What if Covid-19 was actually a blessing in disguise?
It is agreed for so many centuries that the man provides, and the woman stays at home. For nearly 70 years, women share the role of breadwinner, but today, with the lockdown, fathers face a new shift: a stay-at-home-working-dad. What the heck is that?
All of a sudden, fathers have to stay at home, except those who work in hospitals, the police, or construction. Not only do they have to redefine their routines for work, but they face the children the whole day, they are even asked to contribute to their education, and they need to participate multiple times per day to the house chores.
The Privilege of Leading
Living in a patriarchal society, which is less and less paternalistic by the way, men benefit from the privilege to be recognized as the leader. They often bring that position at home, leading the family even if their wives manage the household. Change is slow, especially in the deepest parts of the brain that exists since prehistoric times. Some take the leader’s role too much literally and do not leave a lot of space for others to be. Some others might be too lenient, creating confusion. Some are down in the middle between these two poles.
In my last book, Raise a Human Being, Not a Consumer, I share insights on the new challenges of parenting in a technological, consumeristic world. One of the pillars is leading; when you guide your children, when you set clear routines, provide care, attention, and love, defining the framework, then your children are happy to follow. Leading is tricky for fathers: for centuries, they were paternalistic. Today, they have traded that role for control. There is a confusion between leading (providing, showing the way, scripting behavior), and control (forcing someone to do as you see fit, breathing down the neck, checking your every move).
The Covid-19 lockdown, forcing fathers to stay home 24/7, is a real challenge to avoid controlling and stepping into the role of a selfless leader. The leader does not impose his ego; he supports the blossom of others. Let’s be compassionate with most of them: they didn’t practice, unless forced by divorce, to lead from a position of acceptance and not performance. For a lot of men, education is a matter of results, stemming from the sequential concept that if you put pressure at one point, it will impact the outcome (i.e., forcing a child to play the piano will lead to a creative adult). It is tough for most fathers to let go of the “how things should be” to trust the process. It might be a new understanding for them that parenting is creating a safe space, guarded by clear limits within which children can express who they are. It is hard to accept something that they don’t see: I call it the complex of Zeus. In mythology, Zeus imposes his view on everyone and everything, but he lacks emotional intelligence and empathy. The new parenting challenge is to lead with empathy (being able to feel what others are feeling) and compassion (being able to be concerned by other’s suffering).
The Power of Care
What can help fathers be a selfless leader is to step into the power of care by feeling interest and affection for their children. I see how the Covid-19 lockdown has allowed me, a working mom, to (re)discover my children, spending more time with them, having fun while guiding. I see this situation as a gift to busy dads. They have the time and space to notice the beauty of their children (I don’t talk about the superficial one, but their identity, their soul) without feeling too exhausted.
Feeling interest in children happens when you become curious about others. When a father controls, he imposes; he thinks he knows best. But when curiosity emerges, just by observing and being touched, then they want to know more about the becoming person. When you start to be moved by your daughter or your son, you can feel affection. You sense the power of attachment (the second insight in the book); that strong bond we can all experience between parents and children. When you are off to work and come back late, you miss the mundane situations when you bond with your children. Now that you are present during the meal, for school, for bedtime, not only can you appreciate your child, but she can discover you too.
One opportunity of this lockdown is to see new fatherhood being born, a more participative, appreciative, accepting one. I want to know more about how this lockdown made you see your role differently. Feel free to leave a comment.