Tough to be a Dad

We live in a world in which certain vital social roles that have been strong pillars for families for as far back as humans can remember, are being either challenged, trivialized, and in many cases we are told we don’t need those social roles any more. Traditional fatherhood began being seriously challenged during the era of radical feminism and women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. Back then fatherhood was portrayed as a dirty word as it was associated with patriarchy which radical feminism held responsible for rampart sexism, controlling, exploiting,  oppressing women, and abusing children especially girls or daughters. Some of the social changes that were unleashed from the radical agenda of feminism have resulted into shocking diminishing of the value of fatherhood to the detriment of perhaps generations of children growing up without fathers.  The result has been confused young men and fathers in American society. As a consequence some of the confused young men may feel so unworthy, alienated, and feel such a lack of social obligation in their biological child’s life that some may ended up being involved in drug abuse, gangs,  alcohol abuse, crime, incarceration and other dysfunctional behavior.

The current serious diminishing of fatherhood in America started with the increase in divorce to a point to which 50% of the marriages end up in divorce. At the same time single motherhood or having children out of wed lock became more common place and acceptable as in 1960 only 5.3% of births in America were to unmarried women compared to 36.8% by 2005. Before the 1996 Welfare Reform, single motherhood and dependence on public assistance rose dramatically affecting the entire society marginalizing the role of fathers. But single motherhood particularly devastated the black community where black women account for 69.5% of births to unmarried women within the black population as compared to  25.4% for White women and only 16.2% among Asians and Pacific Islanders. The serious crisis in fatherhood among African Americans was shown in 1986 in a CBS documentary:  “The Vanishing Family -- Crisis in Black America”.In fact President Obama’s 2008 Father Day message urged African American men to become better fathers.

Some middle class career single women who are in their forties who feel their biological clock is ticking and cannot find the right man to marry and have a child with simply have a child from a sperm bank without a father. But the most serious and sensational single mother which symbolizes the strongest case for trivialization of fatherhood has got to be the case of the Octamom. The woman gave birth to eight babies through artificial insemination and fertilization. Reports at the time suggested that she was single, there was no known father for the children, she already had two other young children, and she did not have a job to earn an income with which to support her ten children.

Although celebrating Father’s Day should never be a day to point fingers of blame at certain people, mentioning all these factors that both challenge and diminish the importance of fatherhood to day helps us to understand what odds fathers have to fight against for any of them to effectively play the crucial role of being a dad.

Given all these factors and the current 9.1% unemployment, what does it mean to be a good father as we once again celebrate Father’s Day? But first let’s separate the myth of being just a father and the challenge and effort that is required to be a good father. Perhaps the common myth is that if a man impregnates a woman then he automatically should be proud because he is a father. The society sets the bar for fatherhood so low that it is virtually on the ground. It might be true that the man is the biological father. But that’s not the true meaning or role of being a good father.

Being a good father requires two important actions on the part of the man:  first, he has to be always there for the child and the mother preferably married to her. Second, he has to provide for the child and the mother who should preferably be also his wife. These two factors many generations ago used to be obvious and simple common sense. But today these standards may be seen as very radical, judgmental, and perhaps even oppressive.

Every child craves and yearns to have his or her dad to be physically around to sit on his lap, play, talk, eat with, read a book with, to be consoled and run to when the child is distraught and crying, take the child to school, and to go to bed and wake up and have dad there. Visitation now and then or worse abandoning the child is not good for the future of that child. There are millions of children who have grown up fatherless who are haunted most of their grown lives by the absence of their fathers. You can find out some of these impacts by the high profile cases such as that of President Obama growing up without his dad in “Dreams of my Father.”

Providing for the child means that the child will most likely not grow up in poverty but instead live in a stable home with basic necessities such as food, water, and physical security. Historically from hunter and gatherer, horticultural to Agrarian societies, and even during the Industrial Revolution fathers tried their best to help provide food and shelter for their offspring. These were the best gestures of being a father who loved and cared for his family.

If a man cannot fulfill these two vital obligations of fatherhood today because of some very complicated and difficult circumstances, then he has to settle for the second best actions; provide child support and not be a dead beat dad, fulfill visitation obligations, and lastly if possible give the child some toys and gifts or send them a physical letter by snail mail on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas Holidays. If you are a father who has been neglecting your child, this Father’s Day, reconnect with your child. All fathers who try their best should enjoy and bask in warm congratulations on Father’s Day for a job well done. Keep up the good hard work.