Parents who get more involved with their children: is a symbolic revolution starting?


Fatherhood is in transition. In recent years, the number of minutes parents spend on their children has increased , men’s participation in the perinatal period has increased, whether in visits to the gynecologist or in childbirth classes, and a genuine interest has flourished. for wanting to be more involved in childcare.

However, there is still a way. There are many barriers , conscious and unconscious, that limit parents to their full involvement, and consequently deny multiple benefits to children, mothers and themselves.

Transition to greater involvement

One could speak of the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to favor this transition that has accompanied parenthood in recent years, although using the word opportunity, in its most opportunistic sense, of opportune circumstance, would not be entirely adequate (nothing will compensate the number of deaths, the loneliness experienced by many people, the despair of small merchants and self-employed and so many others).

This health crisis may be the start of a symbolic revolution . Pierre Bourdieu , based on the example of the French painter Édouard Manet , presents the symbolic revolution as that invisible and unconscious revolution that shapes, reconfigures our cognitive structures, our way of thinking, seeing and, ultimately, living.

Intimate and collective reflections

Covid-19 may be the beginning of this revolution, since it invites us to rethink ourselves in two opposite ways, but which are totally linked: collectively and intimately.

The first invitation is to rethink ourselves collectively: it happens to all of us. With the uneven development of different regions we have come to think that we lived in different ships marching in different directions. Today we see that there is only one ship, perhaps with different decks, cabin size, but only one ship: the world, our world.

Sociologist Ulrich Beck, author of The Risk Society , already warned that new contemporary problems could not be solved nationally or locally. He gave the examples of terrorism and climate change, which we strive to solve locally, when his solution can only be global. With the Covid-19 the same thing happens, it can only be eradicated globally, articulating the solution locally.

The second invitation is to rethink ourselves intimately. We have spent days in our houses, hospitals and residences, with more time to be with ourselves, with the closest people, than the time without time that we lived before made it impossible for us. With this situation, windows are opened to (re) discover and (re) value very intimate and human themes, and one of these intimate, human and personal themes is parenthood.

The three dimensions of involvement

Fatherhood could be like a box. The box of parental involvement that we can give daily to our sons and daughters. As we well know, boxes have length, height and width, three dimensions that allow the size of the box to be smaller or larger. Each of these three measures could be one of the three dimensions of parental involvement developed by Michael Lamb and his team. Let’s go one by one:

  1. Accessibility. The length of the box could be accessibility. We often make the mistake of thinking that quality time is the most important time. “I don’t have time, but the minutes I give are of quality”, many think.

    Experts continue to emphasize that the most significant time remains the total time. Accessibility is precisely this total time, it is being there, accessible and available, without a necessary interaction, but being available for when the children need it. The effect that knowing that your parents are there has on a son or daughter has, physically and psychologically, endless benefits .

  2. Commitment. The height of the box could be the engagement. It is precisely the interactions, the quality time if we want, that is still important. It is crucial that within the total time, there are moments of quality, of interaction in a present and conscious way that do nothing but strengthen security and affection in the little ones. Laughing together, reading a good story, talking about issues that concern us, playing games.
  3. The responsability. Finally, the depth of the box could be the responsibility. It is the most abstract dimension but not the least important. The responsibility is to feel the last guarantor of the social, cognitive, emotional and, if you will, spiritual development of the sons and daughters. It is wanting not to go to minimums, but to maximums to allow the little ones to grow and develop (fully) in all its dimensions.

    A brief example: these days when the school has entered the home as it never had before, parents are the last ones responsible for facilitating and guaranteeing our children this access to education.

The size of the box is modified, increasing or decreasing, according to the vital moment of parents and children. Also according to the cultural, social and personal constraint of the parents themselves.

Finally, a wish: That this dramatic crisis help as far as possible to initiate a symbolic revolution towards a new normality that is healthier, more humane and humanizing.

Author Bio: Marc Grau-Grau is a Researcher and coordinator of the Joaquim Molins Figueras Childcare and Family Policies Chair at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya