A Father's Duty - 1

A Father's Duty - 1

In the old days it was often said that a father was supposed to do his child-rearing duty when his children entered elementary school or learned how to hit a ball. It goes without saying, of course, that the father's presence is necessary from the time of childbirth. However, there seems to be a father's duty corresponding to various cultures. In the modern Japanese society where women take active roles in various fields of society, I would like to think about a father's role in child-rearing

Mothering the Mother

The process of a girl becoming a woman, a wife and a mother is very meaningful; it is very important for the future of children. Pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing, even though they are naturally taken care of, are not at all easy work for women; they are demanding jobs both physically and mentally. The time right after delivery is especially important for a mother both mentally and physically and this period is also important for her husband since it's time to start supporting his wife at the very first.

In the natural world animals help each other when a mother gives birth to the young. Female animals help one another in many cases. For example, female dolphins gather and swim around a female delivering a baby; they protect the mother. When the young is born, they push it up above the water surface and let it breathe the air. Female elephants act the same as dolphins; they get together to protect and help the mother elephant giving birth to the young.

Wild animals living in the severity of the survival race have a good system of mutual assistance in order to increase the number of offspring. This is true for human beings. In the society of traditional culture, when a woman is going to give birth to a baby, people in the community get together, help her delivery, and take care of the newborn. Medical Cultural anthropologists call these people "doulas.1" They assist pregnant women or women in childbirth, let them deliver their babies safely and support their child caring activities.

Unfortunately there are no doulas in advanced cultural society any more. A new mother can receive assistance from doctors and midwives and feel at ease while she is in a maternity hospital. Once she gets out of the hospital and goes home, however, waiting for her is a nuclear family and in many cases the only person there is her husband who has just become a new father. This is the very moment the father has to support his wife both physically and mentally.

The first role of a new father is "mothering a new mother" as a doula. Just like a mother mothers her baby, the father must mother the mother, which is gentle encouragement. This is the first step to make a successful breast-feeding and child rearing.

1: A doula assists a woman who has delivered a baby both mentally and physically, acting as an individual or as a group. Most doulas are women. The word originates in Greek and used to mean a slave in Aristotle's time. Even in modern Greece, a male doula is treated like a slave, but a female doula is much respected. (D. Raphael, 1966)

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Chichi oya no Deban - 1"
(Written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved Sep. 10, 2005, from the World Wide Web
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