Separate but Equal. Yep, that’s right, I said it! But I’m not referring to the historic topic of racial segregation, but to the idea that in terms of parenting programs, what mothers need and what fathers need are equally important. And it’s really okay that each program is somewhat different—and separate.
According to Dr. Kyle Pruitt in the brief video The Evolution of Dad, “One of the most important things about dad is that he is not mom.” I couldn’t have said it better.
Yet, we all know too well that there are many supports and services geared specially toward moms. For example, the well known WIC program (which stands for Women Infants and Children) does not, it it's name alone, send an inviting message for dads.
And there's more...
On a site-visit a to a Head Start location a few years ago, I saw a big, colorful sign at the front entrance that read, “Welcome Moms!”. Now you know I had to ask, where’s the “Welcome Dads!” sign?
Even the term “parenting program” or even “parent teacher night” often has an understanding that the focus is geared toward moms. And then there’s The PTA (Parent Teacher Association) whose membership is historically made up of mostly moms.
This past year while in a doctor’s waiting room, I picked up a Parents® Magazine. Mind you, I’m a grandparent so this is not a magazine I run to in a doctor’s waiting room. It's been a number of years since NFI approached the publishers of the magazine to be more inclusive of fathers, so I thought I would check to see if anything had changed. To my dismay, there was only a half-page article that had anything to do with fathers in the entire magazine. Even the ads and images were primarily geared toward women and mothers.
It surprises me that even in our progressive day and age, in so many places we look, the term “parent” still ends up referring to Mom. This is true despite the fact that we were talking about this challenge back in 2012 in a Father Factor blog titled, Parenting is Still a Code Word for “Mothering”.
NFI makes the distinction between fathering and parenting because of the meaning that parenting has in our culture. Specifically, as the 2012 blog article was titled, parenting is a code word for “mothering.” So, when fathers hear messages for and about resources for “parents”, they often assume (correctly or incorrectly) that it’s something for mothers.
And this is why you really do need a program specifically for fathers.
So, what sets a fatherhood program apart?
Fatherhood programs focus on specific fathering skills that make up the way men parent. They address the differences between fathering and parenting. They bring attention to content on masculinity or what it means to be a man as an important aspect to address in the father’s role. They help men discover that both mothers and fathers can nurture, but they're likely to do it differently. And these differences are incredibly beneficial to their child’s development.
- Self-Awareness - knows his strengths and weaknesses
- Caring for Self - cares for himself
- Fathering Skills - knows how to father
- Parenting Skills - knows how to parent
- Relationship Skills – builds healthy relationships with family and community
Further, a practical reason why it is so important to have a program specifically for fathers is that it will likely have “father” or “dad” in the name—this alone makes it easier to recruit fathers into your program. In fact, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program includes marketing materials and recruitment strategies that are specifically geared to fathers. (For fatherhood program recruitment ideas, check out NFI’s free resource to Recruit & Retain Dads .)
Don’t let dads be the forgotten parent. Consider adding a program specifically for fathers to your offerings in the coming year.
For more information on NFI’s programs for dads, visit our Programs page on FatherSource™.