If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, are Mothers from Saturn and fathers from Jupiter? Maybe. Then again maybe not. In parenting, often the roles of fathers and mothers follow prescripted roles. Mother- the nurturer, Father- the protector. Is fathering fundamentally different from mothering? Are men and women biologically designed for different parenting roles? Earlier research suggested that we are. At the risk of oversimplifying and sounding clichéd, adolescents need empathy from the mother, the relational parent, and need approval from the father, the performance parent. If the mother is consistently cold, and the father consistently critical, it can cause damage to the child’s psyche and his ability to forge bonds with others.
Mother’s parenting, traditionally speaking, is more centered on relationship building skills whereas father’s parenting is more focused on norm compliance, in simple words teaching the ways of the world. In addition, each parent provides the dominant sex role model in the family, the mother as prime example of how to define oneself as a woman, wife, sister and mother; the father as prime example of how to define oneself as a man, husband, brother and father. You might have heard mothers say to their disobedient kids, “Wait till your father comes back today!” Handing over your power to the father on a platter. And then you expect the child to listen to you!
With gender roles becoming more fluid, do fathers and mothers need different roles? And what about single-parent homes? A steady dose of Bollywood and Hollywood would make us believe that such kids are always pining for the other absent parent. In today’s dynamic times with unorthodox family structures, fathering and mothering need not be mutually exclusive. The challenge for each parent is to express both relational and performance sides. Both father and mother should take on functions of listening and coaching, talking with, confiding in, teaching, showing how to do things, playing, cooking, taking them shopping, putting them to bed, and so on. Enjoy healthy competition with each other.
Research from the field of psychology unequivocally shows that parental involvement is central to both fathering and mothering. Adolescents who report higher levels of parental connection exhibit better social skills and stronger attachments with others. So whatever role you decide for yourself, be an involved parent!