March 17, 2006

Looks Like The Aussies Figured Out Modern Dadhood A Couple Years Back

Just when you think you're really understanding this whole new fatherhood thing, and you're getting able to articulate pretty what it's like [and by 'you,' I mean 'i,' of course], you come across someone who crytallizes so many of the issues modern dads face and who hones in on so many psychological nuances and emotional wrestling matches that-- you know what, long, self-important version of a very short piece of advice:

Go read Mark Mordue's discussion of the dilemmas and rewards of "modern fatherhood" in the Sydney Morning Herald right now.

About a Dad


The article is interesting. Yet, the more I read the more I wanted Mordue to look at himself and other fathers and what we are going to do as fathers. Without addressing how his initial experiences as a father have changed his perspective of and approach to life as a father and as a person, Mordue is ignoring the crucial how-to part of the difficulties of fatherhood. Mordue cites the fear that "[as] a may have lost yourself in the bargain," identifying the beginning of the conflict but not addressing the question of what he needs to do going forward as a father and as a person. In a sense, the fear is moot because he is a father and there is no going back now.

To continue, he criticizes mainstream media portrayals of fathers as either competent men or involved fathers but doesn't examine what it means to be a competent father and how he hopes to be a competent father. Maybe I am alone, but I feel that to be a competent father I cannot only celebrate the emotions of being a new father. What does it mean to be a competent father? I don't know, but it certainly is more than being concerned about "our image of ourselves [as fathers]."

In the beginning, as new parents, we are all just "doing it;" that I grant. However, as time passes, we move forward, we learn, we plan, and, necessarily, we become less reactive in parenthood. Obviously, it's Mordue's article and he can write what he pleases but I don't think he does good a job discussing the dilemmas and rewards of 'modern fatherhood.'

[maybe it caught me because I DON'T write and reflect extensively about the emotional side of fatherhood either, even though I'm pretty involved and comfortable with the day-to-day logistics and stresses/rewards. It's obviously a male stereotype he's talking about: the "strangely male inclinations to deep silence" and being hung up on our relationships with our own fathers. But defining yourself against/in relation to stereotypes is a process everyone goes through anyway. But typically, a focus on the emotional, introspective aspects of parenting and the whole "lose your self" crisis have been a mom thing, a chick thing. Acknowledging that guys might be (or are at least capable of) feeling the same way IS a significant step. But as the Tom Waits and Warren Ellis anecdotes illustrate, men are still likely to express or perceive parenting-related things differently.

That said, he also gives over most of the piece to a review of the other guy's book. So it's entirely possible that Mordue hasn't figured a lot of this stuff out for himself, either. -ed.]

My husband and I both really enjoyed reading this. We have been talking lately about how so many of these issues blur the mommy/daddy line nowadays (at least for us) since we both so enjoyed our work and our lives before having our baby and because we both work full time outside the home and rely on someone else to be his caretaker during the week. These issues of guilt are happening to both of us: i.e. is it wrong to miss always being well rested and well put together, to enjoy going to work, to miss happy hour, to know that neither of us is the person who knows best which is his favorite bath toy, on and on.

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