will not only help you be a good father, but an authentic one. And here’s a really important tip: Do things with your kids that YOU have fun doing. If you’re having fun, too, your kids will recognize that and enjoy it even more. Too many dads see the whole parenting things as a series of obligations. That can be ruinous on your evolution as a Dad. Whether it’s watching sports lazily or eating donuts spontaneously, do it with your kids if it makes you happy — it’ll quadruple your pleasure.

    Joel Schwartzberg
    Author, “The 40-Year-Old Version”
    http://www.bookfordad.com

  2. Dare says:

    Dear Ceridwen,

    An interesting article. The problem is that as you state in point 7, you’ve given us plenty of reasons not to like this to begin with.

    It sort of plays a bit to the stereotypes don’t you think?

    I don’t mind because in reading parenting sites day in and day out I’m used to them being 99% female oriented and written by females for females. But survey other men reading the article, particularly working fathers, and I guarantee you that you’ve either offended a fair number of us or put unnecessary pressure on situations we are already well aware of in a way that doesn’t help.

    I’ve based my entire vlog on clueless parenting particularly on the father’s side so I do know that we as dad’s can require some catching up.

    But who is to blame for that? Look over almost all the literature available on parenting and 95% of it is for mom. Dad just gets a rash of useless psychobabble advice unless he is reading literature on parenting stuff that tells “mom” how to do it. And honestly would you want to read an article on how to go through childbirth written by a guy? “You will feel the baby pushing on the wall of your…” yeah right! As if that guy knew!

    You are writing from a woman’s point of view of how a man should stay manly and from your view of what that means based off of your experiences.

    And you’ve automatically distanced 99% of the male audience (other than MAYBE fight-club fanatics) by citing Brad Pitt as your “paragon of manhood.” Sure he may be a cool guy and a fantastic actor, but he’s representative of less than .00000001% of the male population and frankly most men couldn’t care because you stated the truth: he has a backup support team that rivals the best Indy 500 pit crew.

    And honestly, if there was a problem that your husband had with you, would you prefer that he went off with another woman prior to settling that problem in a decent manner with you? That says more about being a man, than the style of your beard. Right? Sure most of us may transgress but that’s usually a stupidity flirt or brief ogle and we’re usually willing to grovel out an apology.

    You’re right. Our culture is changing. But Hanna Rosin would sound just as stupid if she declared “the end of women.” Neither will ever be true.

    On another note, you have a great website here. A lot of very helpful information. I’ve already sent the link to my wife. But maybe you could add some dad-type stuff too?

  3. Ekate says:

    More of the same anti-male nonsense. Men have all sorts of problems, and women are all perfect, blah, blah, blah, heard it all before. To be original you might speak from your own actual experience, rather than just quoting the usual liberal media outlets with their usual male-bashing.

    If you were really serious about male involvement in child care, perhaps all of the 5 bloggers here wouldn’t be female. That tells us all we need to know about how serious you are about the need for men in childcare.

    Feminine jobs instead of masculine ones. And who would you suggest would build the homes, and the schools, and the hospitals, and the offices, if the men gave up the “masculine” jobs?

    If you ever have any hope of being taken seriously, try not Brad Pitt as a role model.

    Pathetic.

  4. Alison says:

    You have to admit it does sound very patronising. ‘stay manly’ ? As joel says, be yourself and bond with the kids doing stuff you love. This magically goes for women too.

    Be patient dads, you’re suffering from some patronising advice aimed at most men….who aren’t most men. Ahh, sexism!

    The sooner men get equal time off in the work place the sooner it will benefit women and children.

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