I will be celebrating two Fathers in my life tomorrow – the Father that has been there since I was born and the man that I married almost 30 years ago. They are very different men, but both share the ability to love their children and be a part of their adult lives. They are different not only in their personalities, but also because of how society has changed and the role of fathers has evolved. My father was only involved peripherally in my childhood – he worked hard each day as a farmer and showed up for the evening meal and a few hours in the evening. There was no time for idle talk and he had little idea of what we did each day at school or what friendships were important to us. I never thought of this as odd as this was the same relationship all of my friends had with their fathers. Looking back, I think he was more involved than many fathers as he made time to attend our evening events and play occasional board games.
My husband is at least a 50% parent and many days the only parent for a 24 hour stretch when I am at work. He knows our kids food preferences better than I do and is much quicker at a grocery run than I am. He doesn’t try to accomplish 3 things at the same time, while only fully completing one or two. He is better at letting go of control and not micro-managing. And because of him, I am able to devote some of my energies outside of work to improving the lives of women in the developing world (see post about menstrual pads and Helping Haiti Work).
When I travel and work in the developing world, I am constantly reminded how a Mother in many of these countries does not have the advantage that I do with a devoted husband that also manages household duties. Many cultures mores dictate that a man does not help with childcare, cooking or other household duties. A wife has no say in sexual relationships outside the marriage and how it may affect her health. Although she does the majority of the work, it is unpaid and she depends on her spouse for income.
Many “western” ideas have started to take hold thruout the developing world. Education for girls has become very threatening to extremists, so much so that they kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria to strike back against this threat. Involving fathers in the daily life of their children can be as important as education for girls to transform a society and decrease the influence of radical factions.
Tomorrow I will celebrate both of the fathers that have been in my life. I hope that we are raising our 3 boys to be fathers that are helpmates to their partners and involved with both the joys and struggles of their children’s daily lives. I want them to learn from the examples of their father and grandfathers, and to share that idea of fatherhood with others who may not be as fortunate to have had a father in their life.