Myths about Parenthood

June 29, 2010

Little Julia

Julia is now 4 months old. She’s growing fast and beautifully. She’s the cutest little baby in the whole universe. Of course I’m a little biased here but still… :-P

Here are some quick comments on a couple parenthood myths that have always annoyed me a bit. Those are stereotypes that Carol and I tried to avoid as much as possible. Those myths have to do with maternity and paternity.

“Maternity comes naturally” This is something that we often hear here and there inside our families. It’s about women as natural mothers. They just know what to do when the moment comes, they say. What bothers me about this myth is that it puts a lot of pressure on new mothers to know what to do. They are supposed to know everything about babies, right? Wrong! Having a first baby is a huge learning experience for new mothers. Breastfeeding, bonding, changing nappies, etc. are all things that a learnt from experience — just like anything else in life.

“Paternity is not natural” I’ve heard this kind of thing very often since I was a little kid: paternity is artificial; men have no innate talent for taking care of babies; fathers have no natural role in baby’s development; and so on. Beside the fact that those things are not true, the problem with this kind of attitude is that it removes all responsibility from us, fathers, to participate on the daily care for our kids. You’re not expected to participate. And when you do try to participate, you often get over-criticized about any little mistake — which are common for any new parent after all. This is a very common thing in Brazilian families at least.

We’ve seen and heard of many stories of new parents being stereotyped this way. Luckily, we managed to avoid those by being generous, patient, and caring with each other. The truth is: both maternity and paternity come naturally (in part) and involve a lot of learn-by-doing too. Parenthood is definitely not an easy task. It’s a very powerful life experience with a lot of learning involved for both mother and father — in different ways, of course.

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