Fathers and Children

My recent posts about my father brings to mind a change in culture I’ve been observing lately—how often I see fathers with their children.

When I was growing up and during the years when my children were young, we believed that a man’s family role was to earn the living, and the woman’s role was to keep house and care for the children. Men were supposed to be strong, women gentle. It was unmasculine for a man to be caught looking after the little ones.

I personally violated those rules. When I was home, not in Vietnam, I often fed the children, bathed them, got them into their pajamas, played with them, and put them to bed. I did that in part because their mother wasn’t very good at those jobs and wasn’t interested in doing them, in part to make up for the fact that I was so often absent because of my many trips to Vietnam, and in part because I loved doing it. But I didn’t share with other men that I took care of the children. It wasn’t a man’s job.

Nowadays, wherever I go, I see men with children, often with no women in sight. I watch them furtively, to see how good they are at the job. I’m impressed with their gentleness and the closeness of their attention. I see no signs of embarrassment or shame. They’re doing what they want to do. I sense their pride in what they are doing.

Our society has changed the way we think about the roles of men and women. The change has come in part, it seems to be, from the progress we’ve made in liberating women from the inferior and submissive role we used to assign them to. These days, both men and women have jobs to support the family. Soon, the wages women earn will equal those of men. Housework and childcare of necessity are now shared responsibilities. And the men, God love them, have proven themselves competent caregivers.

Society has changed for the better. Both men and women are the beneficiaries.

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