Mon, 19 Nov 2012 21:49:23 GMT | By By Amy Reyes

Family dynamics: Do Latino fathers pull their weight?

The traditional Latin American family dynamic often doesn’t have a very long shelf life when imported to the United States.


Father and daughter (© Father and daughter.Ariel Skelley - Getty Images)

Father and daughter

When Melissa Paez got pregnant with her first child she was very confident that she would be able to pull off her job as a caretaker as gracefully as her mother before her. She assumed that her partner, who was born in Cuba, would fall into the same role as her own father – the breadwinner who came home at night, ate dinner, patted the kids on the head and fell into bed until the next morning.

The big difference between the domestic scenario Melissa experienced growing up in the Dominican Republic and what she found in her own home in Miami was that her mother, who also worked, had a team of women who helped with the chores around the house. Her father didn’t need to pick up any slack around the house.

“My mother wouldn’t even leave us alone with my father, she didn’t have to because she had a ton of affordable help,” Melissa states.

The traditional Latin American family dynamic often doesn’t have a very long shelf life when imported to the United States. Economic conditions don’t always allow for women to stay home (or hire help for that matter!). Since 1990, Latinas have increased their work force presence by 104 percent and currently make up almost five percent of private labor.  

As Latinas have begun to carve out their place as co-breadwinners and wage earners, have their men begun to take on the domestic chores and childcare responsibilities normally relegated to women?

Melissa would argue that the answer is no, but she does admit that the blame starts at home.

“I think it goes back to the way we were raised in our own country. We raise boys to believe that women are the only ones who can take care of babies or do anything around the house,” Melissa says.

A survey done by the online Spanish language baby resource, TodoBebe.com would indicate that perhaps there has been a shift in attitudes when it comes to the role of a papí. About 70 percent of respondents affirmed that their children’s fathers help out with feedings and diaper changes.     

Madelim Paredes, a Dominican-born mother of two girls who resides in Miami, concedes that her husband (also Dominican) occasionally helps out with the childrearing tasks, but only when the situation is crucial.

“He really does consider his primary job to be that of a provider, which means making enough money for me to hire someone to help me so that he does not have to do domestic things,” says Madelim, who luckily also has her mother-in-law around to help out.

Research by Angela Valdovinos D’Angelo, a Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University who works as a Survey Researcher for Mathematica Policy Research, indicates that first generation immigrant fathers while more accessible to their infants tend to be less engaged in caretaking than non-immigrant fathers.

The study cites several contributing factors; among the most important is familism - the tendency shared by many Latin American cultures to keep the family’s interest above individual needs and adherence to certain roles within the family unit. An immigrant father’s lower engagement “may be explained by his obligation to fulfill his specific role in the family.” 

Second generation Latino fathers tend to engage their children more with books and games and some caretaking. But across the board, all Latino fathers prefer to spend their time with their kids playing. D’Angelo’s research shows that dads’ number one interactive activity with their young kids is playful roughhousing.

But perhaps as the children grow, Latino fathers may be more likely to interact with their children.

“Since our oldest became a teenager, my husband has developed good communication with her and he talks to her a lot on the ride to school, which has helped them to have a better bond,” says Paredes.

In Melissa Paez’s case, her children’s father (whom she divorced before her youngest son’s second birthday) has the attitude that the mother is more important than the father when children are young.

“He said to me that he will jump in as a father figure when the children are older,” says Melissa.   

But a shift in parenting style and family dynamic is inevitable says D’Angelo. She says studies have found that the longer one is here [in the United States] the more westernized they will become, whether we’re talking about eating habits or parenting skills.

Although many Latinas may be stuck working double duty – all day on the job and well into the night with the children – one thing is certain: Latinas are pretty confident in their parenting skills. According to a BabyCenter.com en Español survey of more than 7,000 women, 65 percent of respondents secretly think they are a better parent than their child’s father.

For now, maybe it’s OK to just let daddy be in charge of playtime. 

* Amy Reyes is the Assistant Editor of Miami.com, the Miami Herald's online guide to Miami nightlife, entertainment, events and restaurants. A Michigan native, she lived two years in the Dominican Republic where she found love and her second home. She lives in Miami with her husband and two children.

2Comments
Nov 26, 2012 7:16PM
avatar
 Aye por favor...thank Goodness these "Young CATS" are way more hip to the game of raising their kids...getting involved from the diapers to the nite time feedings.
Back in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's...now way Jose...
My finance was caught ironing my dress before a funeral since I was distraught...
They let him have it so bad...that he never IRONED nothing again...HONESTLY...this gender role is for the Birds...
 I have to give it to these  younger fathers are wonderful...  they have a greater sense of fatherhood...
It should be "mandatory" that Fathers have to WITNESS all of the baby's birth and cut the cord...after all they were partly "cupables"...ha ha...
My dad was 4th generation "MERICAN he didn't do nothing but make the money, come home once a week..( he had it like that???) and take us on vacation, events several times year.
it was all good...but the nurturing was left to the scorned mother and grandmother...
Ha ha...Latino Families are a TRIP...
But I wouldn't want to anything BUT a LATINA!!!
We need you Latino Men...first second, third, fourth or fifth to step up to the PLATE!!!

avatar

FRAUD continued...no one imports pregnant females from Mexico which is 2/3 USA pop increase alone:  blame what ignorance...the Devil owns all of you.

  90% illegitimcy does not a nation make...who  res  are you

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