It takes a strong father to be a mother too
Let’s be brutally honest for a minute. Despite society’s progression towards ensuring equality for all genders alike, there remain inherent perceptions that we are unwilling to let go of, especially when it comes to single parents. Within this bubble of single parents, the disparities of being a single mom are openly discussed, at least to a large extent. But what about the single fathers? Why do we, as a society, not proactively engage in a conversation about the struggle of a single dad?
How do we see a single mom vs. a single dad?
According to conditioned societal norms, raising a child is predominantly considered a woman’s responsibility. Men, on the other hand, are touted as breadwinners. On one hand, it is ironic that we are fighting a gendered battle that perceives men and women as equals across all spheres of life. Yet, when it comes to child-rearing, there is an unspoken consensus that a “woman alone is the best person for the job.” We have advanced enough to see single mothers as superhuman, equipped to play the father and the mother’s role but cannot accept a father playing the same functions.
Single mom vs. Single Dad – The Debate on Intensive Mothering
Suppose we were to look at it objectively by asserting that a single mom alone is superhuman and not a single dad. In that case, we are laying additional emphasis on “home-life” or “private-life,” as opposed to “career-life” or “work-life.” Therefore, equality for women is about accepting their desires to balance “home-life” and “work-life.” But equality for men when it comes to parenting does not encompass the same. This idealized version of motherhood stems from the assumption that a growing child requires consistent nurture, and therefore, only a woman is equipped to be the primary care-taker.
While women are expected to be naturally capable, the struggle of a single dad is that they are stereotypically seen as inept, less capable and less nurturing. Since men lay overt emphasis on their career, a single dad is assumed to be incompetent and not having the time to distil values, provide emotional support and ensure discipline. Therefore, being a single dad is considered an achievement that merits celebration over respect. This lack of informed acceptance means that there are minimal to negligible resources for a single dad. Somehow, single moms are always wrong, and single-dads are neither right nor wrong, and both of these scenarios are not helpful to single parents.
There are no support groups, mental health forums, non-profit or other educational programs that have been designed for single dads. We need the support of single dads, but we still have a long way to go to provide them with the tools to set themselves and their children up for success. Consider something as simple as a changing table in men’s washrooms, being side-lined at a parent-teacher meeting, kept uninformed of volunteering activity at school by other mothers, or extended no support to have the “period-talk” with your child. As a society, we expect a single dad to be inadequate, which consequently raises a host of mental health issues, and coerces men to feel guilty, be self-critical and be overwhelmingly consumed with self-doubt.
Single parenthood, by itself, is significantly associated with mental health. According to research, “single dads are twice as likely to report poor physical and mental health as fathers with partners.” (Crist-Reuters Health, 2016). Considering men are more disinclined to pursue health services, especially those pertaining to mental health, it is imperative that we seek to additionally emphasize upon the stresses associated with being a single dad, as we would for a single mom.
The Struggle of A Single Dad
When it comes to the capability of a single mom vs. single dad, it has often been highlighted that a single mom builds a “home” while a single dad builds only a “house.” The next question that we must ask ourselves is, “How do we promote equality?” It starts with the way we socialize our children and introduce the concept of gender constructs. Rather than viewing gender as a role-obligation, it needs to be viewed as a fluid construct of expression. This would help children understand that both men and women can be career-oriented breadwinners while simultaneously being care-givers and nurturers. It needs to become common parlance for a man to say, “I want to be a dad one day,” just as a woman should be allowed to dream, “I want to be a nuclear physicist when I grow up.”
Becoming a single dad therefore necessitates conscious societal efforts to amalgamate the role of men and women in parenting. This way, both would be equally incentivized to participate in a more pronounced way. So, keep aside the gender disparity and remember that single parents are equally superhuman, be it, moms or dads.
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