Two different parenting styles create balance in a child’s emotional life. Traditionally it is “mother” and “father” but as society changes, who can fill those gaps changes too.
Mothers are unique in their role and their importance to children. No one would deny this fact, not even mothers who work full time, and yet there is much controversy over it. Many believe that nurturing a child between the ages of 0 to 3 is a generic function which can be performed by fathers just as easily as healthy mothers. Yes and No.
Now, we assert that women and men are equal in every way and there are no differences. So it is natural to question if mothers are really so important to their children and if there is a difference between mothers and fathers.
Mothers and fathers are both important to children and have been for thousands of years, but in different ways. Mothers have traditionally been critical for attachment and emotional security, a base from which a child feels secure enough to explore the world. On the other hand, fathers served the function of encouraging resilience and playfully stimulating children. These roles help the child’s emotional development to thrive as he or she has the experience of both attatchment and separation from a young age.
With that being said, although there is biology in nurturing, there is also the influence of the environment. There are some familes where fathers are the primary caregivers who stay at home with the children. That is great and it makes a good argument for helping fathers to be more like traditional mothers in these early years. It is pertinent to teach these fathers in particular to be sensitive to the emotional wellbeing of those children. It is also important that these fathers are able to access much of the support systems and mental health resources that mothers often need as well.
When we encourage resilience too early and too intensely before promoting emotional security, it is like putting your shoes on before your socks. What is for certain is that children do best in the first three years when they have a primary caregiver who is a sensitive empathic nurturer and that there is another co-parenting figure to help with separation. Whilst changing societal needs keep evolving, the the roles change with the increase in diverse family structures. Despite that, children’s needs stay static.
Originally published at medium.com