Introduction

by Christina St-Jean

This chapter is a free excerpt from Dad's Turn: How to Cope when Mom's Not Around.

If you’ve ever packed your family up for a road trip to Grandma’s house, who does what? Stereotypically, it’s the father who is stacking the bags in the car, because he’s the heavy lifter, lashing the vehicle shut while Mom’s busy getting the kids organized. For the most part, Mom figures out what snacks to pack, what games to bring, and what, if anything, will keep the children busy during the long drive there. Dad maps out the route.

Throw the bags in the car and away we go, right?

Well, it’s not really that simple. Let’s face it: women tend to multitask more than men. Men and women are more or less equal when it comes to multitasking with simpler things, but in terms of planning, studies have shown that women truly excel, particularly when it comes to more complex tasks. If a man is asked to press the kids into service helping him with, for instance, the packing up of the vehicle, he may become impatient far sooner than a woman would – at least, according to the commonly-held stereotype that men are the more impatient gender. Women, according to the stereotype, are more likely to be successful in giving the children smaller tasks to handle so they feel a part of things, too, but are also not getting caught underfoot in the bustle of everyday life.


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If you’ve ever packed your family up for a road trip to Grandma’s house, who does what? Stereotypically, it’s the father who is stacking the bags in the car, because he’s the heavy lifter, lashing the vehicle shut while Mom’s busy getting the kids organized. For the most part, Mom figures out what snacks to pack, what games to bring, and what, if anything, will keep the children busy during the long drive there. Dad maps out the route.

Throw the bags in the car and away we go, right?

Well, it’s not really that simple. Let’s face it: women tend to multitask more than men. Men and women are more or less equal when it comes to multitasking with simpler things, but in terms of planning, studies have shown that women truly excel, particularly when it comes to more complex tasks. If a man is asked to press the kids into service helping him with, for instance, the packing up of the vehicle, he may become impatient far sooner than a woman would – at least, according to the commonly-held stereotype that men are the more impatient gender. Women, according to the stereotype, are more likely to be successful in giving the children smaller tasks to handle so they feel a part of things, too, but are also not getting caught underfoot in the bustle of everyday life.

Moms, for the most part, have become multitasking masters. Evidence from a recent study in the American Sociological Review supports this claim; the study, conducted by researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and Michigan State University, discovered that moms multitask, on average, 10 hours per week more than their male parental counterparts – and this is in addition to either a full- or part-time job.

But what happens when Mom’s not around? I’m not talking about when tragedy strikes – what if Mom has gone on a trip, gone back to work, or taken up a new hobby that takes her out of the house more frequently than not? Whether you have one or several children, parenting is a challenge, and mothers often bear the brunt of the workload; studies continue to show that mothers are still carrying the majority of household responsibilities.

As such, the fathers may feel a little lost – if not completely overwhelmed – when it comes to parenting solo. Then, when fathers hear their partners telling the kids, “Remember to listen to Dad,” or “Don’t forget to brush your teeth,” they may wonder, “Does she think I’m incompetent? They’re my kids too. Of course they’re going to listen.” This can cause some resentment which may, in turn, get passed on to the kids in the form of frustration or impatience.

It’s important for fathers to understand how to take better control of the family situation and household when their wives are temporarily out of the picture. Staying at home to take care of the kids is not, as some men have kidded with their friends, a holiday; in some countries, men are required to take that time, otherwise the family loses some of those coveted subsidies that many countries dole out now for day care and other childcare needs. With those trends growing from country to country, and in an economy where it may be necessary or beneficial for the father to stay home, it’s helpful – if not completely necessary – for Dad to prepare for time alone with his kids.

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