Essay for class
Becoming a father the ultimate Rite of Passage
Ida Matilda Wright
ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (GSF1609G)
Instructor: Angela Fuhrmann
March 24, 2016
Being a mother creates in me a curiosity. I want to understand the different ways men pass into their roles as fathers. My husband rode in the ambulance to the hospital. He sat by my head as my children were delivered by Cesarean Sections. Many of my friends’ counted contractions and used breathing techniques to ease their mate’s pain during labor. Knowing only these few facts of a man’s passage to becoming a parent in my country during my generation, I will explore the many ways a man becomes a father in other generations here in the United States and other nations in the world. I hope to understand the male’s transformation both from an emic perspective and an etic one. I will explore this role while setting aside my judgements created by my roles as a woman, mother, or my experiences. I have chosen resources from different generations in the United States fatherhood roles. I hope to understand this aspect of the human experience in more detail.
Man to Father in America
American men seem to become weak even helpless during the births of their children. A man who tracks, kills, and removes the guts from big game without a trace of emotion may tremble at the moans of his mate’s contractions during labor ("DadLabs Video ," 2009) . Today, my new friend is becoming a father. While holding her hand with one of his, he controls a communication box with the other. When his wife calls out angrily during pain, my friend pushes the button on the device (Mecham & Mecham, 2015). A woman dressed in multi-colored clothing (who I think is a birth helper) hastens to the bedside of the mother-to-be who is clothed wrap tied at the neck. After speaking to the wife, the “birth helper” leaves the room. Upon the sound of pain gripping the mother, the father-to-be encourages her to breathe shallow and with unusual rhythm by participating in harmony with her.
Fathers-to-be of yesteryear were found pacing in a delivery room handing pink or blue cigars to announce the sex of their new baby. This ritual was a surprise to me because countries like my own included the father in the birthing process in a more real way to create a bond between the couple as a birthing unit (Reed, 1996). Men in these countries are free from responsibility for taking charge of the ritual. He is to spend days laying by his wife during the process of birth. Our communities use objects to create pain in our bodies to relate to the pain of childbirth that our wives are feeling.
Seeing my very masculine 220-pound friend become more feminine than his 100-pound wife, who was pushing another life from her body, helped me to realize that the act of becoming a parent is life changing. Whether a person chooses to give birth in a hospital room, hut, or in the ocean, a father’s life changes alongside his that of his wife. However, when the couple decides to bring a new addition to the human race, there is one thing for sure; the two will never forget the events of the day they passed over to their parenthood roles.
In America, parenting was primarily the mother’s job. The decision making was was left to the father because he was the money earner and head of the household. However, these roles have changed. ("Family Life ," 2004) Either role can be performed by mother or father. Due to the dynamics changing in the family as a unit, Parenting roles are done by different members in some households.
When both parents work, grandparents are known to care for the children. Usually the mother’s parents live in these working families. The children depend on their grandparents for the nurturing, and they receive security from their parents. Many children in these homes only see their parents a couple times a day. This type parenting is said to be more of a necessity so that the family does not fall into poverty.
In many families, older children are in charge of the care of their younger siblings. School aged children come home from school using keys that they carry around their necks to let themselves into their homes. These children are trusted to feed themselves, care for younger children, bedtime rituals, homework help, and knowing how to keep themselves safe until their parents come home. Though these children are more responsible than other kids their age, they miss the attention of their parents.
These changes can cause conflict within the home. Children resent their sisters or brothers who are in charge when the parents are not home. The grandparents give up their traditional roles are the fun people that give them change, tell them stories, and return them back to their parents. Some of the children feel neglected or over whelmed, and many of them act-out in a negative way trying to gain attention from busy adults. I have concluded that American parents must adapt to the changes within their economy so that they, as native born citizens, can live the “American Dream”.
Fathers in Turkey and Britain
Unlike men in American, couples in Turkey pass into parenthood differently than those in the United States. In this country, the expectant mothers have steps to take to protect their unborn child and to choose the sex that they want the child to be. Our rituals determines what occupation or skills our child will have when it is grown.
When a couple decides that they want to conceive a baby, they begin hundreds of steps to create the new life. ("Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism ," n.d) A woman begins seeking religious and magic rituals to conceive her child especially if it is her first. Food plays a great part in creating the child that you want. A woman who eats or drinks bitter nourishment has a female baby. On the other hand, a woman who eats sweet foods will give birth to a male. The positive things that a woman must do as an expectant mother is to look at the moon, observe beautiful people, and carry a pleasant attitude. She must not eat certain animals, eat any food in secret, or attend funerals. These are actions that need to be followed to protect the child.
Every person wants a child that parents can be proud of. This is why men take the umbilical cord to different locations to dispose of it respectfully. Some men throw it over a school yard fence so that the child is guaranteed to be educated. If the parents want a child to be a devout person, the cord is buried in the courtyard of a church.
After the birth, the mother and baby must be protected from the “mother-baby snatchers” for forty days. They are not allowed to be outside because what others may see as an illness taking a life, we know is the “snatchers” that took them. The mother and baby must be washed clean on the seventh, twentieth, thirtieth, thirty-seventh, thirty-ninth, and the forty-first day so that they are safe to rejoin society.
Today some of these aspects of the culture are becoming nonexistent. Many fathers are excepting ready-made families because they choose to marry more divorced women. These customs are new. Our fathers wanted virgins as wives, but now our men have contacted organizations that link women who want to be second, third, or in some cases fourth wives. (Patil, 2014) Many men have a separate house for each wife and their children. However some wives choose to live all in one home for convenience. By the time the men have their third and fourth wives, the women are titled “instant mothers” because they are considered the co-mothers of all the children.
In the new way of plural marriages in Britain, woman are usually the individuals that are looking for this type of family relationships. They research the men that they wish to marry. Dose the man have enough income to care for more than one family? Is the man attractive? What kind of dowry can he provide her? Do his beliefs in child rearing match her own? Many of the women are un-concerned with jealously and bring the argument that as a wife they do not worry where their husbands are because they are aware of his obligations to the other spouses in the family.
Another difference between the traditional plural spouse life style is that many modern polygamists allow divorce. There are so many women searching for this life style that one can find a replacement wife fairly easily. Britain law only allows a man to have four wives, and the allowance of divorce is a welcomed way to experiment until a man finds a wife that fits into his way of living. Many men welcome an experienced widow or divorcee as a wife and to mother their children.
Fathers who love their children, whether living life in tradition or adapting to the new, chose what he thinks is best for the health of his child. Love and continued existence motivates his decisions from what to do with the umbilical cord to who will share in the child’s nurturing.
In life, there are many rites of passages. These different ways of growing separate one culture from another or one generation from another. An infant’s first breath, first steps, the first day of school, and graduation are important events in a person’s life. Many other firsts are worth mentioning such as first date, sexual encounter, prom, a major accomplishment, marriage, and death. However, my desire is to explore the most important rite of passage, and in my opinion, becoming a parent pale the other events in comparison. Parenting is different everywhere. This rite of passage has changed in our country from one decade to another. Though we see other cultures’ birthing rituals as strange, we also would view our grandparents’ way of beginning their family just as strange. One spouse, two or more wives, fathers roles have, and always will have different roles in the rite of passage of becoming a parent.
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