When fathers engage in child care

Father's involvement in child caring is crucial for child's brain development.

Zhanna Ulikhanyan
UNICEF Armenia/2018/Gevorgyan

25 January 2019

For some reason, we start to seek new meaning in our lives and revisit our priorities when something bad happens to us or someone close. Little Aren, living in cold and distant Artik, was not even two months old when he was diagnosed with viral sepsis. His father and mother had realized that the child was not well and rushed to Yerevan with him. Those 10 long and drawn-out days in an intensive care unit, with heavy uncertainty but full of hope, changed the course of their lives and forced the whole family into a period of uncertain expectation.

Today, that eight-month-old blond boy smiles and plays with his father as if nothing had happened and one might think that everything had always been that way.

However…

UNICEF Armenia/2016/Gevorgyan

“Everything has changed. I’ve become more careful and caring now. I give my child and our family more of my time. Thanks to Shahané Borisovna, our child is healthy today. But I continue to watch his health closely and take care of him.”

Yes, everything has changed. When UNICEF organized a training session in Artik for parents and paediatricians, Aren’s father and mother—Rustam (31 years old) and Ani (22 years old) decided not to miss the opportunity to get information first-hand from reliable sources. But when Ani ended up being unable to attend, they decided that Rustam would participate and send all the material to Ani through Viber.

UNICEF Armenia/2018/Gevorgyan

“I wouldn’t have gone back then, but those 10 horrible days had changed everything,” Rustam admitted, “I got so much important information on children’s nutrition, care, upbringing, and how important it was for fathers to be involved. But it was the paediatrician that got the biggest share of my attention – she told us about some outdated approaches to child care and clearly outlined what was acceptable and what was not. I began to feel more confident of making the right decisions in tough situations. It’s very important for people living outside Yerevan to have the opportunity to gain such information.”

You have to admit that seeing this mindset and such action on the part of Rustam comes as a pleasant surprise in a region where it seems to be uncommon for fathers to involve themselves in childcare, often leaving this on the shoulders of the mothers. Trust us when we say that one could even liken his participation in a workshop attended by mothers and paediatricians to an “act of heroism”. When we ask why fathers are more passive, we hear the voice of Rustam’s father—Aren’s grandfather—come from the kitchen, who says that in his day, men were not even supposed to sit next to their wives or make any time for their children, much less feed them, go out for walks, bathe them or help them put on their clothes. “We were mostly outdoors, that was how it was supposed to be,” he said in the end.

 

UNICEF Armenia/2018/Gevorgyan

Rustam has another way of looking at all this. He says that a lot has changed now and, yes, he spends time with his son today, taking him out for walks, feeding him, putting on his clothes and helping at bath time. Yes, he does all this today because he has just recently given new meaning to his life and reviewed his priorities. He is doing this for his son, his wife, and his family.

“The most valuable things that I have are my child and his health. What others say or do no longer matters to me,” says Rustam.

Life can be very surprising. While it is full of simple truths, everything is also intricately complicated at the same time. Why should one start thinking about what is important in life only after facing a critical situation? For us parents, our children are the most important thing, their health and proper development are the highest priorities. The love and care that fathers provide is just as important as that of mothers.

UNICEF Armenia/2018/Gevorgyan

HEALTHY/HAPPY CHILD = Loving/caring FATHER + loving/caring MOTHER. This simple equation is something we have all known for a long time. But our hectic everyday lives make it seem complicated and unachievable at first sight.

Trust us when we say that it is not rocket science to make this equation a reality.