I always appreciate reading articles about fathers being written by mothers. I wonder what it must have been like when the mom-in-the-workplace boom happened, and a bunch of dudes wrote Wall Street Journal articles about moms.
WSJ writer Sue Shellenbarger sticks it to us fathers in her article “Parenting Styles: Dad Challenges, While Mom Calms.” I can’t help but feel like her post needed some counter-points. And since she said she interviewed “several couples” but then only quoted the mothers – I’ve got to speak on behalf of the dudes.
In Shellenbarger’s defense, her “Secret of Dad’s Success” article does clarify some points nicely without demonizing fathers’ tendency to wrestle with their youngins.
But back in her “Parenting Styles” piece (sauced below) – what I found funny was that it left you feeling like mothers are the zenlike center of the universe, while fathers are a wild tornado that untether the calm that mom works so hard to create. This is supported with Shellenbarger’s subjects’ statements – a North Carolina mother “says her husband plays so rough with their two boys, ages 2 and 1, jumping on the bed or crawling over the furniture, that she is sometimes afraid the boys will get hurt.” My question to Shellenbarger, but moreso, the North Carolina mother: and so?
Shellenbarger mentioned a California mother who is also fearful of her husband’s love for his kids; “The California mother says she has made a conscious decision to trust her husband, who grew up in a big family,” says Shellenbarger. “…Her children love playing with him and come through his rough-and-tumble wrestling sessions unscathed, she says.” Oh my – trust?! They just don’t teach that sort of thing in marriage school. Shellenbarger continues: “she sometimes asks him to avoid coming home from work in the middle of their dinner, to keep him from getting them so excited that they won’t stay seated at the table.”
This now sounds like it’s transcended from a parenting-style difference to a general disagreement in the relationship. Every parent needs to teach their kids the “time and place” rules – and it seems like collectively, this California family needs to set some household rules and boundaries – mother and father. The mother and father both need to be enforcers when it comes to keeping the kids in-order, and if the kids are having a hard time staying seated at the table, both mom and dad need to be on the same page – the solution isn’t banning dad from home until after dinnertime. You know what that does? Dad will say “well, I’m off work early, I’ll go have a beer at the bar instead of going home so I don’t rile the kids up.” And then it’ll become habit. Then, the time at the bar becomes longer and longer when he wants to “just finish watching the game here.” By then, family time in the evening is done – and you don’t have to worry about Dad riling the kids up – he won’t be there, and you, mom, will have driven him off. That’s, of course, hyperbole…but isn’t it easier to confront your husband in a constructive way, and say “let’s be on the same team here”?
At what point did we, as a society, become so fearful of parents talking to each other constructively? And at what point did we become fearful of father-child physical play resulting in a dead kid?
Another mother from North Carolina mentions to Shellenbarger that when their toddler-age daughter falls, she tries to get the daughter to express her feelings in words, while the husband whisks her off to another room and distracts her from the potential pain. The mother mentions that neither parent thinks the other is right or wrong, “just different.” Oh snap! I wonder what the husband thinks.
Shellenbarger, in the end, does an average job of summarizing the parental styles. We don’t get a glimpse into anything other than the watered-down idea that dads roughhouse (not that they don’t) and mothers are calm homemakers (not that they aren’t). But there’s no mention of anything other than playtime, really – no mention of how the styles of mothers and fathers differ with, for example, help with homework, or help engaging children in chores, or extra-curricular activities. To her credit, Shellenbarger mentions that Dad’s “involvement” (not his parenting style, just being there) is linked to a bunch of great stuff. But we’re not here to read that sort of garbage, I get the feeling.
Sauce: Wall Street Journal