are fathers equal to mothers?

(231 Posts)
tittytittyhanghang Mon 28-Jan-13 22:33:12

Regarding parenting babies/toddlers. I thought they were? If a mother and father are no longer together they surely it is important and right for that child to maintain an equal relationship with both parents (given that both parents love the child and want as deep and loving relationship with the child as possible). Bars breastfeeding then, i dont understand how mothers are somehow superior to fathers and a baby/toddler 'needs' to be around the mother at all times, (I actually find this argument deeply insulting to mothers who have went back to work and left their babies in the care of childminders etc) whereas it would only need to be around the father a couple of hours a week. AIBU to think this is more to do with the mothers insecurities and that in fact a baby would be cope fine spending more than a couple of hours/overight with the father.

This probably is a thread about a good few threads i've read on mn, so flme me if you feel the need but im a bit irked (and shocked) that the likes of this can be said - 'That aside don't talk about your rights as you don't have any, she as the childs mother & primary carer calls the shots so the sooner you get your head round that the better you'll get along.' and hardly anyone challenges it.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 23:43:46

That makes sense, Bertie. smile

So dh and I could both be main carers, which explains why they never showed any distress when he was caring for them, but swanning off and leaving them with a distant relative (or in hospital, as used to happen in my childhood sad) would be a different matter.

The other thing that often comes up on these threads is the distress of the mother when she is away from her baby. But for a bonded father, I don't think it's any different, really. I always knew dh found it hard to be away from them.

BertieBotts Mon 28-Jan-13 23:44:17

Also Bowlby did state that it didn't have to be the mother - his work was mainly in the 40s and 50s though so mothers would usually have been the caregivers then. He states that babies can develop secure attachments to a "permanent mother substitute" and in fact I think it was later research which confirmed babies can form attachments to multiple caregivers but they have to be very closely involved.

WorraLiberty Mon 28-Jan-13 23:46:01

More and more children are being diagnosed with attachment disorders

But surely that's down to more children being put into institutionalised care/left with CMs, due to both parents needing to work to survive?

And possibly down to the amount of divorce/remarriage compared to years ago?

SamSmalaidh Mon 28-Jan-13 23:46:22

Some studies have shown babies show attachment behaviour/preference towards the mother from 8 weeks Bertie, rather than the 6 months that was previously believed.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 23:47:22

SamSmalaidh Mon 28-Jan-13 23:42:50
"I suspect that babies forming simultaneous primary attachments is unusual enough that there haven't been significant observations. The norm is that babies form their first attachment to the person who feeds, holds, makes eye contact with, interacts with them in their early weeks/months, and I'm pretty sure in 99% of families this will be the mother. "

Good heavens- do you really believe that only 1% of fathers make eye contact and hold and interact with their babies in the early weeks! sad

That is one of the most shocking things I ever heard. So what do they do then with this small person who is suddenly living in their home? What is the experience of Mumsnetters here? Having grown up in a different culture, I find that almost impossible to believe- but I will take your word for it.

MiniTheMinx Mon 28-Jan-13 23:48:38

Doesn't have to be the mother, agree.

In the same way that we learn to read signals like the pitch when a child cries, facial expressions, hand signals and body movements, the baby also learns from your reaction which signals to make to illicit the response it requires. That really requires one carer.

SamSmalaidh Mon 28-Jan-13 23:48:38

I expect that only 1% of fathers do the majority/an equal amount of the feeding/holding/interaction in the early weeks.

WorraLiberty Mon 28-Jan-13 23:48:55

Well I've grown up with a British culture and I don't believe it for one minute cory

1% my arse.

shade78 Mon 28-Jan-13 23:49:49

In my head i hear my baby crying when I am away from her. Maybe the father can cope with it but she will always be wondering where her mother is no?

BertieBotts Mon 28-Jan-13 23:50:25

My ex generally ignored DS unless I instructed him to hold him, it was most bizarre. He is now an ex though. And doesn't see his son. His choice.

I expect that Sam wasn't saying that 99% of fathers don't make eye contact or hold their babies, though, but that in most families the mother does the majority of the care simply due to the fact that she's on maternity leave.

1% my arse.

Indeed. Such a load of tripe.

Men are really being underestimated and undermined.

elizaregina Mon 28-Jan-13 23:52:11

yes but from what age Mini? Most NB are asleep for weeks on end they only seem to start being more aware and waking up to the world from 3 months.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 23:53:22

MiniTheMinx Mon 28-Jan-13 23:48:38

"In the same way that we learn to read signals like the pitch when a child cries, facial expressions, hand signals and body movements, the baby also learns from your reaction which signals to make to illicit the response it requires. That really requires one carer. "

Why can't it be two people, assuming that they are both responsive?

shade78 Mon 28-Jan-13 23:49:49
"In my head i hear my baby crying when I am away from her. Maybe the father can cope with it but she will always be wondering where her mother is no?"

In our case, they probably also wondered where their father was when he was at work. They didn't cry more on the days he looked after them than on the days I did.

SamSmalaidh Mon 28-Jan-13 23:53:41

In my family, and all the families I know, the fathers (good, interested, involved fathers) do nowhere near 50% of the feeding and bonding behaviour - yes of course they hold the baby, change nappies, do bath times etc. But it is the mother who spends the majority of the day with the baby, feeds it, does most/all the night wakings.

HopAndSkip Mon 28-Jan-13 23:53:46

If the couple is split before or soon after the birth though, you do need to bare in mind the risk of PND etc.

Later on ideally both should have equal roles, but the baby obviously shouldn't be taken away for long periods of time as soon as it's born after 9 months of bonding and carrying it so on. I would think most mums would agree with this surely though, if they think back to when their DC's were tiny babies.

The dad needs to spend as much time as he possibly can with the baby then, and once the inital couple of months have passed and the baby is happy to be with him alone, he should be doing equal amounts of parenting.

I had to leave my DD in hospital after 4 days, and I was in floods of tears the entire way home, and the majority of the night. It just feels wrong to be away from them so young, but her dad didn't bat an eyelid, he had the much more practical view of "She's got nurses there, they'll phone if she gets any worse"

Yfronts Mon 28-Jan-13 23:54:03

My babies spent the first 9 month in my tummy. I was all they were used to and they wanted to be on me and in my arms all the time. I BF for 2 years. Even now they always want me if they fall over or are upset. DH is also well connected to them and we both used slings as they grew up. Me more because I was around more. I was my kids primary attachment.

MiniTheMinx Mon 28-Jan-13 23:54:46

From personal experience I had two very different set ups and two very different results.

DS1 was made pass the parcel with lots of care from DP and also from my mother who doted on him. He was unsettled and has separation anxiety at 2 .5 years. Serious and reserved child.

DS2, second child, left to get on with it, DP only took a week off and I did everything. Calm, happy relaxed child, no separation issues later. Still very outgoing and confident.

That's not a study ! but I think the two approaches might have something to do with the result.

MiniTheMinx Mon 28-Jan-13 23:56:24

Cory, because no two people interact in the same way. It becomes even more confusing when you add in a third person.....the baby. It's basic probability.

WorraLiberty Mon 28-Jan-13 23:56:35

In my head i hear my baby crying when I am away from her. Maybe the father can cope with it but she will always be wondering where her mother is no?


Well no more than if she were left with a CM while you went to work.

If a baby is given the chance to bond with both parents, they'll bond with both parents.

Yes there'll be times they don't particularly want to go to the other one but then there'll be times they don't particularly want to go to nursery/CM/School etc.

cory Tue 29-Jan-13 00:02:31

I wonder, is it the 50% that matters or is it how much time you spend on bonding activities. Tbh even when dh worked more than 50%, he probably spent more real time cuddling his babies, talking to them, singing to them etc than some of my friends who were mothers but simply not that into that sort of thing. Not every mother is actually that good at interacting with babies.

Again, I keep thinking of the analogy with languages. It is often stated that children need to hear their two languages x % of the time to become bilingual. I always wonder x % of what? My db and SIL are bringing their children up monolingual, but they are quite frankly not very chatty: my dc have a larger vocabulary in both their languages, no doubt because I talk a lot. 50% of my talking time is a lot more than a 100% of SILs- and it shows.

Seeing how little some mothers interact with their children, I also suspect that 40% interaction time with dh was a good deal more than 100% with some mothers I knew.

Ds1 stayed over night with his dad from 6 months old and was fine. All of my dc have been fine when spending time with their dad. Even ds1 who saw less of his dad due to us being separated.

Both ds1&2 hated the first few weeks of being left at nursery though (both under a year old at the time) it was far more traumatic for them than spending time with dad

k1p1 Tue 29-Jan-13 00:09:33

Bertie, your earlier post was excellent. Parents should be equal, but all circumstances are different and each child too.

PariahHairy Tue 29-Jan-13 00:17:32

In my Children's eyes possibly not. They have all adored and wanted ME from the start, my Dp is a marvellous Dad and has from the beginning assumed as much responsibility as I have. He changed nappies and settled and put to bed etc, they still all want ME, fgs.

Even now at 9, 6, 3, they all prefer me, it's just a fact of life.

In other Families, it may be that the Father is the favoured one, there is nothing much you can do about this. Well there might be, but it would be hard work.

"Why can't it be two people, assuming that they are both responsive?"

People smell/taste/feel different, a lot of research was done via the old orphange set up and the deprortees, where various care givers saw to the baby's needs.

hardly anyone challenges it.

Father's groups constatnly challenge child law (where this fundamental bond is protected).

Academics then have to be carrying out on going research, which builds on what is already written, to show good reason why birth mothers and fathers are not given identical rights, in practicality (but in essence they are).

The studies are culturally crossed and different types feed into each other, so adopted orphans from other countries, in different aged sibling groups etc.

Some of the studies are around how we as adults form attachments to our baby's and talke that into account. It is a lot more in biological basement then an "insecurity".

I don't know how aware you are OP of the brain development that doesn't happen if attachment isn't formed and neglect takes place. The frontal lobe doesn't form etc. So a baby's needs not being met can cause brain defects, we do not yet know everything about healthy psychological development.

We know that a lot happens straight from birth and the 6 months theory is way off mark.

A lot of what we know is by getting it very wrong and not thinking it was important how many foster carers a baby had, as long as needs where met in other ways.

It has never been disputed that one Primary Carer is vital.

googlyeyes Tue 29-Jan-13 00:18:57

I really cannot see how 50/50 care (post relationship split) can ever be in the interests of a child unless it takes place at the child's main residence.
Such an arrangement can only ever be in the interests of the parents, who obviously both feel entitled to their 'share'

And I've rarely heard anything as shocking on here as someone suggesting a newborn baby is FF simply to allow the NRP to have overnight access. What a fucking joke. As someone said, what decent father would even contemplate such a thing??

As for babies knowing their mother and responding to her in a unique way, from my own experience I would say that was the case pretty much from birth. Makes sense when they have spent 9months inside you! That is a pretty major experience for both mother and baby which really shouldn't be negated in the name of political correctness.

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