It is not very often that a father joins us on the Baby Mat at the clinics. We usually only meet a mother or grandmother and baby. This week however, one of the Home Visitors and I had the rare opportunity to have a father approach us on the Baby Mat. He sat with us for a long while and openly shared his story of being a father, grandfather, husband and son. The Home Visitor and I discussed after the meeting how special is was to have met with such a thoughtful father.
It is unfortunate that fathers are frequently forgotten in certain communities for their importance and value in the upbringing of their children. Women are traditionally seen as the caregiver and the father as the more distant authority figure. In many of our communities fathers are also noticeably absent from their children’s upbringing. In some of these instances, fathers do want to play a more significant role, but due to divorce, work difficulties or fathers not always living with their children, this becomes more difficult. However, even non-resident fathers can play an important role. The quality of the care that is given is often more important than the quantity!
Fathers help to support mom and baby:
Fathers can offer a huge amount of support, not just financially, to the mother and child. A mother who feels supported and cared for by the father of the baby, is also more likely to be a more responsive and sensitive parent, as she may then have less anxiety and concerns that prevent her from being present with her child. Much recent research highlights that children whose fathers are involved, are more likely to become children and adolescents who are emotionally secure, educated, with positive self-concepts and who are better able to establish successful relationships.
Fathers help a child learn he/she is a unique part of the family:
In the beginning of a baby’s life, mom and baby seem almost like one unit. The father may feel a bit like an outsider and jealous of the unique bond between a mother and an infant. However, as baby grows so does his awareness of his environment. The baby will gradually start to learn that there is a relationship between mom and dad. This awareness is very important for babies to learn. It means that they come to know themselves as separate and unique people, and as a part of a family system.
Fathers help the child learn important values and skills:
Fathers bring a unique parenting style and approach to their children. Imagine a father playing with his two year old son…
I’m sure the image that comes to mind, is of a dad throwing the little boy into the air and catching him again, tickling his tummy or throwing a ball to each other. A father’s way of playing with his child can be very different to that of mothers. Mothers tend to be more gentle and careful when playing, while fathers are more comfortable with physical, boisterous kinds of rough-and-tumble and goal-oriented play. This can be very useful for children to learn about ideas such as risk-taking, body awareness, facing challenges and building confidence.
Linked to these lessons, the function of a father also includes establishing appropriate boundaries and limits. While mothers are oftentimes more empathic and tolerant of their children’s behaviours, fathers are usually the ones in the family unit that introduce ideas of reality and rationality. The introduction to limit-setting and adjusting to boundaries is invaluable for preparing a child to manage with the rules and reality of an adult world.
In conclusion it seems important to reiterate that the more that the father’s role is valued by society, the more that fathers will take pride in this role and value it themselves.
We look forward to welcoming more fathers to Ububele and making use of our services!