Babysitting

I attended a qiyam at the local masjid a while back and left my daughter at home so that I could focus and get the most out of a spiritual event that – although it should – does not happen very often.  As I went around, passing my salaams to friends and strangers alike I was asked over and over again, “Where’s your daughter?” to which I replied, “At home.”

What followed was so funny and so telling; over and over again I was looked at and asked incredulously, “You left her home alone?!”

 

It was then that I reminded them that my daughter does indeed have 2 parents and if she’s not with me, they should naturally assume she’s with her father.  “Oh, so he’s babysitting?” many asked.  He doesn’t get an hourly wage and I don’t leave him pizza money when I go out.  He’s not babysitting, he’s parenting.

Many may believe this is a simple case of rhetoric but I believe it is a state of mind and I don’t blame this mindset on some sort of ‘middle-eastern’ mentality.  As I began to look around I found this idea of the mother parenting and the father babysitting to be reinforced in our Canadian culture too.  Why are there not change tables in every men’s bathroom?  Why are women 99% of the time, the ones in the ads, carrying, kissing and laughing with the child?  The more I looked and listened, the more I realized that as a society we seem to be unconvinced of how crucial fathers are to their children – particularly their daughters.

As we age, there is a stereotype that we (daughters) don’t need our fathers as much after a certain age because it may be uncomfortable to talk about things.  When we started going through puberty and adolescence, this may have been a time when our fathers backed off and let mom have the main relationship.  We contribute to the distance by keeping things from our dads because we think they’ll respond more critically than our moms. We assume our dads aren’t as nurturing or intuitive as our mothers are, and may avoid going to them for personal advice and comfort.

But that’s not all…we may also be adding to this distance through our role as mother by (unconsciously) discouraging our husbands to act on their paternal instincts.   If we believe that our husbands can and should be capable parents, then we should be encouraging them to partake in the lives of our children in a relationship that is separate from the ones we’ve built with our children.  What I mean by this is that most daughters go through their mother to reach their father and this diminishes the odds of a strong relationship.

Study after study shows that positive fathering produces well-adjusted, confident and successful women who relate well to the other men in their lives.  Researchers have concluded that a strong father presence is a major protective factor against early sexual outcomes.  Alternatively, girls who have poor relationships with their dads tend to seek attention from other males at earlier ages.  Not surprising.  However what may surprise you is that the results a strong father-daughter relationship produces are not duplicated by mothers-daughter bonding.

So although as moms we may want to be our child’s everything, we cannot take the place of a good dad. 

                                                                                                        Lena Hassan

            Lena Hassan lives in Ottawa, Ontario and is a loving mother to one.

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  • Jade

     

    I agree! I always had a great relationship with my father. I never felt I couldn't come to him on any issue or problem I was facing. I believe there are different life lessons you can learn from fathers vs. mothers. For example, I learned different qualities of patience and being steadfast from the times I spent watching and learning from my father (May Allah mercy on him).  

  • maz

    Totally agree with your article. My daughters absolutely adore their father and he loves looking after them (although he moans about looking after them 'cos he can't rest  but I know that really, he loves it).

    I have to agree with Jade above as well. It is true that you learn different things from your mum and dad. With regard to fathers I believe there are not as emotional as mothers are so they do behave and act/re-act differently to us.

    Anyway, great article.

    Salaam.

  • Blessed

    Gotta agree with Jade.  I always felt that I could discuss things with my father openly, with logic, where my mother would just close all doors to discussion in my face.  Fathers are special. 

  • Maha

    You put it so well Lena. Fathers instill a sense of confidence and security in girls that mothers can’t, because they are the man in their daughter’s life. Just looking at the relationship of the Prophet (saw) with his daughters is heart-wrenching, how he doted on Fatima and gave her so much attention and honor and wanted her to be happy.


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