Biology, Evolution and Fatherhood

I’ve heard the attitude a lot that fathers don’t (or can’t) participate in parenting because biologically they’re–well, they’re not women. Blame genetics, the argument goes. Women are designed to be nurturing caregivers. Fathers find their biological fulfillment in providing for their family. Evolution designed us this way, and it’s not just weird to be a father who actually tries to help with childcare–it’s plumb impossible. Even the experts give advice and opinions that seem based on the idea that men are reluctant to help raise children, at least when the kid’s under five.

This idea makes me cranky. From an evolutionary standpoint, we don’t need clothes. Yet I see most people wearing them around, happy as clams. Clothed clams. Our bodies are also designed to shut down when it gets dark, yet somehow we’ve managed to overcome those biological instincts in order to stay up late into the night. Our bodies aren’t designed to survive high-speed, high-impact crashes, but most of us drive or ride in a car every day.

Here’s an idea: maybe men can help raise a kid, even when the kid is just a baby. Maybe there are some men who just don’t want to, and so they use biology as an excuse. Seriously, do these guys resolve conflicts by baring their teeth and attacking their opponent? Because biologically, that’s what we’re hardwired to do. And yet (at least in most cases) we don’t.

I’m a male in terms of sex, and also generally speaking in terms of gender. But there are certain “male” gender roles that I don’t adhere to, at least as defined in our culture. And I’m ok with that. If it makes me less of a man that I want to participate in my son’s life, from birth on up, then so be it. While others may mock me for carrying my son around in a Beco, let them. I am secure in my masculinity. Well, ok, the Beco did take me some time to wrap my head around–mostly because it looks so European. Aside from that and breastfeeding, though, there aren’t many areas of childcare where my wife and I aren’t 50-50 partners.

Hey, look at that. I’m feeling a little less cranky. What do you think? I make some pretty sweeping generalizations here. Feel free to call me out in the comment section.

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One comment

  1. Miranda · · Reply

    Nice article! A lot of men are wired to be nurturers, but it is often not always social acceptable, or men cannot or will not sacrifice their employment/career to do so…so sexist!

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