A Mom’s Perspective on Fatherhood

baby holding finger

"Pull my finger."

When our first child was born, I had not had any prior experience with babies. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I had never babysat as a teenager nor held a friend’s or relative’s baby. Like Prissy from Gone with the Wind, I didn’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies. So despite reading stacks of books on “what to expect,” I still felt woefully unprepared. The doctor asked my husband if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord. Hubby declined. And I’m glad he did. It wasn’t just the skeeve factor, but it was somehow symbolic to me that he did not want to be the one to sever the tie between me and our son.

The doctor placed our swaddled son in my arms right after a brief clean-up, and my husband and I just looked at him. And at each other. And so it began. Hours of crying, agitation and squirming uncomfortably…and our baby fussed, too. In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad. It’s just that every time our son cried, we weren’t sure what to do. We learned to go through a list of possibilities. Wet diaper? No. Hungry? No, he just ate. Bored? Maybe. Just needs holdies? That’s it. This time.

As a boy, my husband had helped to take care of his younger cousins, so he had had a little experience in these matters, and that gave me a world of comfort. But even without that background, I think my spouse would just have known what to do anyway. We joke in our house that it is Dad’s job to know everything, but it’s Mom’s job to always be right. It’s an arrangement that seems to work well for us.

So together, we got through the birth of our baby, weathered several years of  our son’s stormy health (he’s strong and healthy now), and even had a second child, a beautiful baby girl. By the time the second child comes around, parents are more relaxed and confident. My hubs still did not cut her umbilical cord, but our newly swaddled baby was anything but foreign to us.

More than a dozen years have passed since then; our kids are teenagers. Observing our many friends who now have children as well, I’ve learned that there are as many different styles of fathering as there are fathers.  A recent survey among 10,000 fathers with children under 18 identified five main types of Dads (in order of prevalence):

  1. The Partner Dad (25% of respondents) who works with his partner to accomplish tasks. Free time is considered a luxury and is spent viewing television.
  2. The Durable Dad (25%) leads by example, puts family first and imparts more traditional values.
  3. The Renaissance Dad (19%) strengthens the family through learning and makes sure the family has dinner together every night.
  4. The Leader of the Pack (17%) is status-oriented, ambitious, and instills those values in his children.
  5. The Hip Pop (14%) tries to be a friend and a parent.

My husband is part Partner, Durable and Renaissance Dad.  Definitely not Hip Pop. We both have a strong belief that parents should not be their children’s friends. We have a great relationship with our kids and truly enjoy spending as much time with them as we can. But we are not their friends. We are their parents. And what we say goes. That doesn’t work when parents and children are friends…and those parents wonder why their kids won’t listen to them or respect them.

Mostly, my husband is more of a “Pull My Finger” type of Dad, infusing a sense of humor into daily, family life. It’s one of the many reasons I love him and why we have been together all these years. Does he embarrass our children sometimes? Sure. But that is a father’s right. And on the day when our children become parents (hopefully many years from now, after marriage), they, too, will experience the joy of doing the same for their kids. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there.

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