Men are parents too

2012-06-14 12:43

Georgina Guedes

Two stories in the news this week have highlighted the roles that men play in the care given to their children.

In the UK, a law is about to be passed that grants fathers equal access to their children following a divorce. This is a big step forward for men, who are now automatically seen as equally capable of raising their children, and anything different will have to be proven.

In South Africa, the Children's Act promotes gender equality in deciding which parent a child will live with. I know that the shared custody option is increasingly encouraged by our courts as providing as being in the best interests of the child.

I recently did research for an article on paternal parenting, and a psychologist I spoke to told me that she is seeing men having the same concerns as working women about their ability to balance their profession with their roles as parents, and how to excel in both roles.

Different approaches

I believe that while mothers and fathers may approach things differently, with the same amount of interest and willing, each parent can be as good at parenting as the other.

I also believe that there's nothing inherently suspect about men that makes them dangerous around small children – unlike a customer and manager at Barnes & Noble in the United States. A 73-year-old man, Omar Amin, was asked to leave the store after a customer complained that he was loitering alone in the children's section.

Amin is a grandfather of two who was looking for presents when he was asked to leave the bookshop. He is understandably outraged, and is currently considering taking legal action and waiting on apology from the store manager (Barnes & Noble have already apologised officially).

My grandfather loves children. When I used to visit him at his flat in Portugal, he would call us out to the balcony when a sweet baby boy was playing in the apartment opposite, to see him smiling and waving. He is very attentive of his granddaughter, and by all reports, he was fairly actively and enthusiastically involved in the raising of his own children as well.

It is extremely distressing to me to think that anyone might ever mistrust his interest as anything other than a genuine like of young children. I am mortified on behalf of Omar Amin that as a man alone in the children's section of a bookshop, he was judged as a paedophile by a parent and asked to leave by a manager.

Equally beneficial

So, while the law in some of our world's most advanced nations recognises the right of both genders to be seen as equally beneficial to their children, many people still have a long way to come in acknowledging this to be so.

There's an old man who sometimes comes to our park to watch the children play. Some mothers have expressed concern at his interest. While I would never leave my children alone with him – or any other stranger – it always seems sweet to me that an old man might brighten his day or remember his own youth by watching children play.

Nelson Mandela himself said that he is obsessed with children because he didn't see any for 27 years.

I'd like to send a message out to Omar Amin that he would be welcome to shop in my local bookshop or to watch children playing in my park any time, and that I applaud him for his interest in and involvement with his own grandchildren.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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