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'Gatekeeping' mothers

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
Hi,

I just stumbled upon this term in a newspaper article. It's new to me, but I'm sure many of you have read about it before. It refers to mothers that take control over certain aspects of childrearing and/or household chores leaving the other parent out. It is usually accompanied by complaints about the other parent not helping enough or helping the 'wrong' way.

I have conflicting thoughts about this. I know I do it to a degree, and I would like to stop. But I also feel the 'left-out' parent has to have some responsibility and not sit and wait for someone to 'let' him or her take care of a child or do a chore...

I think it's interesting but something about it annoys me and I can't pinpoint what it is...

Would you like to share your thoughts?
post #2 of 79
We see this sort of thing on MDC all the time. Mothers who are exhausted from wearing their babies all day long and nursing them all night - yet who refuse to take a break and recharge for a few hours, because that somehow equates to "leaving" their babies, even though the child would be with its own father.

And yeah, the mothers are right: the father probably doesn't know how to comfort the cranky baby as well as the mother does. But he never gets the chance to figure it out, thus perpetuating the whole sorry cycle.
post #3 of 79
I think this is very typical behavior for new moms. Sometimes new dads are clueless. New moms are gung ho, have plans and ideas. For pity's sake, it's a really good thing for the kids, too, that one parent is hyperfocused on them for a while.

But the problem is that Dad doesn't get a chance to figure out what works for him if Mom never lets him, or constantly questions or criticizes him. The other parent does not have to do things exactly the same way mom does, and in fact might find a better way of doing something.

I think kids and their parents benefit enormously when both parents participate and interact fully, in their own unique way.

Gatekeeping mothers sounds like a term made up for an article in a glossy magazine.

===========

Quote:
And yeah, the mothers are right: the father probably doesn't know how to comfort the cranky baby as well as the mother does. But he never gets the chance to figure it out, thus perpetuating the whole sorry cycle.
Exactly.
post #4 of 79
Thread Starter 
Yeah... I agree that children can only benefit from establishing their unique relationships with each parent and, then, with others around them. This can only enrich their lives.

Maybe what I find annoying is it insinuates that the mom is at fault for not 'allowing' the other partner to parent. Shouldn't they be just as interested in doing it?

Yes, it's tough cycle to break.
post #5 of 79
I've never had any problem letting dh do his share of childrearing. Frankly, I'll go nuts if I don't have time to myself, so from the very early days of our baby-having, I would go out alone, and dh did his part, his own way, and that works for me!

It's the housekeeping I can't quite figure out. I WANT more help, but I think dh does a half-a$$ed job, so then I just get cranky about his "helping" So, I'm unhappy if he doesn't help, and I'm unhappy if he does.
post #6 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuckoo View Post
Maybe what I find annoying is it insinuates that the mom is at fault for not 'allowing' the other partner to parent. Shouldn't they be just as interested in doing it?
It depends on the couple, but I've known couples where the dad was interested in parenting, but the mom didn't allow it. Sure, they persisted, but it's pretty hard to establish a relationship with one's baby when your "partner" swoops in, physically takes the child from you, chastises you (publicly) for not knowing what the baby wants, etc. I'd never heard the term "gatekeeper" (and, honestly, I think it sounds stupid), but there are dynamics where it's more than just a dad who can't be bothered.

Me? I've always wanted my kids to be as attached as I can manage to as many family members as I can manage. If I get hit by a bus, I want them to be close to other people, too.
post #7 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post
It depends on the couple, but I've known couples where the dad was interested in parenting, but the mom didn't allow it. Sure, they persisted, but it's pretty hard to establish a relationship with one's baby when your "partner" swoops in, physically takes the child from you, chastises you (publicly) for not knowing what the baby wants, etc. I'd never heard the term "gatekeeper" (and, honestly, I think it sounds stupid), but there are dynamics where it's more than just a dad who can't be bothered.

Me? I've always wanted my kids to be as attached as I can manage to as many family members as I can manage. If I get hit by a bus, I want them to be close to other people, too.

I agree with all of this. I've seen parents where the mom complains nonstop that the dad doesn't do anything right. (Really, she will complain that he didn't give the bath right. How the heck do you not give the bath right?) But then she complains that he doesn't help enough. I really feel for the dad in that situation.

And I also agree that I want DS to be comfortable with multiple people for lots of reasons, including the getting hit by a bus concern. I've done my best not to complain when DH does things differently (offers different foods, puts together what I think are mismatched outfits, etc) and I've done my best to encourage DS to believe that DH can help him with things/answer questions/take care of him.

Catherine
post #8 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post
It depends on the couple, but I've known couples where the dad was interested in parenting, but the mom didn't allow it. Sure, they persisted, but it's pretty hard to establish a relationship with one's baby when your "partner" swoops in, physically takes the child from you, chastises you (publicly) for not knowing what the baby wants, etc. I'd never heard the term "gatekeeper" (and, honestly, I think it sounds stupid), but there are dynamics where it's more than just a dad who can't be bothered.

Me? I've always wanted my kids to be as attached as I can manage to as many family members as I can manage. If I get hit by a bus, I want them to be close to other people, too.
And god forbid the spouse on the "outside" wants circ or vax or whatever else.
post #9 of 79
It was a little hard for me in the very beginning to "let go" but never did I try and stop DH from parenting his son. I also knew to never criticize anything he did but gently show him things he didn't know. He had never been around babies before and was really clueless but did a fantastic job of figuring things out.

What made it better was the fact that we were not using daycare when I returned to work. DH had the day shift with DS so I had to let him parent his way and they both survived!
post #10 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post
It depends on the couple, but I've known couples where the dad was interested in parenting, but the mom didn't allow it. Sure, they persisted, but it's pretty hard to establish a relationship with one's baby when your "partner" swoops in, physically takes the child from you, chastises you (publicly) for not knowing what the baby wants, etc. I'd never heard the term "gatekeeper" (and, honestly, I think it sounds stupid), but there are dynamics where it's more than just a dad who can't be bothered.
I've known couples like that too, but I have a hard time feeling too sorry for the dads. I feel like they are on some level allowing the moms to take control. It's like they get caught in this victim role and sort of go with it.

I mean if my husband ever swooped in and took my kid from me and berated me in front of people for not doing something right, I'd flip out on him right then and there. I just cannot imagine putting up with that.

I wonder it's a confidence thing. Like these dads don't feel confident enough in their parenting ability to stand up to mom. Either way though, I think both parents play a role and are culpable.
post #11 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by plunky View Post
And god forbid the spouse on the "outside" wants circ or vax or whatever else.
Well if dad wanted to circumcise the baby, I'd be all for mom being the gatekeeper.
post #12 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by riverscout View Post
I've known couples like that too, but I have a hard time feeling too sorry for the dads. I feel like they are on some level allowing the moms to take control. It's like they get caught in this victim role and sort of go with it.

I mean if my husband ever swooped in and took my kid from me and berated me in front of people for not doing something right, I'd flip out on him right then and there. I just cannot imagine putting up with that.

I wonder it's a confidence thing. Like these dads don't feel confident enough in their parenting ability to stand up to mom. Either way though, I think both parents play a role and are culpable.
I wonder if it isn't the fact that society tells dad they are inept. I think in part societal roles play a part. I do think it is getting better but........
post #13 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by riverscout View Post
Well if dad wanted to circumcise the baby, I'd be all for mom being the gatekeeper.
Funny how that works.
post #14 of 79
I think this is commonplace.

I also think there's a world of difference between circumcision and what is being talked about here though. One is a permanent body alteration. The other...well, I have heard moms (keep in mind my circle of acquaintances is almost exclusively women) ripping their husbands up one side and down the other because they *didn't wipe the baby's butt right* (And I'm talking about the fold of the wipe and how one takes it out of the container, not the very real necessary front-to-back for a girl) during a diaper change. Or god forbid they put them in THE WRONG OUTFIT! Or they didn't do the bedtime routine just right. Or they picked something out of the baby food available to make dinner for the baby instead of following the written, timed instructions to a tee. And invariably these moms also complain that they never get any help. Well, listening to them trash their partners so thoroughly in front of virtual strangers, I know that I would certainly never babysit for them even though I know how to do everything 'right', I can't imagine how it would feel to have someone who's supposed to love me and with whom I created said child with treating me as if I were brainless scum for something that is so inane. :P

I think most men, unless they were raised with a lot of siblings or ones they were allowed to care for, feel awkward and unsupported in general to learning baby care. And they may be reluctant to get into a shouting match with their partners when the baby is young because they don't want to frighten the baby and they already feel like their spouse thinks they're crap. They're also adjusting to parenting as well, and it can be hard for men AND women in such an emotional, hormonal, sleep deprived time to say firmly to one's spouse, "No, I'm sorry, but I will not be treated that way," and even harder for the spouse being told that to actually hear it. If someone is calling you incompetant because you are holding the baby safely but differently, do you really think they're going to be capable of listening to you say, "gee, that hurt my feelings, can you please respect that I have a different way of doing things?" Or is it just going to mean another screaming match and even more painful distance and rejection?

I probably would have very much been a gatekeeper (it's in my nature to be controlling, I'm extremely biased towards my point of view, and if I'm made a decision on something I am right and especially if I am at a physical or emotional low point arguments are invitations for me to sharpen my claws on someone). Fortunately for me, my very wise and beloved MIL was able to talk to me gently but firmly about it. The woman is amazing, because she can be very real with you while still doing it in an disarmingly loving way.

If someone is truly gatekeeping, then it is their primary responsibility to work on changing that. If a partner is out of the house most of the day by necessity and the gatekeeper is the one home, what exactly is the outsider supposed to do? Rip a breastfeeding baby from the arms of a gatekeeping mother? Snatch the baby away and kick the SAHD out of the house as soon as the WOHM gets home? It's not quite as simple as 'do more', because getting space to be yourself as a parent also depends to some degree on your partner being willing to shut up and let you make mistakes. And there is only so much emotional abuse that I think it's human to expect someone to take before they protect themselves. (and actually, yes, I do think someone who is constantly undermining, criticizing, and dressing down their partner over outfit choices, not following the predetermined schedule for things other than medical necessities, ect. is being emotionally abusive.) In the case of abuse, I feel that of COURSE the victim has some control over what actions they can take to protect themselves, but ultimately it's the abuser that bears the most responsibility for their actions.

I think there are plenty of gatekeeprs of both genders out there. I just think that women tend to be the most noticeable because they're the ones who tend to talk and castigate their partners behind their backs to all their friends. I'm sure there's an equivalent thing that men do, I just haven't been privy to it.
post #15 of 79
Some people are just "my way or the highway" types. My mom is like that. My sister is like that. And guess what? Their husbands hardly help around the house or with the kids. My sister actually complained to me that when her husband makes the bed he doesn't put the sheet on the right way (sometimes he puts the wide trim at the foot of the bed). Yes, ok, you'd think if you told an adult he would be able to remember it after the 3rd time, but REALLY does it matter that much? So, I see both sides of it.

Me, on the other hand, let DH do as much as he wants (which is a lot) and sometimes ask him to do more, too. One thing I hate to do is clean the shower, so he does that while I do the rest of the bathroom. Problem is he can't see pink very well, so the shower doesn't get as clean. We've worked it out...when he's almost done, he asks me if I see any pink. He's not insulted, I'm not hypercritical. If he sometimes he misses spots, so be it. The shower is still cleaner than before he scrubbed it. Every once in a while I do it so that it gets extra clean.
post #16 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsupialmom View Post
I wonder if it isn't the fact that society tells dad they are inept. I think in part societal roles play a part. I do think it is getting better but........
I think that very likely plays a role in some fathers confidence. That said, I still don't think it's an excuse to allow mom to run the show all the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plunky View Post
Funny how that works.
If it makes you feel better, I'd be all for a dad being a gatekeeper on that issue as well. I fully support any and all parents that want to protect their children from mutilation.
post #17 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by plunky View Post
Funny how that works.
Well, if one of us is a "gatekeeper," it's certainly me and not my Dh. But if I told him tomorrow, for example, that I wanted to go out and get DD's ears pierced, he would absolutely put his foot down and say "No." If he told me he wanted to circ our son, I would put my foot down and say no. When I told him I wanted a homebirth w/ DD, he didn't like the midwife, and he said No.
You can be a "gatekeeper" or not and still have "hills to die on," as it were.

I think circ is a really poor example of the issues raise in the article.
post #18 of 79
I would like to remind everyone of the UA:
Quote:
We are not interested, however, in hosting discussions on the merits of crying it out, harsh sleep training, physical punishment, formula feeding, elective cesarean section, routine infant medical circumcision, or mandatory vaccinations.
Please keep this in mind when posting.
post #19 of 79
I have 2 small kids (DD1 is 3, DD2 is 10 months), and I WOH, FT. I can't even BEGIN to tell you the stupid comments I hear about that, ranging from "And DH hasn't burned the house down yet?" to "You LET him babysit?" (Let? and uh, they're HIS KIDS TOO! It's not called babysitting when I'm with them, why would it be when he is?)

Oy...
post #20 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by riverscout View Post
I mean if my husband ever swooped in and took my kid from me and berated me in front of people for not doing something right, I'd flip out on him right then and there. I just cannot imagine putting up with that.

I wonder it's a confidence thing. Like these dads don't feel confident enough in their parenting ability to stand up to mom. Either way though, I think both parents play a role and are culpable.
I know in at least one of those couples, it was totally that. The dad was terrified of screwing up with his kids (seriously dysfunctional upbringing himself - CPS involvement, two alcoholic parents, etc.) and their oldest was his stepson. He figured she knew what she was doing, and if she really came down on him, he assumed he was wrong.

That said...I'd probably flip out in that circumstance, too. Of course, if I flip out on my spouse when other people are around, I'm not that likely to have people wondering if I beat him in private. That can, and does, happen when a husband flips out on his wife. The dynamic is just different. And, really - having a big scene between the parents doesn't exactly help build healthy relationships between the parents and the kids, imo.

Honestly, in the case of one of the couples I have in mind, I'd have walked out a long time ago if I were the dad. Of course, I have no doubt she'd do everything she could to minimize/eliminate his access to his kids in that situation, too.
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