Gender equality issues are profound and debatable. When I look at our society it is easy to realize the large number of situations were women are still treated with injustice, inequality and prejudice and that breaks my heart.
I am not radical or extreme concerning equality. More even, I believe both women and men have different characteristics and roles to play. And that doesn’t increase or decrease their value. Also, today, as never before, roles can be reversed and changed without that implying an undervalue to either genders.
I am one of those men that always imagined myself as a parent, and even more as a stay at home dad. I can easily see, smiling, the possibility of working from home, taking care of my kids, walking the pets and cooking for the family, taking care of the garden, the plants and the people.
Now that I am a parent it is even harder to leave to go to work and realize that I am away for so many hours from the being that matters the most to me. And also doing things that I can only see as partially important.
What I didn’t know, and had no notion, is how much fatherhood and motherhood are unbalanced socials roles but surprisingly benefiting the mother side.
I want to be perfectly clear: for me it is unquestionable the importance of a mother to a kid or a baby. And that, even if a man dreamed about it, we will not be able to replace, especially in the first years, the founding and fundamental role of the mother.
But at the same time for me it is extremely sad to see how the world regards the role of the father.
It is hard for me to comprehend how some parents live peacefully with the distance toward their children, how they can accept that a mother has a 6 months maternity leave and the father has one. “A father is not that important.”, I have heard people say. Or accept that a mother decides about their children unilaterally.
It is both sad and ridiculous to accept that a father doesn’t get involved, doesn’t participate, doesn’t commit himself. Or even more, if the father wants, desires or has the intention that space, or time or the necessary conditions are given to do it.
This happens also in court decisions (at least in Portugal). In a large majority of cases, at least a few years back, child custody was given exclusively to the mother, without concern or care about the ability, desire, intention or right of each of the parents.
The birth of our boy was anticipated by three weeks with all the anxiety and related stress. Arriving to the hospital it became obvious to me that the father has a very small role in the birth and post birth of their own child.
The room where my wife was preparing to give birth had a bathroom that only she could use. What about if, in the five days we spent in the hospital, I needed to take a shower? You can’t. And if I need to use the toilet? There is one on the other side of the hospital for visitors.
Ok. So, while I was in the toilet, my son was born with an emergency C-section.
And when I arrived in the hospital room, after my long voyage to the bathroom, there was no wife, no son, no doctors, no nurses, no midwife, nobody. And the following conversation is exactly what happened:
“Where is my wife and son?” I asked in the reception that was just in front of my wife’s bedroom.
“Who is your wife and son?” asks a very rude nurse.
“What do you mean who is??? The one that was just here in this room!” I say getting very nervous.
“But who are you???” Asks the nurse while I start feeling that I was in the Twilight Zone.
“What do you mean who am I???? I am the father and husband of the women that was in this bedroom just ten minutes ago. Are you kidding me?!?!?!?!”
“But nobody notified you???”
And then they realized that no one had spoken to me. That I had to be moved to the C-section zone. That my son was going to be born in minutes. And they didn’t explain anything else.
The stupid nurse started telling me what to do. But I was already mad insane. I tried going in to the room she was pointing to. She yelled at me. She said I had to stay there, and pointed to a tile on the floor. And that I shouldn’t go inside the room. I started walking around being super nervous. She came back to tell me I couldn’t walk around in that hall and that I needed to remain in that specific tile.
Well. What is important is that everything went well. Baby and mother showed up and were looking ok. It was just very stressful minutes of anguish and lack of respect for the father and its role.
Besides this, in the four nights I slept in the hospital I had to do it in a reclining chair with zero comfort. Always invited to exit the room when something needed to happen with my wife or the other female in the room. And if I was sleeping at 5 in the morning who cares???? Wake up and get out I told you already.
Can’t really understand the behavior. But it is what it is. The man is optional, not important, Because of tradition, culture or because of the rules.
But I will do mt best to change that. In our house it is our son. We decide everything together. And we divide all our tasks. There are no tasks just for me or just for her. But, because in this situation the mother has to tend to the child and breastfeed all day long I try to do everything else to promote well-being for all at home.
I change diapers, cook, clean the house, wash dishes and clothes, I walk the dogs. And all this is normal and good.
But it is this preconception that I talk about. As it is unfair for a man to have better wages then a female in the same role, it is unfair to assume that a man does less or is less in relations to his children.
In a world where we want to promote development and equality we need to be careful with our prejudices and stereotypes.
I am father. It is a right acquired the moment my son was born. And the fatherhood is 50 per cent. Like the mother is another 50. And only respecting that balance can we hope for a healthy development of children.