Thursday, June 12, 2008

While Dad is Walking the Kids

When I first arrived in the States, I watched Latino dads push strollers, buy grocery and walk their plentiful kids with awe. Secretly, I blamed the lazy moms who didn’t do their share.

Somehow I lost the analysis of soft-hearted dads and spoiled moms in my closet of thoughts up until recently. While picking up E. from daycare, I always come across a Latino mom who rushes to pick her kids right at closing time, still in her “please come again” vest and nauseating frying odors. It took me two years to make that calculation: while a Latino dad walks his kids, a Latino mom might be frying someone else’s food and vice versa.

There’s always a combo of sophisticated motives as to why people act one way or the other, let alone why an entire race or a country function the way they do! It often takes us a long time to see the whole picture. Yet, when the whole picture clears up, we would have already moved on to a new and “fascinating” analysis without making the effort to update previous inaccurate ones. Our mindsets are forward-driven and there are hardly justifications strong enough to push backwards.

It’s not to say that realizations are always pleasant! Now, whenever I run into a restaurant for a quick bite I think that an entire family’s life might be switched around while I impatiently await my burger!


AUHgal said...

I think a dad walking w/ the kids or taking them to dinner is what parenting is about. My father worked full time (my mother stayed home w/ us until I was 8). When my dad got home he was duty to share the parenting responsiblities, as he was during the weekends. When I see fathers actively parenting I think that's how it should be, rather than the wife being spoiled.

Aysha said...

Very true auhgal!

Saudi in US said...

Good observation Aysha. I used to live in the Southern California area and had the pleasure of knowing many families with Mexican heritage. I always thought they had great tradition of family unity and sharing in parenthood.

Of course there are all kinds of inaccurate stereo types across the country about Latin families. I think that stems from the fact that in most of the country Mexicans tend to be migrant workers and not part of traditional society. This is not the case in California and cities like San Antonio.

Aysha said...

You are absolutely right, Saudi in US. When I lived in Vancouver, Canada, 5+ years ago, I had a very positive idea bout Latino's and learned Spanish quite religiously! Living in Portland, OR, and being receptive of the whole media package, I feel the Latinos are often presented within negative contexts.

أبو سنان said...

I think it is great that Hispanic men often take a large role in the family.

The LACK of involvment of fathers in raising children in the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East, has always bugged me.

My wife's friends (Arabs) have commented on how lucky she is to have a father for her kids who feeds them, changes diapers, cleans up vomit, dresses them and feeds them.

In the culture of the Middle East often these things are seen as a women's duty so the men distance themselves as much as possible from these chores.

In the past I have been in the middle of 75 hour work weeks and still found time to do all of this stuff.

From the man's point of view I'd have to tell fathers who think like this that they are missing out. It is partially through doing these things that you can gain a close relationship with your kids.

I lived for years in Arizona and have a deep respect for the Hispanic families who work more than you can imagine, raise a family, and still send money back to their extended families back home.

Aysha said...

I agree with you on your takes, Abu-Sinan. But again, just the way I meant for this post to reflect, people don't just act in a certain way because they are good or bad. There's a complex of reasons that makes them what they are, be them economical, social, religious, etc. Chatting with a group of ladies in the hair salon, here in Portland, I was surprised that downlooking certain house chores by the men existed in the US during the previous generation and the one before.

Troy said...

Hello from Spain
As an outsider here in the motherland of the latinos (the fatherland obviously being indigenous culture), you will often see men take on pro-active roles in the street, but that is once the street. The Spanish learned the lesson well from the Arabs that the street and the home are two entirely different worlds.

Here, and from my experience as well in South America, what goes on at home is still rather one way. Women still bear the lion's share of the burden.

Here in Spain it has become a nasty irony. While women are now allowed to work outside the home, they now continue to be saddled with the responsibilities of the home while taking on half of the income earning. The fight for equality is a long way off.