My name is Kate Mangino; I am a gender expert, writer, and Advisor for the Gender Equality subgroup at Fathering Together. To celebrate Father’s Day and #MoreThanANecktie, I talked with 10 dads over 10 weeks about what it really means to be an engaged father. If you like this series, you can read more on gender (in)equality. Website. Twitter.
Name: Brian Anderson
Location: Chicago, IL
Ages of Kids: 5 & 7
I asked every dad I interviewed what they thought about the term “caregiving” as it relates to being a father.
Practically speaking, Brian sees the term caregiving as synonymous with mothering, fathering or parenting. He believes all of those terms, at the core, are about an emotional connection and the capacity to love your kids. Brian is less concerned with the vocabulary people choose, and more concerned with the sincerity of the actions behind those words.
Whatever you want to call it, there is data to show that the actions behind caregiving are beneficial to dads. The State of the World’s Fathers report states that caregiving improves mental, physical and sexual health. Experience in caregiving is linked to limiting unhealthy behavior, like substance abuse.
A lesson learned in a dad’s role in birth and perinatal care:
During our conversation, Brian told me about the medical complications he and his wife experienced during the birth of their first child. While the birth was certainly hard for his wife, it was also hard for Brian. And while his wife was physically recovering from a traumatic birth, Brian struggled to find his role in this new family. He recalls trying to be the knight in shining armor – setting his own feelings aside to care for and protect his wife and new baby. But that took an emotional toll on him. He said that in hindsight, he wished he hadn’t been so fearful for the women in his life. His wife and the baby were both more resilient than he realized, and while they needed his support, they didn’t necessarily need his protection. Looking back, he wished he would have been more open with his wife about his own feelings and concerns.
Lots of dads feel this way. If you (or a friend) have gone through a traumatic birth or fathering experience, try joining one of the Fathering Together subgroups to meet other dads going through similar circumstances: Dads With Daughters and Dads With Sons.
Advice on being present for your kids:
Brian works hard to be present for his kids on a daily basis. He does the daily school drop-off and pick-up. (This is important, because everyone who does this job in their family knows that the best kid school stories usually happen on the ride/walk home from school!) Brian is the meal planner and cook, and he looks forward to reading to the kids every night before bed. He realizes that at their current ages of 5 & 7, companionship is important – and he works hard to be physically present.
My favorite quote from Brian’s interview:
“When my first child was born, no friends my age were going through the mental vortex that I was going through. I wasn’t clinically depressed, but I also wasn’t healthy. My wife was able to talk to everyone about her emotions and the new baby, but no one asked me how I felt. That was my motivation behind starting Fathering Together.”