Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why We Should Rename Father's Day

Mother's Day. It's the time of the year when we reverse roles and nurture the nurturers. We don't really think of fathers as "nurturers," because mothers are clearly (and biologically) programmed for that role. But when fathers have positive interactive involvement with their children, there's no doubt that nurturing takes place.

Recent long-term studies show that what makes a father "great," according to surveys, is being actively involved, and in tune, with their children. In other words, being a "dad."

For years I've had conversations with people about the distinctions between being a father, and being a dad. To simplify, being a father is a biological condition; being a dad is a choice. When children have a father who enjoys and is committed to being a "dad," they benefit tremendously.

Lack of a father's presence (and thus, opportunity for involvement) typically results in behavioral issues for boys, and emotional problems for girls. The desire to be a parent, coupled with the choice to be a dad, is not only a winning formula for children, but it's what makes us different from other mammals (95% of male mammals offer no parental care whatsoever).

Women should recognize that bonding with children is not natural for men. It's in fact, unnatural. For men, the power of their choice to be a dad is what instigates the bonding process. Psychologists agree that there is a strong correlation between the quality and quantity of interactive time that fathers spend with their children, and levels of happiness experienced in childhood. This is referred to as our PMI level (Parental Male Involvement).

The many natural hormonal changes that take place in a woman's body upon conception facilitate bonding between mother and unborn child, continue throughout pregnancy, and intensify during labor and childhood. Mothers become moms organically.

Men don't have an organic  process by which bonding occurs (though we do experience some initial hormonal changes when a child is born which can increase the chances for bonding). We have to work at establishing and maintaining it - which may distract men who believe their most valued contribution to the life of a child is financial.

Fathers are more likely to view it as work; we dads view it as enjoyment. Dads do this work with willingness and enthusiasm because we know it's an investment in the welfare of our children, families, and legacies. So on this father's day, remember that every child has a father, but not every child has a dad. Choosing to be a dad is choosing to make a difference, and that's something that all loving fathers should want for their children.

Happy Dad's Day!

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