A Father’s Day Reflection

by Belinda Munoz on June 19, 2011

169985506_4872b1e3f1
As a parent, I could spout unending thoughts about the joys and tribulations of being a mother. I could cite a long wish list that my community, my support system, my government could provide to make my parenting job easier. After all, it takes a village, doesn’t it?

The business of parenting is all-encompassing and I am passionate about my role in it. But anything I say from my experience would be one-sided.  It would be strictly from a mother’s point of view. In other words, I really don’t know what the job looks like from a father’s point of view.

According to this report released in 2009, there are roughly 13.7 million parents in the U.S. who are single parents responsible for raising 21.8 million children. Of the 13.7 million single parents, a whopping 84% are single mothers (27% of these mothers are raising their children in poverty).  With the recent economic fluctuations, my guess is that these numbers have increased.

While I would say it’s worth every challenge it presents, parenting is not the easiest job in the world. I know single mothers who have done incredibly well raising their children to become well-adjusted, responsible adults. Sure, it can be done. But I know of no parent, mother or father, who would prefer to go solo on the job. Every parent I know prefers to have a partner; someone to share the load with and lean on at any given time. (The jackpot goes to those who have a parenting partner and built-in grandparents, aunts and uncles for their children who not only genuinely love them and adore to be around them, but also would never charge for babysitting. Yes, some people really are that lucky!)

At the risk of sounding traditional, why are fathers MIA for millions of children? Is it because they didn’t have sufficient opportunity to bond with their children in those early years? Is it because the very primal instinct of sowing their seeds alienates them from the intimacy of the gestation period in the woman’s womb? Is it because maternal instincts generally run deeper than paternal instincts? Does their decision to either become involved or stay on the sidelines hinge on their relationship with their child’s mother? The reasons present a range of complexities best left for sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists (and any other -ologists, -ists, -ers and -ians who want to take a crack at it).

My point is, if the statistics above are any indication of trends, fathers who step up to their parenting role have become less of a given than mothers who do. (If you’re familiar with the film SherryBaby starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, you’ll likely appreciate such a statement.) Having or having had a loving father or father figure is a stroke of luck. Being one is a blessing. Both are worthy of honoring and celebrating.

++++++++++++++++++

  • If you’re a father/father figure, happy Father’s Day.  How do you like being one?  Do you think you could raise your child(ren) without a mother or parenting partner? What’s a good gift for a father?
  • If you’re a mother, do you think you could raise your child(ren) without a father or parenting partner?
  • If you’re a single parent, how do you do it?
  • If you have/had a father/father figure, how would you describe your relationship with him?

image

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Talon June 19, 2011 at 8:24 am

Really sad statistics, Belinda. My father was far from perfect, but, if not for him, I wouldn’t be only the person I am today. He’s been gone many years, but I still miss him.

My husband is a good father. My daughter and I were talking about him (as how he is as a father and how different phases of life affected his fathering) just yesterday. I don’t know how my 3 would have turned out without him in our lives. To all the single parents, I give a huge shout-out. I honor them completely. Parenting is definitely not for the faint-hearted 🙂

Reply

2 brian miller June 19, 2011 at 8:43 am

you cant argue with the stats…and then the ones that do stick around have in many cases settled for a low bar of fatherhood as in just being present…i give props to anyone that can raise a child individually, its hard enough as a team…

Reply

3 BigLittleWolf June 20, 2011 at 9:41 am

As one of those 84%, and doing it virtually solo, I’ll say that the price is terribly, terribly high. And while I cannot quantify the collective impact (opportunity cost, drag on our health care system, the psychological impacts on our children, among others), it is shameful that a nation with the potential of ours cannot do better.

I thank you for recognizing these realities on Father’s Day, and the fact that men and women both should be sharing in the raising of their children. It’s best for all of us, and certainly for the next generation.

Reply

4 Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri June 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm

The statistics are alarming. No solutions here, but nodding in agreement that parenting in a partnership is much easier than the solo route. I have tremendous admiration for those who take sole responsibility for that role.

Reply

5 Cathy June 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I think the reason all those dads are MIA is related to the same reason women are still secondary in the workforce. Women, by nature, are more bound to their children. I think their instinct (and socialization although find me a society where the man takes primary responsibility of the child) to protect and care runs far deeper than the father.

Reply

6 Fr. Michael June 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

I think a single parent is heroic; but there’s no question that the ideal is to have a good mother and a good father in the home. MIA fathers, I think, is a huge problem and I believe it has contributed to a real crisis of manhood in our culture.

On a personal note, I definitely love being a father figure…spiritually speaking.

Reply

7 Mia June 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm

It’s tough when a father wants to be there, but the mother moves away, any each time he tries to move close, she moves again. There are many fathers who are no longer with the mother, that WANT to be in the child’s life, but that option is removed because of the mother. Much respect to you, fathers, who fight for your parental rights.

Reply

8 Belinda June 25, 2011 at 7:35 am

Great, point, Mia. When parents don’t have shared custody, it makes for a complicated situation.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: