Life Style

“A father can also take care of the baby intensively”

The cross : Your latest book is called Mother is not everything! (1). Is this also the case during the first three months of the child?

Gérard Neyrand: The mother is of course in the first place while the child is developing in her womb and, most of the time, also during the first weeks after birth. But the roles have changed enormously from a social point of view with the work of women, whose professional activity rate is almost equivalent to that of men. If the mother works and the father is unemployed, for example, it is he who will mainly take care of the child and it is not “pathological” as one might think in the past.

→ INVESTIGATION. With her baby, 24 hours a day

A father can “patern”, and I like the term “paternage” because, precisely, he takes care of his baby in a “proximal” way, that is to say intensively, in a style different from that of. the mother, but who meets her emotional and contact needs. The question of mothering is posed differently today. Fathers have become very close to children in all social circles. Closeness to the baby is arguably what has changed the most in recent years with the care provided by professionals, who often spend more time with children than parents.

What is the difference between mothering and fathering?

GN: In the past, what really differentiated roles was the breast. Today, with the bottle, the difference is less important since the father can feed the baby if the mother stops breastfeeding early, which is very often the case. There is therefore no longer a physiological impact of the roles. Even if each sex has specificities, their impact on behavior is much less than in the past. Fathers are quite capable of taking good care of a baby, including in the first three months, especially as social representations have changed and we no longer blame them for wanting to father a child.

When did the mother become “everything”?

GN: For a long time, mothers from wealthy backgrounds entrusted their babies to nurses so that they could devote themselves to more interesting activities. It was only after the work of psychoanalyst René Spitz, in 1945, on the impact of maternal deficiencies, then that of John Bowlby on attachment, in 1958, that his role became central. A place that was further accentuated with the spread of psychoanalysis in the second half of the twentiethe century.


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