Jump to content

Are men as caring as women?

  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 diary~dad

Posted 25 May 2010 - 10:22 AM

Care Factor
By Joseph Kelly

Recently I was introduced to a guy who works for one of the large automotive manufacturers.  This particular employer has a generous parental leave section in its Enterprise Agreement which provides for several weeks leave for a parent.  The only restriction on taking the leave is that it cannot be taken if another parent is concurrently taking leave to care for the children.

The man I met had a problem.  His wife was expecting triplets.  Triplets, it could well be argued, need more than one parent to care for them in the best of times.  But in this particular circumstance the expectant mother had an underlying medical condition that her doctors had told her would require her to convalesce for a substantial period following the birth of the children.  The doctors even provided a medical certificate to this effect.

No problem so far - all the father needs to do is explain to his employer that he will be the sole carer for his children while his wife convalesces.  Simple.  Except, for his employer, it is not that simple.  Applying the sort of logic that only exists in large Human Resources departments, the employer concluded that as the primary care-giver (i.e. the mother) was at home with the children then the father had no entitlement to paid parental leave.  As helpfully explained by HR, the father was entitled to access his 10 days carers leave days to care for his wife, but the only other leave available to him was annual leave. It was HR's assessment that any time the father took off following the birth of his children would be to care for his wife, while she cared for their children.

As the advocate for this particular father I made a very simple point.  I pointed out to HR that if it was the other way around, that the mother was applying for parental leave while her husband complied with a medical certificate and convalesced (say, for a back injury), then it would be unlikely we would be having this conversation.  The high level of thinking applied by HR practitioners does not respond well to hypotheticals.  The matter is now being referred to Fair Work Australia for resolution.

What the above illustrates is the double standard that is applied to issues of parenting.  Ideally, each parent should be viewed equally, each individually capable of nurturing and sustaining their children, each in their own right a "primary care-giver".  There have been some very subtle moves in this direction.  For example, we no longer refer to maternity leave but rather the gender neutral 'parental leave'.  But there is a traditional bias that suggests that while it's great that dads sometimes help out around the house, as they do not go through birth and do not breast feed, they will always be 'the other parent'.

And it's not limited to child care.  Last week I had an argument with yet another large HR department.  This time a male employee had taken time off to care for his critically ill brother.  His request for carers leave was denied.  Why?  It was HR's considered opinion that the ill brother should have been cared for by his mother.

When it comes to parenting, are dads 'Goose' to mum's 'Maverick'?  Do we, as a society, believe that men are not as capable of providing primary care as women?

Edited by diary~dad, 25 May 2010 - 12:36 PM.

#2 Kylie Orr

Posted 25 May 2010 - 11:50 AM

Hi Joe

Ridiculous! This is the reason I got out of HR. They too often apply policies and forget there are HUMANS involved.

Men as primary care givers are certainly as capable, aside from the boob thing. I have noticed my husband has slightly different priorities to me (doesn't mind if the 18mo's nappy is hanging between his legs after being worn and peed in for the entire day) but also makes incredible commitment to teaching the children football theme songs and has them share his appreciation for fresh basil in cooking! Love and care comes in many different formats.

Hope your colleague can sort out the mess with HR and be home to care for his wife and triplets.


#3 diary~dad

Posted 25 May 2010 - 02:09 PM

Thanks Kylie,

I'm currently at home with 12-month-old Rita - when she wakes I'll try the footy theme song and let you know how i get on!


#4 bubless

Posted 27 May 2010 - 06:05 PM

The equally ridiculous thing about this situation is that assuming your friend's wife went back to work after a period, he would presumably remain entitled to parental leave and they would have to pay it. It's not like by refusing it now they are saving themselves any money.  

I was a bit concerned about the title of your blog today, although I'm glad to see that the topic didn't bear out in the way I had thought.  

Good article too - I am increasingly frustrated by blithe new dads at work who don't give a second thought to how having kids will affect their career. I guess I had hoped that more of them might explore parental leave and part-time options.  Each to their own decision of course, but I know that a decision for me to have kids (as a woman) is not going to be so easy!

#5 a letter to Elise.

Posted 27 May 2010 - 08:46 PM

The double standards are very frustrating. My husbands boss (female) works from home one day a week, as she has two young children. My husband has asked if he can do the same, and she just laughed at him! He does get to work from home very occasionally, but there's really no reason why he couldn't  make it a regular event. He logs on to work every night any way!

#6 kpingitquiet

Posted 28 May 2010 - 08:53 PM

It's all a bit ridiculous. I fully expect my husband to change diapers, feed, wash, nurture, and care for our future child in much the same way I will, with subtle style differences. He expects no less of himself. If he did any less than what any parent should do...then why would I need a husband? Why would our child need a father? He pulls his weight with the household and with our two 25kg dogs (In fact, I'd say he pulls more than his weight with the mutts!). I can't even imagine him doing less for his own flesh and blood.

Neither of us will be the primary caregiver. We will be parents. More families should have this attitude. And more employers should make it a possibility.

#7 johntanya

Posted 31 May 2010 - 11:43 AM

As a  father of two wonderful boys it has been my upbringing and particular to my mum and dad is how I raise my children.  I could not imagine being part of their upbringing.  I love the fact I can help them get ready for school, wash their clothes, change their nappies, cuddle them at night when they have bad dreams or bathing them.  Fathers are as caring as mothers, in some circumstances more.  I took 6 weeks annual leave to help my wife after the birth's of both boys.  I was lucky in the respect that my employers at the time allowed this.  

It is a generational issue that needs to be addressed.  Are men as caring as women? In the eyes of my peers and society, they are.  You see in the shopping centres fathers carrying their children on their shoulders, shopping with them etc.  It is a great thing to witness.  You do get the odd comment from older people in their 60's, 70's and 80's that fathers should work and mothers should be raising the children.  I would only imagine how their children were brought up!!  HOWEVER, the workplace is still back in the 1950's era of mentality where the men go to work and the woman stays home with childrearing.  This reflects on most human resource policies.  In Australia, were are just getting the paid maternity leave where other countries (i.e. Canada) have had it for a while.

I have no doubt in the future, men (in the eyes of government and corporations) will be seen as a caring and nurturing individual whereby the inequalities will be addressed.  As a male nurse and now student midwife, I have seen first hand many of my male colleagues just how caring they can be.  It isn't gender that determines how caring, it is our upbringing and personal experiences that determine it.

#8 nicka

Posted 02 June 2010 - 01:43 PM

I have no doubt that fathers can be just as nurturing as mothers, but it upsets me that so many fathers either choose not to get involved or use p*ss-weak excuses to not take more parenting responsibility.  I get sick of hearing fathers say “I have to work full-time” – er, no, you choose to work full-time.  

When my now 4yo son was 1yo and my wife was returning to work part-time, I reduced my hours from 5 days to 4 days per week.  I then dropped to 3 days per week after the birth of our second son.  My boss told me that I obviously didn’t care about my career and could say bye-bye to a promotion.  And you know what?  This is the same situation that working women also face.

I wish more dads would man-up and have the guts to put their jobs on the backburner for a few years and provide a stronger parenting / role model for their young kids.  It took me a while to accept that working part-time and parenting part-time is a valuable (although unpaid) role.  

I think so many men choose not to parent as it’s much easier to sit back and criticise their wife’s parenting skills while using the excuse of being the main income earner as being SO much harder.

On the maternity leave issue, my employer also has a “parental” leave policy that allows either parent to take parental leave, on the basis that their partner is not also on parental leave at the same time (irrespective of the employer).  I made an enquiry into accessing this leave – basically I had to be the primary care-giver in the first 3 months of the child’s life.  Hhhmmm, bit difficult when my wife was caring for a newborn and breastfeeding.  She certainly wasn’t planning to go back to work at that stage.  Basically my employer offers maternity leave and has re-labelled it “parental” leave, although it’s going to next to impossible for any father to access it.  Why should my employer’s offer of parental leave be in any way dependent on my wife’s contract of employment with another employer?  I guess it’s because my employer wants to claim that it offers parental leave that it actually has no intention of offering to fathers.

I would really like to see shift in attitudes to working parents that:

a)      It is OK for anybody (parents included) to work part time if they choose to, it is not solely up to a mother to give up paid work to raise a family.

b)      It is OK for fathers to take an active role in raising a family.

c)       It is not acceptable for fathers to claim they have to work full-time and therefore do not have to parent.

d)      It is OK to give up some working hours and material goods to spend time with your family,  your value is not linked to your income/assets, it is linked to the positive role you provide to your kids.

#9 halcyondays

Posted 03 June 2010 - 02:47 PM

Most employers do as nicka says- only one parent can take "parental leave" at a time, and has to be within the first 3 months of the child's birth. Nothing to count for the woman's recovery after giving birth. I'm sure some women just bounce back, but most take a couple of weeks to get over the fatigue and soreness. And if you have a Caesarian, then a bit longer, but it still counts as "parental leave" not "sick leave". Probably the only time you don't get sick leave after a major operation.

I think men are as caring as women- it is more that society encourages them to seek power, wealth and prestige by working outside the home, and mocks any man who chooses the sacrifice and drudgery that caring often entails.

#10 hannahthompson

Posted 07 June 2010 - 04:23 PM

That is depending on the situation. In many cases men proved better than women.

#11 Darkmoon

Posted 07 June 2010 - 07:07 PM

It is a conception that has been around since the beginning of time and will not change in the next thousand years, no matter what happens.

Most people will look at women to be there to nuture and care for the children.  Men are the providers and protectors.  Thinking that we live in a country that has laws against discrimination, does not mean that the deep rooted conceptions will change.

Fathers are just as caring as mothers.  They way I care for our children is different to how my partner cares for our children.

Would I have acted the same way as the people in the HR department? Yes I would have.

It is unfair, but we have bare it, then move on.

My position could be considered sexist.

#12 hannahthompson

Posted 30 June 2010 - 09:00 PM

its depand on situation.

#13 TK421

Posted 30 July 2010 - 10:37 AM

I'm a  member of the defence force, and we're quite lucky to be entitled to two weeks parental leave, carers leave and all sorts of stuff, pretty much regardless of who is at home 'looking after the kids'. And if there was a special circumstances situation, then it would be looked at accordingly and a decision made. Companies have to realise that their most important resource is the people that work there, and if they aren't looked after then those people will go elsewhere should the chance present itself.

Of course men can take just as good care as kids as women, although the qualities may be different and priorities as well. The instinctful nurturing aspect may not be quite as strong, but as a Dad, we learn a lot as we go. I love being a hands on dad, and when I'm at home I love getting in there and doing the dirty work (maybe LOVE isn't the right term) like changing nappies and the like - as much to give DW a break as to share those little bonding moments which are important. I have to do what I can around my job (as the sole working parent) and I go on operational deployment a fair bit so my time at home really counts.

#14 Aunt Annie

Posted 27 February 2011 - 09:47 AM

I'm lucky enough to know two outstanding fathers whose care for their kids at least equals the care given by the mum and sometimes surpasses it.  Both of them don't give a damn what society's expectations are- they do what they do based on what feels right to them.

But it does take a certain sort of man to do this- and I suspect that depends on how they've been brought up themselves.  If they've been surrounded all through their childhood by the concept that they have to be the primary breadwinner or they've failed, they'll be deeply uncomfortable in, say, the role of carer or stay-at-home dad.  This isn't their fault, not at all- and it takes a huge shift of perspective to slough this burden.

My own partner is from a very conventional family just like this; he is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of me earning more than him, as is currently the case, and can't be 'logic'ed out of feeling that way.  Yet he was absolutely amazing in the role of carer when his previous partner was diagnosed with breast cancer, nursing her at home till she died.  The circumstances were extreme enough to move his perspective away from the ingrained one of 'caring is women's work'.  

So yes, it is possible for a man to BECOME as caring as a woman, and it is possible for a man to be BROUGHT UP as caring as a woman.  Either way, if the circumstances demand that they become a carer, it is despicable for HR to discriminate against them on the basis of their sex.

#15 Serafima

Posted 16 April 2011 - 03:59 AM

I think that men are capable to take care of babies and providing primary care! Maybe not as good as women, maybe in their own way, but they can do it!

Edited by Serafima, 16 April 2011 - 04:00 AM.

#16 josephfelix

Posted 03 May 2011 - 10:59 PM

Men are definately as caring as women! My DP has had to take over complete care of our son since he was approx. 3 months old as i have been very ill with cancer and now also a very difficult pregnancy. He is absolutely wonderful looking after me and our son original.gif but he still finds that he gets a lot of odd looks at times and he has found it very hard to find other dads at playgroups etc.

#17 faithy

Posted 04 June 2011 - 06:59 PM

Sorry havent read the other posts, so not sure if this has already been mentioned. Research has shown that women have higher levels of oxytocin than men. this lends itself to women being more 'caring' ( however also more prone to anxiety related issues compared to men)

That's not to say men aren't caring, just that our biology is different. Perhaps the men that are more innately caring have higher levels of oxytocin compared to their other male counterparts? Dunno..

#18 spr_maiden

Posted 23 December 2011 - 02:03 PM

HI there

This is a really interesting discussion. In relation to the biological differences argument, biological differences do not adequately explain behavioural differences.  Hormonal levels and differences in these among people do not explicitly determine behaviours.  

Interestingly, there are even more than two sexes biologically but only two genders, so for me that says alot about the affect of society and it's expectations.

I believe we live in a heteronormative patriarchial society where men and women are socialised into roles from the moment of birth onwards and god forbid if you want to upset that!  Yay to all the dads who refuse to accept that they are inferior parents because mainstream society tells you that it isn't in your role description, and yay to all the mums who refuse to accept that the care of children rests solely upon you, and that sharing the care of your children, even with their father, makes you a bad mother.

Are men as caring as women?  Of course.

Last point for my ramble.  The Zeme Naga are a tribe of headhunters (in Papua New Guinea I think) where the men are the primary care-givers.  To be altruistic and caring are considered masculine qualities.  At no point since this tribe has been known of, have there ever been any incidences or evidence of the physical or sexual abuse of their children.  Food for thought?


Edited by Studybug, 23 December 2011 - 02:06 PM.

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Top 5 Viewed Articles

Essential Baby and Essential Kids is the place to find parenting information and parenting support relating to conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, kids, maternity, family budgeting, family travel, nutrition and wellbeing, family entertainment, kids entertainment, tips for the family home, child-friendly recipes and parenting. Try our pregnancy due date calculator to determine your due date, or our ovulation calculator to predict ovulation and your fertile period. Our pregnancy week by week guide shows your baby's stages of development. Access our very active mum's discussion groups in the Essential Baby forums or the Essential Kids forums to talk to mums about conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, kids and parenting lifestyle. Essential Baby also offers a baby names database of more than 22,000 baby names, popular baby names, boys' names, girls' names and baby names advice in our baby names forum. Essential Kids features a range of free printable worksheets for kids from preschool years through to primary school years. For the latest baby clothes, maternity clothes, maternity accessories, toddler products, kids toys and kids clothing, breastfeeding and other parenting resources, check out Essential Baby and Essential Kids.