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Are women better parents than men? – The Prompt

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This blog post has been written specifically for #ThePrompt linky hosted by the Mum Turned Mom blog. On this occasion the following question has been posed; Are women better parents than men? Here is my response. . . 

I could get on my high horse and tell you that it’s outrageous to suggest women are better parents than men. I’ll save you that kind of response!

As far as I’m concerned, there is a very simple response to this question. If women are better parents, then men must surely make better business leaders, politicians, academics, surgeons etc.

The only thing is, that last sentence doesn’t make for very comfortable reading, does it? I won’t pretend that women face no issues in the workplace or in public life, but over the past 150 years women have achieved a great deal and proved themselves perfectly capable in all the areas I’ve just mentioned.

That said, when it comes to being a parent, women have two advantages. Firstly, women carry and deliver the baby. Secondly, women have the ability to breastfeed.

In those very early days this is naturally going to lead to mum and baby spending more time with each other and forming a bond more quickly than with dad. From day one, however, the involved father will take turns bottle feeding baby and will have no problems doing so in the middle of the night. He will bathe his child, dress his child, change nappies, take his child out for a walk, play with them and so on. Beyond giving birth and breastfeeding, there is nothing a dad isn’t capable of doing as well as a mother.

Anecdotally, I have noticed that when a woman has a particularly hard birth, the dad often seems to become a capable, hands-on dad very quickly. If mum can’t breastfeed because she’s had a Cesarian section or can’t walk or move easily, dad has to be the one to buy and mix the formula feed. He has to be the one to get up in the middle of the night to soothe the child. It’s a personal observation of mine, but in these situations it seems that he is almost immediately on an equal footing with the child’s mother because she needs time to recover.

I am a stay at home dad with a five year old and a 22 month old. I do pretty much everything society expects a mum to do while my wife works full time in a very demanding job. I get my kids up every morning, I do the school and nursery runs, I cook my children’s evening meals, polish their shoes, shampoo their hair, organise and oversee play dates. You will see my wife’s handwriting in my eldest child’s homework record but the majority of it is mine.

I know the place in the school yard where my child is bought out to by her teacher at the end of the day. I have the telephone number for my youngest daughter’s nursery programmed into my phone. I update the family calendar hanging on the kitchen wall so I know who will be where and when and identify when there will be childcare issues. Why wouldn’t a man be capable of doing this stuff?

I have heard it said that women are naturally more compassionate and more caring by nature. It may be true, but is sounds like a convenient notion to spread so that women can be kept behind the kitchen sink, or rather make women believe childcare is their domain.

I genuinely wish I lived in a society where I wasn’t a curiosity. It would be great if as many men as women gave up careers to look after the children. In some of the Scandinavian countries (where else?) it is quite normal for men to take an entire year out of the workforce when they have young children.

Men and women possibly parent differently. Thinking of my own relationship, I’m more of a risk taker. Play with me is often outside, usually physical and frequently involves getting covered in mud or water. My wife is more likely to do some baking or read books with the kids. I don’t think either is wrong, they’re simply different approaches and my kids love both.

Women’s rights campaigners frequently mention the glass ceilings women hit in the workplace and point out that women’s earnings are less than men’s, especially once they’ve had children. Unfortunately you don’t hear much campaigning for societal change, for it to be the norm for men to stay at home and look after the children. This would help women forge ahead with their careers if it’s what they wanted.

My wife will freely admit she couldn’t do what I do. In her words, “you’re better with the children” and so she thinks her place is in the workforce. I think she’s being hard on herself, but I’m perfectly happy with this scenario. I enjoy running the household and looking after the little ones.

In answer to the question, no women do not better parents than men. There are, of course, bad dads in the world and there are also bad mothers. I just don’t think society gives men the opportunities to prove what great parents they can be. This is simply because the overwhelming responsibility for raising children almost always falls on women and this starts at birth.

26 thoughts on “Are women better parents than men? – The Prompt”

  1. John, what a lovely article! You expressed a range of things that have been on my mind for a while. I support most of the points you made. I am not at home full time. My wife however is. I probably have less of a right to comment on this issue, but I do feel that men and women are sometimes trapped by the ideas our society has about the role of men and women in families. I think this is of course the point that many feminists have made in the past. Our society’s construction of the roles of men in women in families and what a family should be can be limiting to both genders, not just to women. As I currently earn more than my wife I am inevitably put in the position of continuing to work while she remains home (possibly at least partly influenced by gender pay gap and the fact that her family did not value education for women in the same way my family did). This inevitably means that I get to spend less time with our kids and I get to spend less.

    It’s true that as women carry babies and give birth to them (and breastfeed them in some cases), this does not preclude dad’s from becoming primary attachment figures. Research indicates almost anyone can be a primary attachment figure, including fathers.

    I do wonder sometimes whether as men we (at least employed men) sometimes use our jobs as an excuse to claim extra leisure time when we get home? I know that sometimes when my partner says “You know, I know you work hard for us, you had a busy day….just sit down…..don’t get up.” I feel tempted to just accept this. But I think this sometimes privileges my job as ‘real’ work while suggesting looking after the children isn’t. I know sometimes my wife is just trying to be kind, but I feel it’s important for me not to just accept this. She works hard too, and deserves to have a break as well. I’m often reminded that research has suggested that despite women entering the workforce they often still end up carrying the responsibility for the majority of childcare and domestic chores in our society. I don’t feel this is right.

    I try to do my part as a father who works outside the home. I took a job closer to home and try to be home by 10 past five. I do dinner, and bath time, and bedtime. I also take one day a weekend and just go out alone with the kids, spending the day with them, giving mum the day off and time to study. I think you are right, we parent differently, but can parent well nonetheless. If we accept that we can parent as well as women, then we have to step up and take responsibility for our children. We cannot just say, “Yes, we are good parents,” and then let the women in our lives do most of the parenting. My message to fathers who work is, “If you think you are just as good as your partner at parenting….prove it…step up and do as much of it as you can.” Our partners cannot pursue their dreams and lives unless we give up some of our privileges as men, to give them more time to do this.

    Anyway, that’s what I have to say on this matter. I’ll get off my soapbox now 🙂

    Gerhard
    (Familiality)

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  3. I agree with you. Both myself and my husband work and we both equally look after our 2 little boys. Yes, I was the one that was pregnant, gave birth and breast fed, but on every other single thing to do with raising our boys my husband does just as much if not more than me (and is brilliant at it).

    For me, being pregnant, giving birth and breast feeding is something that my body has done for me. I have had no conscious control over this (apart from actually getting pregnant!), whereas raising my children has been a very conscious and involved part of my and my husbands lives. Both of us raising our children together takes decades and is the most important part of parenting for us.

    I also strongly agree that there should be greater fairness and acceptability for men to take longer parental leave and feel able to be the one to stay at home and look after the children. I am a feminist – men need to have the same rights as women to raise children, then our society will become more equal. When it becomes acceptable for men and women to equally look after their children, equally work and equally have the opportunity to strive for top jobs then our society will be an awful lot better for our children.

    1. Hurrah! A feminist that agrees men should have the right to stay at home and look after the babies! It’s not an opinion you often hear expressed publicly but it needs to be said more often. Why shouldn’t guys take on the homemaker role of they want??

  4. Wow – absolutely brilliant – My husband is exactly the same and I wouldn’t be without him. He’s not a stay at home dad, but I will be the first to admit that I am lazy, and so he has had to acclimatise otherwise we would live in a pigsty. We love Daddies – well done 😀

  5. I reallly loved reading this, really wonderful to see a male take on the topic. I particularly love this bit: “As far as I’m concerned, there is a very simple response to this question. If women are better parents, then men must surely make better business leaders, politicians, academics, surgeons etc.” Such a fab comeback and one I shall utilise. Fab post 🙂

    1. Thank you for saying so. I can’t claim to be a historian, but my understanding is the distinct gender roles between men and women only became so concrete during the industrial revolution. Perceptions about who should do what need to be challenged!

  6. I loved reading this, and I’m so glad that you joined in. As you’ve now read my post, you know I asked the question to generate debate, not because I think it’s true, and I worry that our society still pushes the idea that mothers are instinctively better at parenting. Your point about mothers being more compassionate being a convenient notion really struck a chord with me. There will always be good parents and bad parents, but like you I think that society often doesn’t give dads the chance to show what they can do. Thank you so much for linking to #ThePrompt x

    1. Thanks Sara and thank you for asking me to participate. It is an interesting subject and I’m glad to see my post seems to have met with general approval.

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  8. Great response to the prompt. I completely agree with you – and like your comment about if women are better parents, men must be better business leaders – yes, that did make me quite uncomfortable! I think we all have different skills to bring to parenting and that often mums and dads complement each other. There are good and bad parents of both genders. Lovely to read a dad’s perspective on this question too 🙂

    1. Delighted you stopped by to comment and thanks for your kind words. I think you’re quite right, we have different skills and mentalities and kids benefit from both.

  9. I agree absolutely, a lot of parenting is down to experience and society does place that expectation on women a lot of the time. … but attitudes are changing, in so many areas of life, and hopefully this is one of them. #theprompt

    1. I hope attitudes are changing. I have to say that when I have official dealings with my daughter’s school I always find them to be excellent and I am accepted perfectly and welcomed. I can’t say that for every area of life but it shows some people are getting it right when it comes ot accepting and acknowledging dads. Thanks for commenting.

  10. I’ve got to say that this is one of the best takes on #ThePrompt that I’ve read. Perhaps it’s because it’s written from a dads perspective. I wholeheartedly agree with you particularly about the support a dad provides out of necessity (and choice) when the mum has a difficult labour. This happened to us and hubby was above and beyond the best daddy to our little bear amid the haze of sleep deprivation, worry and shock. I believe the fact that there are more mummy than daddy bloggers (to my knowledge) also suggests that more mums than dads are SAH parents. Not to say that working (in the traditional sense) mums don’t blog – I’m one of them! Whoever takes any interest hands-on or otherwise of their children’s day to day lives is a good parent. Very well and thought-provoking that I want to share and shout about it to the whole blogosphere! #ThePrompt

  11. Love this! Yes, yes and more yes. The risk-taking bit rang true here too. When I do work things or go away and my partner (who normally works full time) looks after the children, he takes them to lakes (me: omg they’ll all drown!) Parks (me: I swear they’re going to fall off everything) and shopping (me: yep, I’ve lost at least one of them…). I do most of the school runs and cleaning but I still couldn’t do what he does, and it sounds like I couldn’t do what you do either (polishing shoes?!). Anyway, excellent post. X

  12. Fantastic post!
    I was nodding along as I was reading. My husband was a massive help when my daughter was tiny. After various problems, I needed to rest, and he did the night feeds every other night for the two weeks that he was off work.
    I was pleased to see that the UK have followed Sweden and Norway, and maternity leave can now be passed on daddy!!

    1. Thanks for dropping by Katie. Yes,, I’m glad the UK has adopted a shared parental leave model. There’s more work to do but it’s a huge step in the correct direction.

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  15. I totally agree with you. I think it has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the individual, some people are better at running a home and/or child rearing, some are better at work. I think the decision as to who is the primary caregiver to the child(ren), as it is difficult to split it exactly equally, should be down to the individuals to decide.

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