How Mexican Fathers Are Redefining Parenthood

Redefining fatherhood in Mexico: Embracing new masculinities amid societal shifts. Men challenged to be more involved in childcare, breaking away from traditional roles for a more equitable society.

How Mexican Fathers Are Redefining Parenthood
A father joyfully engages with his child, embracing new masculinities and actively participating in childcare. Image by peterjamesanthony from Pixabay

In Mexico, the role of fathers has undergone a significant transformation lately. According to data from the Population and Housing Census in 2020, there were 44.9 million men aged 15 and over in the country, with 47 percent of them identifying themselves as fathers. As we celebrate Father's Day on June 18th, it is an opportune moment to reflect on the evolving responsibilities and pleasures that fatherhood represents, as well as the need for greater involvement in the care and upbringing of children.

Leonardo Felipe Olivos Santoyo is a researcher at the UNAM Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Humanities (CEIICH). He highlights that fatherhood has become a space of confrontation for many men, challenging traditional notions of authority and economic provision within the family. As women take on new roles and responsibilities in various spheres of society, men are grappling with their changing place in the world.

The specialist in hegemonic masculinity and new masculinities emphasizes that the pillars of traditional fatherhood, which include authority and economic provision, are wavering in the face of these societal shifts. Men now find themselves at a turning point, questioning their roles as fathers and seeking alternative ways of parenting that go beyond being mere providers with limited involvement in childcare.

Data from the most recent National Survey on Time Use (2019) highlights the existing disparities between men and women in terms of the time devoted to childcare and unpaid household activities. Women still bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to caregiving and domestic work, but the survey also indicates that men are increasingly participating in these tasks.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of care work and the need to share this responsibility between genders. Olivos Santoyo stresses that care work should no longer be solely a female obligation but rather a shared commitment between fathers and mothers.

Despite progress, Mexico is still far from achieving gender equality. The journey towards a more equitable society may take two or three generations, but it is crucial for men to embrace new masculinities and redefine their roles as fathers. This transformation involves dismantling entrenched structures of privilege and power, which many are hesitant to relinquish.

The process of redefining fatherhood involves questioning traditional norms and practices and striving for a more emotionally connected and involved parenting style. Men now have the opportunity to critically examine their experiences as sons and to break away from the rigid roles imposed on them by previous generations.

However, this transition is not without challenges. Some men, resistant to change, may cling to outdated notions of masculinity, leading to instances of violence against women. As the old constructs of masculinity crumble, some individuals respond with hostility, engaging in hypermisogyny, transphobia, racism, and other elements that uphold hegemonic masculinity.

The importance of education and the media in shaping perceptions of fatherhood cannot be overstated. Efforts must be made to generate discourses that promote and celebrate men's involvement in childcare and their emotional bonds with their children. By challenging traditional depictions of fathers in the media and on social networks, society can begin to embrace a more diverse and inclusive concept of fatherhood.

Father's Day itself has a fascinating history that dates back to 1910 when Louise Smart Dodd, an American woman, sought recognition for the role of fathers in society. The official celebration of Father's Day on the third Sunday of June was established in 1972.

In conclusion, Mexico stands at the cusp of a significant cultural shift regarding fatherhood. Embracing new masculinities is essential for men to adapt to the changing landscape and to actively participate in the care and upbringing of their children. By breaking away from outdated norms and reimagining fatherhood as an emotionally connected and involved role, fathers can contribute to a more equitable society.