Mothers Don't Father & Fathers Don't Mother

"It's clear that most American children suffer from
too much mother and too little father."
Gloria Steinem
Journalist & Activist

I just finished reading Fatherneed by Kyle M. Pruett, MD. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had much time for anything beyond work-related stuff other than chopping away at this book. Now that I finished it, I think it’s an important one in the Dad genre and I should share it with you.

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As the saying goes, “Mothers don’t father, and fathers don’t mother” – but the two approaches to raising children are equally vital. In short, engaged fathering and mothering is what’s needed for optimal human development.

In Fatherneed, Pruett offers a no-nonsense, deeply-researched approach to engaged parenting and, specifically, engaged fathering.

Fatherneed is a critical resource for all dads – divorced dads, stepdads, adopted dads, dads to special needs children – as well as moms who want to understand the need their children have for connection to and relationship with their dads. He also shows why engaged fathering is important to American society.

Though rising, resources for dads are still scarce. It can seem overwhelming for men who are starting out on their Dad Journey. Where to start? Fatherneed is a good place. Why? Because it was written by a freakin’ animal.

Dr. Pruett is a beast. He’s a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. If that’s not enough chest beating for you, he’s hailed as “one of the most well-respected experts on child and family development” and regarded as “a parenting visionary who takes parents deep into the hearts and minds of their children.” He’s written several books on parenting, he’s an international lecturer, and he’s a pioneering researcher, conducting our country’s only long-term study of the impact on children of primary caretaking fathers.

Why is engaged fathering important to our society, to any society? Dr. Pruett lays it out in less than three minutes:

For more on Dr. Pruett, check out his website (his CV is 34-pages long) – suffice to say he’s a source you can trust.

"It is the primary task of every society to teach men how to father."
Margaret Mead

One of Dr. Pruett’s main postulates in Fatherneed is that the early years, especially the first two, are absolutely critical to the overall development of the human animal. Those early experiences can determine an adult’s level of confidence, identity, and emotional and psychological stability. He states, “. . . infants are ‘pre-wired’ for attachment to both men and women, and a child’s early experiences with both parents become integral to the kind of person that child becomes.”

Just so we’re clear, my point is not to discredit moms. That’s not the message here, and it’s certainly not one of Dr. Pruett’s platforms. I am simply drawing attention to an aspect of parenting that has been on the receiving end of much controversy lately. I’ll let Dr. Pruett explain in more eloquent, succinct terms:

Let me put my cards on the table. Healthy fatherneed paradigms do not happen at the expense of women or their relationships with their children. On the contrary. If you want mother bashing, find another book. A major force for sustaining and gratifying the fatherneed in its healthiest state comes from women. Today 76 percent of all women have a job, and most of them share children with men. For men and women to share the responsibilities and gratifications of the nurturing domain, we need readily available (which probably means subsidized) quality childcare and ongoing flexibility in the workplace. This is the only way shared parenting will continue, or even start to work, for most families (except the well-heeled, of course, who pay for their own solutions). Otherwise, fatherneed will languish and be pushed back to the margins of family life for yet another era. The problem is one of balance, as Gloria Steinem so wonderfully and succinctly put it in one of her early Ms. magazine articles: “It’s clear that most American children suffer from too much mother and too little father.

For more on Fatherneed, you’ll need to read it for yourself. Clocking in at 244 pages (27 of which are endnotes and index), it won’t take you a college semester to read and, thanks to Pruett’s accessible use of language, you won’t need a college degree to decipher any jargon.  Get a copy by clicking below:

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