You carry them from conception to birth, for nine long, long months, and see them into this world through a labour of love, sweat and tears.
By virtue of the mere physiological intimacy alone, it’s safe to say, that, as a mum, you probably know your little one better than anyone.
But one parenting expert doesn’t agree that the umbilical connection trumps the paternal, especially when it comes to sons.
Author Noël Janis-Norton says men have a much bigger influence than women on boys becoming well-adjusted adults.
In her recently released book, Calmer, Easier, Happier Boys, Janis-Norton describes the strength of the maternal instinct as a potential inhibiting factor in a boy’s development; when mama bears find it hard to back off and let dads take the reins, sons can miss out on learning from their same-sex parent how to handle their emotions and physical strength, and how to respect others and themselves, in a way distinct to their gender.
She cites play-fighting as one important area of development that dads are more inclined to take on. “(Boys) learn how to control themselves, they learn how not to be too rough – and they also learn how to make amends if it does go too far.”
The behavioural specialist says mums should allow dads to find their own parenting style – in other words, letting them do things differently to how they would do them.
But if we’re honest here, many a woman – nevermind mother – can find it tough to relinquish control over the domicile domain; after all, gender conventions (still) dictate that the household is our territory. From a societal perspective, at least, mums are programmed to assume border-control over child-rearing.
In an interview with the Daily Mail Janis-Norton emphasises: “Mothers need to allow dads to be dads and to have their own relationship with their children – and in particular with their boys – without trying to micromanage.” She goes on to say that “a boy will lose respect for the mother who appears to be bossing the father around – or criticising him.”
Obviously, this argument extends deeper than an imbalance in childcare; it’s about the relationship dynamics that exist between partners – and how, as a unit, they demonstrate the combined feminine and masculine expressions of love and respect for their children to model and internalise.
It’s also about priorities.
Boys possess the genetically pre-programmed urge to copy their fathers. But it’s hard for a boy to do that when he doesn’t spend enough time with Dad. While mums sometimes need to suppress the urge to swoop in, it’s also up to men to actively build a healthy father-son relationship.
In today’s varied familial landscape, however, getting Dad involved is not always easy – or possible. Divorce, death, and other single parenting or blended family scenarios affect the intended biological balance. Janis-Norton says that any strong father-figure – which could be a stepfather, grandfather or uncle – can step up, too.
And if the Baby Daddy is in your little guy’s life, encourage him. The opportunity for both babe and Dad to really get to know one another in these early, formative years is not just important, it’s fleeting.