Happy Father’s Day in Modern Times

Happy Father’s Day

Squarely claimed as a post-gender era, the very notion of fatherhood is collaterally affected by the active social reconstruction of terms that embed gender heteronormativity. In plain language, what does it mean to be a father in a time when roles ascribed to being a dad transcend the sex of an individual? Traditionally, the male sex is inherent to the term father or dad. In a similar way, the female sex is inherent to the term mother or mom.  Certainly, human biology privileges traditional understandings of mother and father.

In this way, father and mother are heteronormative constructions of the family, that is based on the view that the parenting system is constituted by a man and woman.  Bio-normative psycho-social constructions of the family, embed the female-male binary in conception, birth, identity formation, and subsequently in parenting. In a bio-normative psycho-social construction of family, biological sex and identity are equally relevant, and parenting roles performed are fluid and mixed.

In modern families, dads and moms share more of the direct parenting roles with newborns and young babies than previous generations.  Modern dads are incredibly involved as active parents and at times, may perform most caregiving roles with children. This is a relatively new and wonderful evolution of parenting in modern times that younger parents may in fact take for granted or forget. Merely, one century ago, fathers were exempt from post-work caregiving roles with their children as wives and mothers were clearly relegated to a domestic sphere that usually involved raising several children on a full-time basis.

Many of us must only trace back two generations to our great-grandparents to remember the number of children parents bore together and the ways women shouldered most of this work in the home. Today of course, much has changed both legally and socially. Your adult children may choose:

  • to be single
  • to be married
  • to be married and childless
  • to be married with children
  • to be in a co-parenting partnership with several adults as stepparents
  • to be a single parent
  • to be in a same-sex marriage and childless
  • to be in a same-sex marriage with children
  • to be in same-sex co-parenting arrangement as stepparents
  • to be adoptive parents
  • to be foster parents

In Ontario, Family Laws recognize that children can have more than two parents. The legal language allows the birth parent to list the first and last names of the child, co-parents, and the terms mother or father. Modern legal language aims to protect the legal rights of children to financial support of biological parents who may or may not be listed as parents on birth certificates. Despite this legal evolution, Social Workers can attest to ongoing child-support payment woes of birth parents by individuals who neglect, abandon, or disregard their financial responsibility.  

What are your plans for this upcoming Father’s Day? How will you treat your dad to thank him for the gift of life, unconditional love, guidance, and support in your life? To reduce your personal experiences of fathering to a legal arena of financial responsibility is a sad, yet, persistent test to the parameters of parental accountability in modern times.

Of course, your dad is far more than a person who helped to pay his share for your upkeep and wellbeing. Your dad is so much more, and you deserve at least one day to spend some time together to remind yourselves about the love, respect, and honour you share for one another. Your great grandfather, and perhaps even your grandfather may not have uttered the words, “I love you”, and perhaps even failed to show it! If your dad struggles to say these words, then perhaps you can take a brave new step to tell him first. 

From a therapeutic perspective, love is expressed and felt in ways that far surpass human language and words.  Fathering is an honourable role that unfolds on a daily basis. It is the tender response to the first cries of an infant and then, all of the many tender moments that follow when your daddy was there for you – the steady presence of security that never wavered or failed – the rock upon which healthy families grow despite the obstacles.

Take the occasion of this Father’s Day to reflect upon the ways your own father set the foundation for your sense of stability, security, strength, and care. The bio-psycho-social importance of the Paternal Imago is as critical to your overall sense of wellbeing as your maternal imago. A realm of psychodynamic exploration for years, your relationship with both parents is each fundamental to your psychological health and mental wellbeing. Dive deeply into your personal feelings about your dad, and when you feel ready, let him know verbally or nonverbally.

Accepting the imperfections and failures of your parents is perhaps the main psychological task of psychotherapy. Accepting the imperfections and failures of your own parenting is perhaps the second. Happy Father’s Day Dads – most of your truly deserve a good day!!!!

Sunny dispositions deserve to shine, Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer

#wellness #healthy #familytherapy #psychotherapy #Father’sDay

Is Relational Commitment Relevant? A Post-Modern Perspective.

The Comfort of Intimacy

One of the kindest compliments I ever received was when someone playfully referred to my surname and said, “Lisa, you put roman into romantic”. Known as a longtime admirer of epic love tales, I am truly, a romantic at heart. I do confess that I cry at weddings, movies, war museums, and commercials that “catch” the special magic of love, just so. The many forgotten stories of committed War Brides whose fallen husbands never returned home continue to inspire a post-modern heart. The idea that the flame of love once lit can burn brightly for a lifetime.

It remains uncertain if the concept and practice of “monogamy” will survive post-modernism. Some couples continue to try. Without judgment, the modern clinician bravely enters the intimate emotional space of marriage, partnership, civil union, and sexual relationship to help some couples manage deeply personal aspects of their relationship.

The vast majority of couple’s counsellors enjoy the unique features of marital therapy. Of course, it is possible to engage in Couple’s Counselling even where there is no formal marriage certificate or legal civil union. Traditionally, Marital Therapy involved two individuals committed in a loving relationship with one another exclusively. Polygamy and polyamory complicate the traditional parameters of marital therapy.

Often used in post-affair work, Marital Therapy is designed to support couples to review their initial commitment to live life with one another, and in most situations to grow a family together. It builds on communication and role theories that centralize strength-based notions of equity, fairness, respect, joy, and pleasure in psychotherapy with couples. Integrating key components of change theory and principles of CBT, couples reclaim and develop old and new problem solving strategies together.

Everyone has a right to personal happiness. Everyone deserves to feel loved and to be loved. Often portrayed as boring and weird in pop culture & Hollywood movies, committed marriages are mostly taken for granted by society at large.

In truth, most people enjoy long-term, committed and happy marriages. Confusing Canadian Statistics reveal that 38% of marriages end in divorce, mostly between the 10-24th year of marriage. The rest of us continue in committed long-term relationships until “death due us part.” Studies also reveal that friends who befriend other married couples tend to enjoy healthier relationships. There is a community of “silent” married couples who support one another when life gets troubled or difficult in one form or other.

Covid19 self-isolation has likely stressed even the healthiest couples!!! Take some “real” alone time as life returns back to normal, and laugh at the ways you stepped on eachother’s toes over the past several weeks. Take some time to reflect on the ways the two of you spent your time, adjusted to the pandemic together, and how you simply enjoyed each other.

Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW Sunny dispositions deserve to shine!!!!

#wellness #marriage #commitment #pleasure #epiclove #forevermine #IsolatedTogether

The Gift of Oblivion

The Relief of Oblivion:
A Clinical Perspective

Mindfulness has indeed become an industry. Slowly gaining credibility in psychological sciences, mindful practices began as an “alternative” therapeutic approach borrowed from Eastern spiritual traditions. Coupled with growing interests in Yoga and Buddha breathing techniques, mindfulness practices have greatly impacted the mental health and wellness industry.

As a loyal proponent of self-care, I quickly adopted Yoga and mindful breathing techniques in the 1990’s while providing front-line mental health services and growing my own family. I was accutely aware of the vicarious stress created by social work in mental health, child and family, primary health, education and child protection roles. At the time, I opted to take Eli Bay’s Beyond Stress Course offered through his Relaxation Institute in Toronto. The course attendees included Medical Doctors, Lawyers, School Administrators, Business Leaders, and parents.

Eli’s work on biofeedback and visualization enhanced the medical credibility of integrative breathing work in heart-health and post-trauma care. Research demonstrated that individuals recovering from heart attacks or tragic accidents held “memories” of this trauma in their bodies for years. For more information on Eli’s pioneering career, please see https://www.innercalmonline.com/. Since this early research, more science has been conducted on the deep experiences of trauma in the body even at the cellular level. The advent of neuroscience further illuminates links between trauma on the body and human emotion.

There is ample evidence that the mastery of deep diaphragmatic breathing and visualization strategies helps people to better manage or “regulate” emotions such as anxiety and anger. The popularity of these strategies is mostly due to the effective impact of conscious breathing on your ability to control your emotions.

However, there is also the possibility that with increased mindfulness you experience a type of behavioural paralysis, such that the analytic-rational parts of your mind oppress your intuition or broadly speaking intuitive/organic feelings and movements. It is possible to overly self-regulate and to forget to allow the easy intuitive flow of your inner emotional life to occur.

Once again, the clinician occupies this space of in-between the rational and intuitive spheres of being human.

It is in this very experience of being human that you are reminded about the need for balance and called to a fundamentally important concept in systems theory in social work referred to as homeostasis. In clinical social work terms, homeostasis is the ever-present desire to experience stability, balance, contentment or emotional calm.

In this light, there is a gift of oblivion – moments where you trust your auto-pilot or intuition when it is turned on. Ironically, you are less likely to notice when you engage your world in a less mindful, oblivious, and automatic fashion. An experience like brushing your teeth and forgetting whether you used the bathroom cup to rinse out your mouth or the cup of your hand in absence of the cup in the room. In the end, the cup itself does not really matter to your overall teeth-cleaning experience. However, noting whether or not the cup was acutally present in the room may indicate your level of awareness during the activity.

Sometimes, it is very important to be mindfully aware of the cup in your teeth-brushing routine, and at other times, it is okay to be oblivious to it. In my view, oblivion is a gift when life is extremely stressful. Moments of feeling completely lost in your intuitive creativity such as being fully engrossed in painting, guitar strumming, piano playing, writing, or dancing are examples of healing oblivion.

The artisit in many ways has this gifted sensibility of uninterrupted intuition and sustained creative focus that both, best, represents and captures that which we view as being human or simply put, the human experience. It is in this space of cultivating creative human hobbies that we offer this gift of oblivion to our children and ourselves.

You deserve moments of intuitive mindlessness. Perhaps, during this Covid19 pandemic you are more aware than ever about the demands placed on your cognitive functioning. Unlike any other time in history, your brain is procesing and multi-processing information at a rate and level that traditional literacy did not expect. Of course, artisitic creativity involves cognition and cognitive processing. However, free-flowing creative experiences feel differently, and clinically speaking are healing.

In the words of Eli Bay – enjoy your time of just being and find what the space between your thoughts feels like to you!!!

Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW Sunny dispositions deserve to shine.

#wellness #healing #healthy #Covid19 #isolatecreate