Thank You to Dads!
We at the Filis Law Firm want to thank all of the fathers who contribute daily to the betterment of our children’s lives. Our families who have children with special needs are members of a unique group that I am proud to be a member of. This discussion is directed to you.
I was recently confronted with a statement from a client that the mothers in our unique group do all the work associated with caring for our kids with special needs. I found that statement quite exaggerated based on my own observations of many families with a child or children who have a disability, but I felt obligated to explore this generalized statement and tease out some truths. In our society, traditionally, mothers are designated from day one as the instant child care expert. In homes with a child who is disabled, in my experience, out of the two-parent families, it is typically the mother who go to all the doctor visits and read hundreds of books/articles/blogs on their child’s condition and possible treatments, but these circumstances follow what is still the standard practice in most American homes.
Recent studies indicate that even if the mother is employed outside the house, she is still likely to take most of the household chores and child care. An article from CNBC in April 2015 revealed the results from a survey by the Working Mother Research Institute where 79% of working mothers are primarily responsible for laundry, cooking, and child care. But, believe me, we want our kids’ dads in our unique community to join in the child care and be on an equal footing. If parents are not equal participants in child care, then look at the circumstances in your household and see if there is a gatekeeper who is (possibly unknowingly) keeping others at bay away from the child.
The common example of a gatekeeper parent is typically the mother in the relationship. Scenarios display that the mother is reluctant to hand over child care responsibilities or becomes critical the father’s efforts. Studies show that the father will learn to participate in child care less, and if the father does participate, he views it as baby-sitting and doing the mother a favor. The studies I read are based in settings of households of typical families, whose households do not include a disabled or medically fragile child. In our unique group, we have children who can truly suffer harm from certain environmental factors/allergens, or can suffer health problems for failure to take medication timely. These health risks are circumstances that are additional to other typical child-rearing issues, all of which can elevate a caregiver’s protective instincts to become reactionary and often blunt. It has been my observation that all of the caregiver parent’s patience is spent on the child. Multiple interactions with the gatekeeper/caregiver parent can be unbearable for an “outsider” and result in pushing away some people, even family members, from the child. Gatekeeper parents can change the circumstances, welcome the other parent to join in and take over certain areas of the child’s life. Gatekeepers will need to completely remove themselves, offer no criticism, and allow the other parent or family member to participate in events with the child, even if the efforts made are far from perfection.
Give others a chance to join in and add value to your child’s daily life.
 CNBC, Working moms still take on bulk of household chores, Kelley Holland, April 28, 2015.
 Mothers’ Gatekeeping of Father Involvement in Married- and Cohabitating-Couple Families, Catherine Kenney and Ryan Bogle, paa2009.princetonedu/papers/91717.