Studies show that more and more husbands are sharing the responsibility of looking after their children together with their wives. It’s an interesting trend. More men are washing or bathing the child, powdering him, feeding him, changing his clothes, walking around with him to keep him in a cheerful mood, playing with him, and making him sleep.
At one time, there was greater involvement from the mother in the rearing of the child. The growing tribe of fathers caring for their child or children the way their wives would have done is referred to as penguin dads. They’re redefining fatherhood.
To understand this, it might be useful to take a look at the female penguin which, after producing an egg, leaves for the ocean to feed itself. You may think that she is careless in exposing the egg to all sorts of dangers, including predators, but fortunately, the male penguin will be there to look after it till her return. He gives to the egg all the attention it deserves. It not only keeps it warm and protects it from danger but it also cares for it along with the mother once it is hatched. This is how caring and doting fathers have come to be associated with the term penguin dads.
At a time when, the world over, break-ups or conflicts in married life, are common, it’s heartening to find an increasing number of fathers devoting themselves to their child’s welfare. Besides, it’s an interesting development in the context of gender equality.
The trend has certain advantages. Sharing duties makes life easier for the couple as it diminishes the woman’s stress. The child grows up with affection from both parents, and a stronger bond between parents and the child may develop. It’s enriching for the child. The mother can have more free time. When a child is born in a house, there are so many things to attend to. With the husband taking over some of the responsibilities in child care, it’s a big relief for the mother.
On noticing that the husband is caring and doesn’t leave her to tackle all the demands of the child alone, she may feel happy and satisfied. This may strengthen her commitment to keep the family together. It takes two to build a family.
More involvement on the part of the father helps him to better understand what it means to rear a child. The child will feel at ease with the mother as well as with the father. When a man doesn’t hesitate to wake up when the baby starts crying in the middle of the night, he’s in fact easing off the pressure on the woman. I think any woman will see this as very cool.
Researchers find that penguin dads contribute in making children grow secure, self-confident and socially connected.
Someone may care as much as he likes for his child. However, we must, I think, make a distinction between care and affection. Excess of affection can be harmful. In “The Challenge of Parenthood” (Hawthorn Books), Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D. writes that “The exorbitant affection that binds a child too closely to his parents makes him ill suited for his later role in love and marriage; it is likely to impair his capacity for love in other forms.” (page 104). In other words, as he grows up into adulthood, in his quest for the same affection given to him when he was a child, he may be disillusioned in case he doesn’t get it.
Moreover, the author says that “immoderate affection on the part of the parents may even cause premature sexual development in the child.” He cautions parents against kissing children too much, especially on the mouth.
The child “may be led to the conclusion that his aim in life should be to win love and affection through his mere existence, rather than to acquire recognition through tangible achievements.”