Because of the different perspective each partner brings to parenthood, few things dramatically define the differences between men and women. Female attachment to an infant seems to be innate, male attachment a function of social learning. Mothers are natural parents; men, with the best will in the world, are not.
Physical intimacy, which, again, we have found is a female characteristic, is essential to the process of infant bonding. Fathers are, at least, beginning to learn the importance of the cuddle, but ” learn” is the key word here. There is little in their brain pattern to predispose them naturally to such intimacy. They can only switch o conscious, caring behaviour; and switch it off.
Parenthood means different things to the different sexes, and that difference is a reflection of the sexually distinct brain biases. Four out of five marriages go through a severe crisis at the birth of the first child.
Man’s brain teaches him to see the world in terms of competition and dominance, and so he feels that he has in some sense lost the competition for the mother’s affection, and has been replaced in the social hierarchy by this demanding young pretender.
But woman’s brain emphasis on the personal and the emotional enables her to embrace a wider variety of relationship without denying or diluting any of them. Her love for the child is not “at the expense of” anyone else. Only men would see affection as such a finite commodity. In fact maternal affection can be seen not as an alternative to sexual love, but as an extension of it.
The female hormones are profoundly and inextricably bound up with the need to care for her child. A woman is better equipped in all her senses for the task of child – rearing, better able to hear and identify the cry of the baby, more sensitive to touch, sound and smell.
Taking one of those rare evenings off during the early months, sitting in a restaurant or a cinema, a mother will feel that she has left part of herself behind at home. Fathers, however devoted, will be relieved to have escaped the domestic menagerie for a while.
Men may fret at their biological exclusion from the most intimate mysteries of parenthood. But they must accept that this bond of the mother is innate.
Even in the most self-consciously “role-sharing” families, mothers will note, that a father is not so well attuned too his baby’s needs as the mother is. He will decide to “jolly along” the infant, just at he moment when it is about to drop off, at least, to sleep; “his timing” is off… he fails to pick up subtleties of mood or mesh his approaches to the child’s moment-to-moment states of mind as easily as she does.
Fathers hold babies to play with them, mothers to soothe them.
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