Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the role of Dad’s. Our daughters are 17 and 19, even before I was pregnant with our first baby we had conversations about our thoughts on the role of being a parent and the importance of both parents being nurturing,caring and engaged as parents. From my own experience, my Dad did a lot of the nurturing, caring, personal care when I was young, as my Mum was very ill for large amounts of my childhood. Also, I had been influenced and inspired by the way friends of ours, Jonny and Jenny Baker parented their boys, they shared a job between them and shared the childcare equally between them. From these experiences I knew that Dad’s have an important role to play in nurturing, caring, actively parenting their children.
When our own children arrived we decided to share the childcare between us, our girls had each of us caring for them 2.5 days a week. Nineteen years ago this was still fairly uncommon, sometimes people would question me if I trusted Iain to look after the girls, this always really annoyed me. In my parent’s generation nurturing parenting was often seen as a female role, the male role in parenting was often seen as either discipline or boisterous playing. I wanted my children to see that a Dad can be loving, caring, gentle, in touch with feelings and emotions as well as fun, playful with clear boundaries.
We both feel the decision we made to actively share the parenting role from the beginning and to intentionally both be nurturing, was the best decision we made for our family. I love seeing the relationship our girls have with their Dad, it is beautiful, rich and very loving. We are now in a new stage where our eldest daughter is about to leave home for university, often you hear of Mothers talking about their feeling of loss when children leave home, this is often attributed to them being the main carer or the main nurturer. We have recently realised you don’t hear Dad’s talking about their sense of loss, you rarely hear Dad’s express their sadness. I have had many intentional conversations with male friends recently, to hear their experiences and feelings around their children growing up. It is no surprise to hear men tell me how they felt deeply sad, anxious, worried, when their child started school, moved to secondary school or left home. When we are parenting in a nurturing, emotional way we will be effected with strong feelings when our children grow and develop, we will at times have moments of feeling a sense of loss and sadness. Of course, this is not unique to Mums, but to Dad’s as well and this is OK, we need to recognise it and acknowledge our feelings.