10 Reasons to Take Good Care of a Father

10 Reasons to Take Good Care of a Father

“My husband’s getting on my nerves a little. The baby is just six months old and now I’m back to work, too, but still Brett is starting to bug me more and more for attention, affection, sex, etc. Doesn’t he understand I’ve got a lot on my plate?! Can’t he grow up and deal with his needs or whatever and then in a while when things settle down we can connect more?”

We truly understand where you are coming from: Jan gave Rick pretty much the same speech at least a dozen times when our kids were little, plus we’ve heard similar comments from many, many others. It’s natural to feel both absorbed in your baby and worn out, so that any extra tug on you from someone else can seem like a hassle, if not an intrusive burden.

Having said that, from painful personal experience and much professional contact with literally thousands of parents, we also think it’s a terrible mistake to set your husband or partner aside when baby makes three. It is as big a mistake as the one many fathers make, to downplay the impact of motherhood on their partner and to fail to pull their weight with childrearing and housework.

Frankly, if all new mothers made a serious effort to stay emotionally and affectionately connected with the father, and if all new fathers made a serious effort to understand what the mother is going through and be a strong teammate in making a family together, we believe the divorce rate among couples with children would be cut in half.

And even if there’s no divorce, the impacts of events during the sensitive years when kids are little are so great that they can lead to permanent coolness, cankerous wounds, and a vulnerability to challenges down the road (e.g., an illness, unemployment, a temptation at the office).

So there are plenty of reasons – some altruistic and some enlightened self-interest – to take good care of a father. (The ones who stay engaged, to be sure, not the pitiful ones who abandon their children.) Previously, we published a column titled “10 Reasons to Take Good Care of a Mother”, and here is its companion piece. (For simplicity, we use gender specific pronouns, and the terms “marriage” and “relationship,” and “husband/wife” and “partner” interchangeably.)

10 Reasons to Take Good Care of a Father

1.  He’s a person – Every human being deserves a chance to be happy and healthy.

2.  He does real work – Most fathers step up their efforts to be a provider when kids come along. Plus the typical dad today is doing more housework and childcare than his own father did. Any kind of demanding work calls for respect and replenishment.

3.  He contributes to others – Every day, for twenty years or more, engaged fathers help make a family for innocent and precious children. Their giving gives them moral standing, and a valid claim on the respect and support of their partner and society as a whole.

4.  The workplace isn’t very friendly to men who put their families first – While it’s certainly hard for women to juggle home and work, men who stick up for their role as fathers often get even less understanding on the job than mothers do.

5.  It’s good for the children – A father’s well-being affects his children in a thousand ways, and shapes the course of their entire lives. A vital way to take good care of children is to take good care of their fathers.

6.  It’s good for the mother – Fathers who are happy in their marriage are usually more empathic, helpful, and loving with their wife.

7.  It’s good for the marriage – Fathers who feel cared about, listened to, seen and valued as a lover and mate (not just a co-parent), respected and appreciated, and – frankly – sexually satisfied are much more likely to stay married than those who do not. Besides the rewards for children and their parents, lasting marriages benefit society in many ways, such as bringing stability to communities and fostering respect for family.

8.  It helps the economy – Family and marital problems stress fathers and lead to physical and mental illnesses that increase the nation’s medical costs and decrease workforce productivity. These are public health problems, and addressing them would add hundreds of billions of dollars each year to our economy (with related benefits to tax revenues).

9.  It’s good for society – A culture that takes a stand for families by respecting and supporting the fathers as well as the mothers at their center will be more humane and decent for everyone.

10.  It’s good in itself – Being compassionate, considerate, and generous with a father feels good in its own right. It is also a deep form of spiritual practice to “love your neighbor as yourself” – including the one sitting with you at the dining room table.

This is an article adapted from the book Mother Nurture (2002) by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Jan Hanson, M.S. and Ricki Pollycove, M.D.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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