It is particularly timely that during the week that houses Father’s Day, the hottest birth/parenting topic has been dads. And its all because of a new film that has been released in America called The Evolution of Dad. The film explores the changing role of fathers over the past century or so, and argues that the dleineation between the roles of mother and father are increasingly blurred. So blurred, argues the film’s maker Dana Glazer, that within a generation we will have complete equality between the sexes when it comes to bringing up children. Bold assertions such as these always inspire debate and there are many adamant men out there who feel that it will never happen. Whatever happens in the future, there is no denying that dads are more involved than they ever have been and mums work more than ever before. Whilst getting dads more involved in family life, and sharing childcare duites is of great benefit to children and should absolutely be encourageds, we need to be careful that this huge cultural shift doesnt sweep everything up in its stride. Whilst a bonded dad can be of great help to a new mother and baby, the truth is, the essential relationship in the very early weeks and months is with the mother. Dad has a part to play, but he can never replace the extraordinary need a baby has for its mother’s nurture. Equally, many people are so eager to get dad involved from the beginning, that they advocate he be at the birth even when it might not be the best thing for a particular couple. As recently as the 1960s, fathers were rarely at the birth of their children. Now, they almost always are. And whilst for some woemn this is an absolute blessing, and gives her the security and confidence she needs to birth happily, for others, it creates a psychological onbstacle that she needs to summount. One of the keys to giving birth easily is the capacity to open up and let go ( in very basic terms, not that different to going to the loo?!). For some women this is easy in front of the father of their child, and for others, it is simply not. Cultural pressure to be like everyone else means that many women are giving birth with their partners in the room when it should be another woman- a friend, a doula, a mother. It is essential that instead of getting caught up- as we so often do- in a wave of cultural change, that we look at the implications of it for us as individuals and as families.
Whilst many fathers want to be at the birth and benefit from doing so, their presence is not essential to ensure they play and active and vital role in family life going forward. As much as we might be getting more and more equal, we do not have to do everything together. The evolution of dad film seems to revel on our similarities- and for the right reasons. But I think it is also essential that we do not deny our differences.