IMAG0942As you may have noticed from my last blog post 6 things that I’ve learned in 6 months as a parent, I’ve recently been thinking about what it means to be a parent. During this reflection, I recently read an article on the Mama Natural blog that fellow blogger Dominika Tracy from Back to Roots Baby mentioned to me on Google+. The title of the article from Mama Natural was as follows:

‘Why is this quote controversial? “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”

An answer that I would give in fairly general terms is that making categorical statements about topics such as parenting or marriage is liable to provoke a range of different responses. I think that it’s good to have a reasoned dialogue on these sorts of topics and to try to respect the views of others.

Going back to the original quotation, I think that any attempt to identify a single aspect of being a father that is more important that all others is quite challenging. Having read the article, I can’t help feeling that the author might be overly extrapolating based on their own experiences. I would also like to know more about the context that gave rise to the original quotation from Theodore Hesburg.

I can’t help wondering if the quote was deliberately selected as part of an attempt to fire up debate. Even if the author of the Mama Natural blog post did not think that the quotation was controversial, did they really think that posting it would result in unanimous agreement as opposed to debate?

I’ve said before that one of the reasons that I decided to become a parent blogger was because I wanted to participate in the interesting dialogues about fatherhood and parenting that take place. Maybe the blogger who posted the debate-provoking quotation that I cited at the start of this post was simply doing the same.

One of the specific issues that I had with the initial quote was that – in the form it was cited – it focuses uniquely on the notion of the father having a duty towards the mother, and not vice versa. If the quotation, had talked about a mother having a duty towards the father then perhaps it would have been criticized for implying that women should be subservient to men. Ultimately, I think that being in a couple is about being mutually sensitive to the other person’s feelings, needs and general well-being.

That said, the author of the blog post does acknowledge this in their own article to a certain extent. However, I did feel that their whole article seemed to be overly restricted by focusing largely on biological parents, married parents and male-female couples. It didn’t really take into account issues such as adoption, fostering and adoption by same sex couples (be they married, united in a civil partnership or in another form of relationship).

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Promoting IT skills from an early age – an important part of being a modern parent 🙂

Going back to the quote itself, I see being a father as involving a complicated balancing act (or series of balancing acts) rather than a single priority. In my case, it’s about working together with my wife in order to find a way of trying to meet each other’s needs both individually and collectively. I’ve talked on this blog about how men can play an important role in supporting women who breastfeeding. I’ve also said more than once that the casually thrown about phrase ‘man up’ can often be unhelpful when it comes to the expectations placed on men and boys (see here and here for links to the relevant posts).

This is something that I mean in relation to being parents, being a couple and just being people. It is also, of course, about trying to do so with a view to focusing on what is best for our baby son. I’d not like to try to prioritise between all the types of needs in that mix as I think that it’s important to take a more holistic approach.

As parents, I think that it’s important to transmit positive values to our kids. I feel that part of this is about respecting people and behaving towards them in a way that is polite, fair and sensitive. Within the context of being part of a couple raising kids, loving each other is part of this. As to whether it is the most important part of being a parent, I’m not so sure.

As I’ve already hinted, I feel that it is important to take a nuanced and holistic approach here.  I can see that kids may well end up taking on values that they associate with their parents’ approach to life and relationships. The relationship between their parents is one part of it, but it is not the only part. Relationships with other family members, friends and people in a school or work context are also important.

Ultimately, I think that being a couple with kids involves focusing on each other’s needs and the needs of the kids both collectively and individually. It may sound like I’m sitting on the fence here when it comes to responding to the quotation that I mentioned at the start of this post, but there’s a reason for this. What works for one family isn’t necessarily going to work for the next family.

Attitudes to parenting and family roles are evolving and I just don’t think that there’s really any such thing as a ‘typical’ family. For this reason, I’m generally suspicious of those who seek to talk up a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Ultimately, I think it’s great to be able to read and learn from fellow parents wherever they live and whether or not they have the same take on issues like what constitutes the most important thing about being a father or a mother. This, to me, is definitely one of the most important things about being a parent.

What do you think is the most important thing about being a parent? Do you agree or disagree with the quotation that I mentioned at the start of this article? I’d love to hear your views on these questions and this blog post in general, so please feel free to let me know your views via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin.


I’ve linked this post up at the ‘Something for the weekend’ parent blog link-up run by Diary of the Dad and the Voice of Sarah Miles.