Mother's Day always seems to be a bigger deal than Father's Day.

Restaurants are more full, more flowers are sold, and the card section at the gift shop is even bigger for Mother's Day.Fathers are "the other" parent.

"Most of our research on parenting is in fact research on mothering. It is only in the last 10 years or so that research on the roles of men in parenting has come out," says Tom Lee, family and human development specialist in the Utah State University College of Family Life.

Researchers have found that fathers of newborns touch, talk and look at their babies in much the same way mothers do. They are also responsive to babies' cries, Lee said.

Studies that measure how much milk babies drink when bottle-fed found that fathers did just as well feeding them as mothers, he said.

However, Lee said when mothers and fathers were put in a room together, child care was most often left to the mother.

"All this is not to say fathers and mothers are not interchangeable or that fathers are just as good as mothers (or vice versa). Fathers and mothers have their own individual and differing reactions to how they interact with children," he said.

Lee said among the most important contributions of fathers to their children are:

Self-esteem: Several studies have shown a relationship between how much fathers are involved with their children and the children's self-esteem. Fathers who spend more time with their children and are more affectionate increase the self-esteem of their children.

Sex-role identity: Both boys' and girls' sense of masculine or feminine identity depends on the amount of involvement with their father.

Dads don't necessarily have to be macho. Research indicates that a son's masculinity is related to a close relationship with his father, not his father's masculine traits.

A girl learns sex-role identity and sees herself as more feminine when her father appreciates her and shows respect for his wife.