The New York Times recently published a story on gatekeeping (in its Health section, which I like, not in Lifestyles or some other fluffy section).
As much as mothers want their partners to be involved with their children, experts say they often unintentionally discourage men from doing so. Because mothering is their realm, some women micromanage fathers and expect them to do things their way, said Marsha Kline Pruett, a professor at the Smith College School for Social Work at Smith College and a co-author of the new book “Partnership Parenting,” with her husband, the child psychiatrist Dr. Kyle Pruett (Da Capo Press).
Yet a mother’s support of the father turns out to be a critical factor in his involvement with their children, experts say — even when a couple is divorced.
What is gatekeeping? Essentially it is when mothers do not let fathers fully participate in child raising (and then complain the dads are not involved). It is only one piece of a most complicated parenting puzzle, but I love seeing it get some big play.
E and I seem to have worked past most of the gates (we disagree if that means all or just almost all …). A lot of this was by necessity. We had a lot to deal with (isolation in America, moving to Sweden, medical problems, massive sleep deprivation, etc.), plus, especially in Sweden, I had the chance to take parental leave and work part-time.
And we are so much better off for it. She trusts me to parent. I trust myself to parent. The kids trust me to parent.
Which does not mean I have escaped gatekeeping. On multiple occasions in recent months, other mothers have simply taken over when around my kids. It was weird.
Men have only started taking long parental leave in Sweden in recent years. And there are all kinds of stereotypes still – they only take the summer months, they drop back into old habits the moment they go back to work and so on. The gates are still high in Sweden. But all this paternity leave has to make a difference. In 10 years, maybe the gates will have opened a bit.
In America, I can’t see the gates truly opening until men get parental leave rights, get that guaranteed time home alone with the kids. A long road.