Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Emotional Equality in Parenting

Are your relationships with your parents emotionally equal?

I’ve always had a different type of relationship with my mother than my father. It’s not disproportionate in how much I love and respect them, but the level of emotional intimacy is very different.

I recently had a bit of a falling out with my parents, the first in my adult life. During our conflict my mom is the one who reached out and volunteered to be the beneficiary of my sharp tongue and raw emotion, but in reality everything I said to her I should have also said to my father. I’ll probably never have the same conversation with him, and it’s my mom who ends up carrying the burdens of interpersonal conflict.

It’s always been this way. Dad is the go-to-guy for all things unrelated to the heart. My mom — she’s the parent who has to wade through puddles of tears and sooth bruised souls. I find myself wondering if women naturally end up being the parent who care-takes a family’s emotional well being, or if this is something we create within our family dynamics.

Last summer when Aaron broke his leg, I called my parents from the hospital and Dad answered the phone. As I was explaining what happened, I started to cry. At the first sign of tears my father handed the phone to my mother. If I called to say I was stranded with a broken-down car, my dad would drive the 1200 miles to fix it without even being asked. But fixing tears … that’s mom’s department.

I do know some people who are more emotionally intimate with their fathers than their mothers, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

I already notice that when my four-year-old’s feelings are bruised, he turns more quickly to me than my husband for comfort or resolution. My husband is as well equipped to sooth heart ache as I am, or is he? Is the way my son reacts based on something he’s learned within our family — something we’ve unintentionally taught or modeled for him, or is seeking emotional comfort from a female more instinctual than functional — is it part of the age-old-debate of nurture versus nature?

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10 comments to Emotional Equality in Parenting

  • Jan

    I grew up in a very matriarchal household. I never really knew my father and my step-father was…emotionally stunted, to put it kindly. We turned to our mother for everything.

    Likewise, my kids turn to me for everything. Once we divorced, my ex-husband decided Oldest Son and Darling Daughter were no longer his responsibility. The Young One’s father stays involved as long as I make an effort to keep him involved, but he’s a Disneyland Dad at best.

    On the other hand, Beloved’s daughters are far closer to him than they are to their mother. She’s a bit, shall we say, on the shallow side, and they both complain that they can’t talk to her about important matters. When they need a shoulder to cry on, it’s their Dad they turn to.

    I think it really all depends on the parents’ disposition.

    Jans last blog post..I Fall Down Go Boom And Other Adventures

  • It’s pretty much the same way with me and my parents. For some reason I’m nervous about talking to my dad, I have no reason to be really.

    I think it tends to happen that way especially in traditional nuclear families. When I was pregnant with #1 I told Brad it was important to me that our kids see me as an authority figure. I didn’t ever want to have to say “just wait until your dad gets home!” But Brad is always, constantly undermining my authority, causing the kids to see me as a mushpot they don’t really have to listen to. And conversely, they see me as their comfort zone. A mushpot is more comfortable than an authority figure.

  • With us, it depends on the kid. The oldest turns to her dad, the middle to me and the youngest wants us both. They really hate disappointing either one of us and we both do the non-emotional fixing. (He does it more than me but, he likes to be able to fix a problem).

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..Blog Award

  • donna

    Ok here is my take on this. Back in yester year it was only women who were nurses in the army and they did not fight on the front lines. So I belive that men did not have what it took to be empathetic to peoples feelings and it was instilled in us right from the begining. That was the way I was raised and I’m sure a lot of others. so of course that was the way that I knew and raised my children as well.

    Thank you Tricia, I Love you to (more)

  • Tricia

    Marie: I think you’ve just provided a new diagnosis for what some times ails me too, “mushpot”. I remember my mom used to say, “just wait until your father gets home” and as soon as I heard his tires hit the drive way, I hit my bedroom. Then, I finally realized he was really a big softy, but we still can’t talk about anything “emotional”.

    Jan and Wicked Step Mom: I love that you have such diversity in how your children are relating to the mom vs. dad emotionally. I think the mellenials will change the stereotypical ideas even more than GenX has.

    Donna: It certainly does seem to be learned behavior. Here’s a hug back to you {{{}}.

  • I don’t really have an emotional connection with either parent. My dad is a bit of a stranger to me and my mom isn’t touchy-feely. My sister, she is my emotional go-to person.

    I really hope my kids feel emotions are free to share with either parent. If it is only going to be one of us though, I’m going to be selfish and hope I’m the one to be that lucky. Someone sharing their honest feelings and heart with you is a huge compliment and an amazing testament of trust.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..Olympic Rings

  • Jen

    Honestly, it’s pretty even in my family. If I need him emotionally, Dad is there. Luckily I married someone just like him, and my girls turn to him as much as they turn to me.

    We’re pretty unconventional though, in a lot of ways.

    Jens last blog post..This is nuts!

  • Amy

    I am sure that it will be a mom thing in my family, as my father passed away very early in my adult life I have always turned to my mom … but I see now that my children always ask me for everything … even when dad is right there.

    Amys last blog post..Ranting About The Dentist

  • My husband is WAY more emotionally available than my father. He is great with the kids, and in some ways even more accessible than me. Because my father always told me crying was a sign of weakness. I grew up in an environment where emotions were definitely NOT valued. So I am working on that for my kids. My son will run to me when he is sad, but my daughter will run to Daddy. And this makes me bittersweetly happy, because she had the type of father who makes that safe for her.

    manager moms last blog post..My Long Overscheduley Nightmare Is Almost Over

  • kim

    i think those mom’s who are being asked all the time for help , you need to stop helping. Stop giving your answers. “put the Y in the road to make a diffenance there are many dad’s out there that are performing the role, let them. “Go ask your Dad” Don’t give an answer. Mandate performacne of the father.

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