THE BLOG
09/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are You a Caretaker or Caregiver Dad?

I've decided fathers fall into two categories here in Italy: Caretaker Daddies (CTD) and Caregiver Daddies (CGD).

CTDs think their role is fundamentally a financial one: being a daddy means going to the office and bringing home the bacon. They seem to forget that children need a fatherly presence that goes beyond being a walking bank account.

CGDs accept that choosing to have a child means not only addressing the money-side of things, but also dedicating time to a baby even when you really don't feel like it. It means respecting the child as an individual that doesn't behave or obey rules on command.

CGDs try to impose fair and just rules -- they don't just lay down rules because "That's just how it is" or "Because I said so."

CTDs want family life to be organized in order for the kids to eat and sleep with the precision of a Swiss train -- and for them to always behave like "good children." They, however, cannot waste time putting the kids to bed -- let alone waking up at night for them.

They are a category of fathers that needs a grandmother or a nanny to give them a hand even during the holidays, because God forbid they should need to lift a finger and help mummy with baths, meals or playing together once boredom (dad's) kicks in.

According to CGDs, though, even the most "boring" or tiresome chores are a way to relate to their children and to create a bond that will last a lifetime.

CGDs are those daddies that know how to deal with their kids even without mummy, and know how to give from the heart even when they're exhausted and would prefer to watch a soccer match on TV.

CTDs expect a tomb-like silence to descend on the house if a soccer match is on, and at the most will plop their kids on the couch next to them during the match -- deluding themselves that they are dedicating time and attention to their offspring.

CTDs are convinced that children should adapt to their parents; they refuse to accept that being a father means changing mentality, lifestyle and priorities.

CTDs believe that since they (and not mums in the initial months or years) are the ones that need to go to the office the next day, they have the right to sleep through the night (even, and I swear this is true, putting in earplugs!).

CGDs are those fathers that turn up at the office with bags under their eyes. But they're also the ones that can tell you exactly what is the secret to putting their baby princess effortlessly to bed, and just which kind of massage relaxes her the most.

CTDs find out their child finally sleeps through the night, is out of diapers, no longer naps in the morning or has sprouted new teeth...weeks later.

To mothers that are hooked up with daddies of the opposite brand, CGDs are viewed with awe and admiration, while CTDs look upon them with suspicion: "They don't have proper careers; they're not true professionals."

CTDs see themselves as strong fathers that think being strict is an attribute -- even if it means exercising control and power over a being that is weaker than them (I know one father that reacts to his toddler son's hairpulling by violently yanking his in return)...

CTDs put themselves before their children ("I want to go out tonight, and even if my son would prefer to stay with me, I have the right to have fun and my kid can't stop me").

CGDs put themselves before their kids ("I want to go out tonight, but since my child is acting up -- and clearly wants my attention -- I'll go out another night.")

CTDs do the "right" thing for their kids (taking them to the sea in summer, and to the mountains in winter) but instead of spending time with them, they play for a couple of hours at the most, and then pass the buck onto mummy, granny, nanny or others.

CTDs complain that since their children were born, they now receive less hugs and cuddles from their wives. They think their relationship with their spouse comes before their child's happiness.

CGDs know that in the first years of a child's life, the child will need them more. They know how to wait until the kid is more independent for the relationship to fully return to PB (Pre-Baby) levels.

CGDs are those men that realize their wives have a far more difficult job and that maybe they are the ones that deserve an extra cuddle or two. (They're the ones that spontaneously offer to watch the kids on weekends.)

And what is at the root of this dichotomy?

CTDs are the sons of CTDs ("I was brought up this way, and I'm fine"). It is highly unlikely that their role model at home was a CGD.

CGDs, on the other hand, can be divided into two sub-groups:
  • those that had a CTD as a father, but want to break the cycle and give their children the time and affection of which they were deprived in childhood, and
  • those that had a CGD as a role model and want to pass on to their children the values they received growing up.

But, as one father suggested the other day, do you think mums, too, can be divided into CTMs and CGMs?