Sometimes we’ll do something that contradicts our own values—a moment we’re not proud of. We’re all human and we make mistakes. But when we do we can accept responsibility and correct the issue. We’ll change, and grow a little as result. We may even challenge our own beliefs and reevaluate our choices. It’s not just our behaviour that defines us, but how we react.
As I actually wrote down the Manifesto earlier this year, I only had anecdotal examples of my nemesis, the Neanderthal Dad. A few pop culture reference points, some personal stories among my peers, and too many daily life experiences had shaped a realistic but fictional character in my mind. As I described the creature that anti-inspired me, everyone could imagine someone in their lives that fit the profile, but I couldn’t point to a specific person.
Sadly, I didn’t have to look hard for a clear example. Gene Marks, a contributor to Forbes.com, has used the very definition of Neanderthal Dad as some sort of a fact of life; as an excuse rather than a conscious choice. According to Marks, selfish and irresponsible parenting are personality traits ingrained in a man’s DNA.
He describes an example of the expected behaviour: “When our baby would cry in the middle of the night I would put a pillow…over my head. That stopped the crying for sure. Yes, I was an ass.”
He blames his choices on flawed DNA: “I’m not saying that many dads don’t pitch in or try to do their fair share. …But, there are still some age old cultural habits that won’t die. …Men don’t have this kind of instinctual tug [to be there for their child].”
And finally, he perpetuates the neanderthal myth: “Let’s face it: unless there’s beer involved, men don’t have many instincts at all. We figure our wives will ultimately handle these things. And in many cases, they just do.”
All these quotes are in one paragraph of the article, and there are plenty of other cringe-inducing stories. I struggled to read through the whole thing, and even looked to see if I was reading some sort of well disguised satire. I couldn’t believe that this article had been published mere days before I launched this blog. The author celebrates his own laziness as a parent, and even if he exaggerated his points for comedic effect, he’s using his archaic theory to justify a complicated issue.
However, it isn’t so much that he admits to his behaviour that offends me. Rather, it’s how he uses it as an excuse. By regarding his own selfish choices as genetic instincts he releases himself and all dads of true responsibility, reducing us all to a burden on modern families, and is essentially saying that men who take parenting seriously are too rare to be natural, or that we have any impact on the future of society.
I guess I should thank Mr Marks and Forbes for publishing this article and reinforcing my conviction to change the status quo. They’ve provided a convenient example, and reminded me how much more work still needs to be done.