A New Masculine Paradigm
I’ve noticed something over the last fifteen years. Every week I am talking to more and more dads. More fathers are reaching out for sleep help, and today I would say that for initial phone conversations, 90% of the time both dad and mom are on the call.
Some Stats on American Dads
- More dads are staying home to care for their kids.
- Dads see parenting as central to their identity.
- Work-family balance is a challenge for many working fathers.
- Most Americans think men face a lot of pressure to provide financially for their family.
- It’s become less common for dads to be their family’s sole breadwinner.
I’ve noticed all of these in my practice. Men have a deep desire to be the best fathers and partners they can be. These last three inspired me to write this post.
6. Dads are much more involved in child care than 50 years ago.
7. While they’re spending more time with their children, many dads feel they’re not doing enough.
8. When it comes to caregiving, moms, and dads are still viewed differently.
To be more involved with their children, more fathers are choosing work that offers flexible hours and that they can do from home. And just like moms, they still don’t feel like they are doing enough. The number of “stay-at-home dads” who are primary caregivers has doubled over the last ten years. Yet in the Pew Research Center study, the researchers found that there is still a significant bias that the father does not know best. Stay-at-home moms were still more favorably looked upon as the better primary caregiver.
The public is largely supportive of the idea of mothers staying at home with their children, but they place less value on having a stay-at-home father. In a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, fully 51% of respondents said children are better off if their mother is home and doesn’t hold a job. By comparison, only 8% said children are better off if their father is home and doesn’t work.
My response to this was – WTF?
When working with fathers and their families, here is what I notice.
- The fathers I work with are desperately trying to support their wives by getting better sleep and are deeply concerned about her well-being in general. For one, they are smart. Men know that we are nicer to them when we are well-rested. Two, we tend to be more affectionate when we don’t have another human being hanging off our breasts 24/7.
- Dads are NOT as enmeshed with their children and are better at boundaries, autonomy, and loving limits. Makes since when I look at the chemical brain difference between men and women and the interaction of testosterone and oxytocin.
- Our children tend to sleep better for dads than moms. There are many factors that contribute to this general observational fact, but the main one is this; by eight weeks of age, your smart, scientific-brained baby knows that dad is never going to sprout a breast and spontaneously start to feed her.
This generation of women are the beneficiaries of this new paradigm of the masculine in our culture and in our homes. But have we adjusted our ever-changing feminine to this changing male? As a Transformational Mediator, here is what I have also noticed, whereas there are significant advantages to this change in the family structure, there are also new challenges.
Can our fairly new and changing feminine paradigm support our men in these challenges?
Personally, I think we need a major overhaul of the feminine paradigm as well, but I will save that for another blog post.
I often see resistance to – letting go and letting Dad. As in COMPLETELY letting go. When I say completely, I mean to let go and let dad soothe and reassure the babies even when this happens …
Do we believe that we are the superior child soother and more intuitive caregiver? When dad steps in to facilitate sleep or night weaning, do we go masculine and rip the baby from his arms? Does dad counter-step into his feminine, back down, and hand over the baby?
Neither way is right or wrong. Both are just a reality of our humanness. The approach I teach offers both feminine and masculine responses. But as adults, we need to know what and when either is called for. Our children need both because every human has feminine and masculine qualities and abilities. Even two mothers raising children will offer feminine and masculine qualities to their family’s care and nurturing. So this isn’t a gender issue or a “sex roles” issue. Perhaps the new paradigm of the masculine and feminine will include the integration of these polar opposite energies.
The masculine is about structure, form, mastery, and stepping up to “do something.” Men are very much about service and will take charge and do what is in the best interest of their women and their family. We, women, love and complain about our man’s desire and assertiveness to come to solutions and “fix it.” The feminine is about receiving and allowing. We are about the formless and the mystery. And we, too, are willing to do what is in the best interest of our family. However, we naturally go about it differently.
I invite you to become mindful of how we do these aspects of the self. This takes introspection and accountability. And that takes courage, humility, and vulnerability. We ask ourselves the following questions as individuals first and as partnered parents second.
- When we come to our differences in the middle of the night, exhausted, emotional, and uncertain, and we meet our partner in disagreement on how this should be handled, how do we navigate this dance of the feminine and masculine?
- How do we support one another in this difficult and relentless task of parenting our children?
- Do we listen and empathize with each other’s perspective?
- Can we see their perspective and their intention to be helpful and supportive?
- Can we recognize when the more feminine approach (mending, tending, and holding) is called for? (mainly in the infant months)
- Can we recognize when the more masculine approach (separateness, autonomy, limits, and boundaries) is called for (definitely in the toddler years)?
- Our children are our greatest opportunity to grow up the parts of the self that need maturation. Does someone feel like they have to do more of the parenting? And do you feel like you are parenting your partner? Because if you do, this is an intimacy killer.