Moms' Opinions of Dads
On December 1st, the National Fatherhood Initiative announced the results of its Mama Says survey. This is the first national survey of how mothers view fathers and fatherhood, and consisted of an online 80+ question poll of 1533 mothers.
Among the key findings of the survey are:
- For parents who live together, the top predictors of a mother's satisfaction with her partner's fathering were his closeness to the kids and how well he manages his own work/life balance.
- Most mothers think that fathers are replaceable - that a child's father could be replaced either by a single mom who parents alone or by another male.
- Very few mothers think that men and women parent similarly.
- Most mothers consider women to be far more nurturing than men.
The sad finding about father replaceability is rather hard to interpret. For women who are more connected to their children than their partners are, and surviving with this inequality, the result makes sense. We all have to made do with what we have, or make a change. If a father disappears or dies (as my own father did), a mother has to believe her kids have a chance at happiness (look Mom, I'm happy!). And short of these scenarios of 0% father presence, mothers with less involved but existing partners have to also believe that the kids will thrive. The question doesn't ask whether mothers feel that a fully involved co-parenting father can be replaced by a good-for-nothing bum of a new boyfriend with no consequences to the kids. Nor, by the way, do we know what fathers think...would they say that a mother can be replaced by a single father or a new female companion? I suspect they would not be as cavalier about their answer as the moms in the survey seemed to be, but in an ESP worldview the answers should be no different.
The last two findings were somewhat buried in the report, but interesting (and also sad) to ESP parents. Do men and women parent similarly? Our culture trains us to say "no" with a vengeance - both from what we observe on TV and from how our society is set up to teach men and women their proper roles at home. But very little is actually nature (it's nurture). Men and women, globally speaking, can parent similarly. Individual fathers and mothers parent very differently, of course, and that's one of the big perks of ESP. Two different parents, two styles, two heads better than one - lucky kids. The question of male nurturing runs along the same lines. Yet we have a chicken-and-egg quandry here. If moms believe moms are better at nurturing, moms will continue to take control in this arena...thus winning the nurturing trophies and proving the myth. We all know boys are better at math than girls...right? Or perhaps....
Mama Says is an interesting set of data. It is reflective of the state of parenting in America, surely, and worthy of review. A followup study would be useful, several years from now and then again in several decades. How would the results be different if the percentage of ESP couples in the survey was larger?