Friday, August 31, 2012

Fantastic Fathers: The Rhea Bird

rhea, a large flightless bird
Photo Credit:
There seems to be a popular belief that males are somewhat "disposable" in the animal kingdom.  Other than procreation or food gathering, they often serve little purpose. The most brutal example that comes to mind is that of the Praying Mantis.  After breeding (or sometimes during, you know, for kinkier mantids), the female will kill the male, typically by eating his head while he is still alive.  Gruesome, right?  As far as she is concerned, his purpose has been fulfilled, and he now just looks like a big snack.

People who don't "get" what I do as an at-home dad might use the argument that "it's not natural" for a man to be the nurturing parent or primary caregiver.  They would argue that a mother is "uniquely equipped" to handle this task.  While I understand where this argument comes from, I would argue differently.  Aside from the equipment necessary for birthing and feeding, the only "unique equipment" a parent needs is a good attitude and a little patience.  If you truly want to be a more nurturing parent or even a male primary caregiver, in most cases, you can.

When given the same amount of time with his child and the training that is typically reserved for new mothers, a father can be just as skilled at primary care and nurturing as a mother.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not arguing that mothers and fathers don't need each other.  A partnership is definitely the ideal scenario for raising a child.  I merely want to propose that perhaps, sometimes, moms let deadbeat dads off the hook too easily because their attitude is that parenting is not the man's responsibility or they simply lack the patience to allow for him to learn.  Maybe some dads don't try very hard because their attitude is that their purpose has been fulfilled at procreation or their not patient enough to learn new skills.  Whatever the case may be, if the attitude is right from both partners, they can accomplish anything they put their minds to in the parenting department.

Now, back to the reason I'm doing this series.  Since people like to use this "natural" argument, I thought that I would feature some fantastic fathers from the animal kingdom, just to show that there is are many "natural" examples of involved fatherhood.  Today, I want to introduce you to the Rhea, a large, flightless bird from South America that just might be the best natural example of an at-home dad.

At almost five feet high and over 75 lbs., Rhea are the fourth largest bird in the world.  They cannot fly, but can run almost 40 miles per hour.  They are either gray or white in color.  The male Rhea bird creates a nest by digging a hole in the ground.  Not exactly Martha Stewart sort of quality digs, but we are talking about a bird, so a simple hole in the ground will do just fine.  After the nest is constructed, female Rhea will come along and lay their eggs (each about the size of 12 chicken eggs) in the nest.  There could be eggs from several females in one nest.  There seems to be no issue with fidelity as females lay their eggs and move on without any complaints from the male.  The male Rhea incubates these 50 or so eggs for a little over 40 days until they hatch.

The baby Rhea coordinate their arrival.  They make a whistling sound while in the egg to communicate with each other so that they all hatch at the same time.  Here you go dad - 50 kids!  This is no problem for the well-equipped male Rhea.  He is aggressively protective.

He is also very smart.  Why is he smart?  Because he doesn't try to do it alone.  Male Rhea in the same area will team up to form "playgroups" of sorts where they will all look out for the baby chicks while looking for food.

The Rhea is a classic example of a natural at-home dad.  Self-reliant and confident in his ability to provide and protect, he takes fatherhood head-on, and he is smart enough to know when to ask for help.



  1. You wouldn't have time to shave with 50 kids running around your ankles!

  2. Awesome! I'm a sahm, and it's always puzzled me to see so little about our male counterparts. It's difficult enough with the acceptance that mothers automatically get, so I can't imagine what it would be like for a dad. Kudos fellas, kudos!

  3. Thanks for the comments, Candy. I am not sure that we are looking for acceptance, but what puzzles me is how some people still think that what I do is "unnatural" or "a bad idea". I just tell them to say it out loud, "I'm going intentionally spend more time with my child so that I can instill in them the values that I feel are important. This may mean that my wife is the breadwinner." How is this still viewed as a problem?

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