This blog has posted on the concept of maternal gatekeeping before. Essentially, it is where a mother controls the father’s household responsibilities and interactions with their children. It is a common phenomenon that has been noted by industry experts and psychologists. Indeed, there are decades of research on the subjection.
Notable research findings
According to the decades of research on maternal gatekeeping, which began in the 1970’s, there does seem to be a connection with the amount of control a mother exerts and how much parenting she does. In other words, the more there is a perceived parental imbalance toward the mother, the more gatekeeping she does over the children. Some studies have even linked the level of sexism toward men the mother possesses to the level of maternal gatekeeping. And, other studies point to how the mother was raised. If she was raised by a mother as the primary parent, then she too believes she should be the primary parent.
Across the United States, mothers are under a tremendous amount of pressure to “have it all,” work and children. Though, unlike men, our society still pushes the idea that all moms must be perfect. This is perpetuated through TV, movies and even social media influencers. Just a quick look through Instagram mother influencers will show thousands of pictures of perfect mothers making elaborate holiday decorations and chef-quality three-course meals. This can push some women to think that they are supposed to gatekeep, but it can have grave consequences.
The problem that results from maternal gatekeeping is the practice impedes a father’s relationship with their children. It makes that relationship entirely based on the small number of interactions allowed by the mother. It also allows the mother to paint the father as a bad or inattentive parent, and the mother can use the lack of interaction to drive that narrative with the children as well. But, even if there is no ill intent, the lack of direct interaction and parenting between the father and the child stimies that relationship. After all, it is hard to feel loved or be loved by a perceived absent parent. These issues, of course, can lead to divorce and parental alienation.