is it sexist to think that mothers generally (though not always) make the best primary parent

(37 Posts)
Twiglett Tue 23-Sep-08 16:22:33

in terms of (again stereotypical) women's strength in juggling, negotiating etc and the fact that there is a closer physical bond with carrying and suckling the child.

I am not saying that in many instances fathers don't make great primary care-givers, nor am I saying that mothers have to be the primary care-giver.

But does equality mean we must ignore physiological and psychological differences?

What d'ya think?

charmander Tue 23-Sep-08 16:23:47

yes it is sexist

fryalot Tue 23-Sep-08 16:25:26

I think that people are good at different things.

I do think that women generally tend to be better at being the number one parent, just as they tend to make better nurses and primary school teachers.

That doesn't mean that men can't do these jobs, or that ALL women are better than ALL men. There will be men (plenty of them probably ) who are better than certain women.

I think that men are generally better suited to physical jobs as well, but not in EVERY instance.


RambleOn Tue 23-Sep-08 16:27:03

Just the fact that you have to say the phrase 'generally, but not always' means that it is sexist.

I don't know, clearly being able to rock a baby to sleep, drink a glass of champagne, chop vegetables and read to a 3 year old all at the same time is a very useful skill but think that some children may in fact be happier waiting for a bit and then getting some full attention. I suppose what i am trying to see is that the women are probably better at looking after children the way we do but who's to say that this is the best one

RedOnHerHead Tue 23-Sep-08 16:28:31

I suppose it is the way nature intended

Twiglett Tue 23-Sep-08 16:29:07

so is it not more sexist to refuse to believe there is any difference between the genders?

FabioVicePeeperPlopper Tue 23-Sep-08 16:29:45

I think there's an argument women make the best primary parent because women tend to want to give up work to be with the children more readily than men.

Not true of all women, onviously.

And also, parents who adopt don't carry or suckle (oh BLEAH term!) their dcs, which doesn't make them lesser primary parents than those who don't. I know that's not what you're wholly suggesting in the OP, but I think it's a relevant point.

The Q of equality ignoring phys. and psych neeeds - surely equality means having the freedom to do what you like in terms of being a sahm or wohm or, if you so chooose, a womble?

georgimama Tue 23-Sep-08 16:29:47

No it isn't sexist, it is biology. Unless biology is sexist.

Twiglett Tue 23-Sep-08 16:30:50

rambleon .. the point of 'generally but not always' is because all attributes are on a continuum .. some are considered more prevalent (mode) within the female gender and others within the male gender

that is not in itself sexist

georgimama Tue 23-Sep-08 16:31:33

I don't think it even comes down to who prefers to be the stay at home parent (is this a SAHM v WOHM thread by stealth because if so I'm not playing) - neither of us are stay at home parents, but I still think I am the primary care giver. It seems entirely natural to me that should be so. Doesn't mean DH doesn't, or shouldn't, help.

daftpunk Tue 23-Sep-08 16:32:02

i think mums make the best carers in the first few months..(.maybe up to 6 months,) but after that i don't think it makes much difference tbh.

Twiglett Tue 23-Sep-08 16:32:06

suckle is a valid term

and now I'm singing the womble song in my head .. cheers fabio

Twiglett Tue 23-Sep-08 16:33:12

this is most definately not a SAHM / WOHM thread

this is a 'what is sexism?' and 'there really is a difference between men and women, why can't we acknowledge and be proud of it' thread

RedOnHerHead Tue 23-Sep-08 16:33:30

Men are different to women - I'm not sexist - they are!

FabioVicePeeperPlopper Tue 23-Sep-08 16:34:32


I aim to please.

Suckle is a BLEAH word, I meant, not term.

Underground, overground, wohming free,
The Wimmin's Collective Working Mothers Group are we....

I think what is sexist is to go from differences in nature and behaviour to an assertion about what gender is best in a certain role. It is sort of like saying that we have to be nurses rather than doctors because we are more "caring", when in fact the NHS is crying out for more empathetic doctors.

EffiePerine Tue 23-Sep-08 16:37:59

tiny babies: I honestly think mothers are best, but with fathers doing stuff as well. As they get older it really evens out. DH and I share childcare and DS (nearly 2) thrives on our different styles (I hope). I am more cuddly, DH is better at the fun stuff.

FabioVicePeeperPlopper Tue 23-Sep-08 16:38:57

Oh yes, men and women v different, and to overlook that for the sake of equality v dumb imo.

Not sure I would go as far as to say generally it means women make a better primary parent, but probably a lot to do with why women tend to be.

...Making all use of the telephone and the doing the dinner and signing school forms and sorting the new mortgage and I have to make a project for school tomorrow mum and therefore old yogurt pots and eggboxes they find,
Stuff that the everyday bloke leaves behind....

Anna8888 Tue 23-Sep-08 16:41:43

No it isn't sexist. The early years biological bond between mother and child is a scientific fact, not a cultural construction.

I was at a beginning of year parent-teacher meeting at my daughter's school yesterday. This is a class of children born in 2004, so aged between 3.8 and 4.8 at the beginning of the school year in September. The teacher commented (in entirely neutral terms) on the large number of children in the class who still had a biberon (bottle) and a doudou (comforter) and told the parents that by the end of the school year, none of the children would be using either any longer.

Bottles and comforters are cultural mother substitutes. Children of this age are still, biologically, extremely close to their mothers.

Bluebutterfly Tue 23-Sep-08 16:41:57

I think that one of the main problems with the feminist movement is that in a drive to ensure that women could and would be taken seriously in the then predominantly male workplace (a good thing), the role of carer and nurturer that women had traditionally done, was given EVEN LESS status than it had previously had, making it seem like an unworthy and "second-class" way to spend one's time. Women may or may not be biologically programmed for that role, but I think that it is the extremely low status that makes it a contentious choice for both men and women to stay at home with children in our more "equal" times.

Also explains why nurses and primary school teachers are often undervalued and underpaid: caring and nurturing is just not sexy...

I actually don't believe men and women are psychologically different. There are as many differences between men and men as there are women and men.

so yes, imo it is sexist to think that women make the best primary carer.

BlingLovin Tue 23-Sep-08 16:43:13

"Not sure I would go as far as to say generally it means women make a better primary parent, but probably a lot to do with why women tend to be."

I would change this sentence slightly to read,
"not sure I would go as far as to say generally it means women make a better primary parent, but probably a lot to do with why women tend to be the primary parent."

Seems to me it's not that women or men are better, but that women tend to take naturally take on the responsibility more. Doesn't mean they're always the better primary parent. I think when men have to take on the responsibility - for whatever reason, by choice or circumstance - they are as likely to be good primary parents as women.

yes but Anna i know a little girl who is very close to both parents but uses her dad as a comforter in the way that my ds uses me. She was breastfed but her dad has been the primary caregiver since she was one (she is now almost two)

Anna8888 Tue 23-Sep-08 16:47:59

Is she still breast fed?

FabioVicePeeperPlopper Tue 23-Sep-08 16:51:03

er, Bling, is this the time for pedantry?

foothesnoo Tue 23-Sep-08 16:53:10

How are we defining primary parent? As a person who stays at home with the children?

Twiglett Tue 23-Sep-08 16:53:19

no .. this is surely the time to remember you're a womble remember You^'^e a womble remember you're a womble remember You^'^e a womble remember-ember-ember what a womble-omble-omble you are

BlingLovin Tue 23-Sep-08 16:53:59

Oops - although I can be a pedant - I was actually being lazy... didn't feel like formulating a whole thought of my own when yours almost summed up what I was trying to say? Or was what you were trying to say the same as what I was trying to say? [if you get through that sentence, well done!]

I thought your point was that women tend to be better caregivers because of their nature, while my point was not that they're better, but that they more naturally step up because of their nature. This may or not make them better?

Am I just losing it completely and should retire back to the piles of work I've been doing today?

foothesnoo Tue 23-Sep-08 17:00:16

Ok have read the thread and find it bizarre. The definition of primary parent seems to range from filling in school forms and knowing where the socks are to being the one the child turns to when ill.

Are you really saying that women across the board are better at all of this than men are? Then yes, I think it's sexist.

Why do you have to define one parent as primary? Why not equal, doing different things in their own ways?

Sycamoretree Tue 23-Sep-08 17:02:10

Well, my DH is a SAHD whilst I'm off earning the big bucks. This isn't so much choice and circumstances. I'm very happy with the arrangement, as we could not afford to lose my salary, even if DH was working, so it's him or a nanny/childminder, and I know which I'd prefer. The kids are 1 and 3 and he does brilliantly with them, but he's a very patient soul and I know not all men would be able to do what he does.

Having said all that - I would not have felt so comfortable with him as the primary care giver when both LO's were new born to say, 6 months, because I firmly believe there is some kind of neurotic natural hyper-alertness that exists in a new mother which makes them more instinctively sensitive to a baby's needs. Even if we don't realise it at the time...feeding of course is a big thing, but I found that I would be meticulous about making sure every eventuality was catered for, for eg if we left the house, whereas DH would often go out with the sun shining, be caught in a downpour, but not have the raincover, a blanket, or anything to protect DD/DS. He'd also forget to check temp of food or bath water...and was never as careful about sterilizing etc as I was.

Of course it was a lot more relaxed 2nd time around, and once babes hit 9-10 months they are pretty resilient little things and there's nothing much I worry about now in terms of be being able to do it better then DH, IYSWIM.

RambleOn Tue 23-Sep-08 20:55:17

arrgh Twig - I'd finally got the bloody womble tune out of my head by 8 o'clock, then I've come back on this thread grin

ForeverOptimistic Tue 23-Sep-08 21:07:42

I disagree. I have been a SAHM since having ds four years ago, it is only in the last year that I have felt that I am as good at parenting as dh. When ds was smaller dh had far more patience and was much of a "natural parent" than I was.

Lovesdogsandcats Tue 07-Oct-08 20:53:31

Well I believe that no, it is not sexist.I find that a lot of men, when their parenting is very good, it is usually inconsistent, with a hell of a lot of negatives to then outweigh the good episodes.

On the few occasions I have witnessed the man being the better parent, it has been when there was something seriously ammiss in the mother.

Fairynufff Thu 29-Jan-09 17:30:29

Yes it is very sexist. My husband is an equal parent in every way and has grieved since they were born because he is the higher earner and had to leave them to go to work. He used to take nappy sacs in his briefcase to sniff them when they were babies. He sets up a shrine of photos on his desk every morning and always gets up to them in the night. They cry out for him when they are hurt or have a bad dream. Obviously he isn't typical but just because most men don't doesn't mean they can't.
Lovesdogsandcats - I know a few brilliant dads and their wives are all normal mums. Just different experiences.

sagacious Sun 08-Feb-09 16:18:30

I'm sorry but snurk at "He used to take nappy sacs in his briefcase to sniff them when they were babies."


I can think of far better smells than a plastic bag tbh.

policywonk Sun 08-Feb-09 16:26:55

(Old thread alert!)

Mostly sexist I think. It's self-reinforcing - women tend to do most of the care-giving, so they tend to be better at it (in the way that people who do anything regularly tend to be better at it than people who do it less often).

But I don't think there's any innate reason why women should be better carers, certainly not once oxytocin has left the system (ie at the end of breastfeeding).

Breasfeeding is the difficult issue here IMO - I always wanted to BF on demand, and this is obviously not possible for most women in paid employment.

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