As Father's Day approaches it seems the perfect time for mothers and children to remind dads that they aren't just a "third wheel" in our lives. Well, sure, I know families who get along just fine without dads, just as I know others who get along just fine without moms. Given balanced social networks, we can all richly bolster our children's development and well-being when we need to.
Nevertheless, those fathers who have the opportunity to be part of their children's lives need to know that the benefits fathers offer children are just as important as those mothers offer, even though mothers have long been assumed to be the only really necessary caretaker in the lives of children.
Further, contrary to other common assumptions, those benefits that fathers offer are not only for sons. The relationship between fathers and daughters is just as important as the more easily esteemed bond between fathers and sons. In addition, these benefits do not only relate to those traits in fathers commonly considered "masculine," such as rough-and-tumble play. Rather, children need nurturance and caregiving from fathers as well as from mothers.
Unfortunately, misconceptions that men are not naturally "nurturing" have handicapped fathers in performing this important function. Just ask Scott Lancaster, Stefan Korn, and Eric Mooij, founders of DIY Father, a fast-growing site dedicated to providing dads with useful parenting information and helping them become "the best fathers they can be." In their own families, these dads (and others like them) are living testimony to the fact that nurturance and caregiving are not the sole province of moms, and that dads are vital developmental resources for children, even from the early weeks of pregnancy.
Of course, as the following two articles demonstrate, policy-makers and employers may be far behind fathers themselves in recognizing this important family resource.