Father’s Day recently passed and with that holiday usually comes comparisons of the roles of mothers and fathers. But particularly the overwhelming scrutiny of the absence of many men who have fathered children (at least in the biological sense).
Mothers in our society are very often celebrated, but fathers on the other hand don’t receive nearly as much praise or recognition on the same level. But when we observe a standup father doing a decent job, we tend to overcompensate as if him being a father is some amazing feat. And not something generally expected of him. I’m not saying that fathers should not be celebrated but just that we should uphold the fathers to a standard similar to that of mothers.
It’s no secret that America is plagued with a disproportionate number of families living without a “present” father than those who have a two-parent (male and female) household. I think that has a lot to do with our society in how women are portrayed in media. I’ve written on that topic previously. While this isn’t the only reason for the imbalance, it certain is a contributing factor. But that’s not to wholly blame women for their actions but equally to share in the blame are the men who perpetuate it.
If we think about the Baby Boomers’ parents, we typically think of two-parent households and marriages that really meant “til death do you part” but somewhere in the last half-century or so, things changed.
Many of my friends close to my age have parents that never married. So somewhere between my grandparents’ generation and my parents’ generation, family values, family make-up, and family dynamic seem to have drastically changed.
After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that 3 reasons or any combination of them are behind the increase in the number of absentee fathers. They are:
- Lack of Respect
- Lack of Responsibility
- Lack of Recourse
Create imbalance in the home
Impact the child’s self-esteem
Can promote the seeking of affection from outside sources.
In my humble opinion, I think that men who knowingly father children but choose not to participate and help raise their children, often feel no responsibility to the child or the mother. Which in some cases stemmed from a lack of respect for the woman/mother. And because there aren’t strong measures in place for any recourse for absent fathers this cycle continues.
This post is geared mostly towards parents that had a short-term relationship prior to the child’s conception. That’s not to say that the children of married folks don’t suffer from some of the same issues.
Respect is generally earned, so it’s rare to truly respect someone you’ve known for only a few hours. In cases of one-night-stands and relations with those you don’t know very well, you do yourself a huge disservice by not refraining from engaging in intimate acts at least until both parties are a bit invested.
Here’s where I put a bit of the blame on the woman since in most cases that’s where the respect issue begins.
People can only do what you allow them to. So in those intimate moments–if the woman had respected herself in that moment to refrain from engaging in that act, the man would have no choice but to do the same.
This is more of a combination of the media portraying women who put themselves on display in a disrespectful manner and women and men who condone and perpetuate that.
In the end, us women must do a better job of respecting ourselves if we expect for men to do the same. Because a man who respects a woman who bore his child would never want for that woman or the child to suffer or do without because of his lack of participation.
Responsibility means being accountable for your actions. Meaning every action causes a reaction. If your actions contributed to an unfavorable outcome, it is still attributable to you and therefore need to take ownership of it. It is cowardly to run and hide from things you are held responsible for. (Children, debt, taxes etc.)
Studies show that the non-existence of a committed relationship significantly increases the chances that the male will be less likely to be a contributing parent to the subsequent child.
If a man has no obligation to a woman (such is the case in any committed relationship) he is much less likely to be around once a child is born. He feels no responsibility or commitment to the mother and therefore no responsibility to the child.
Sometimes, if you can observe someone long enough from your interactions with them you can assess their “responsibleness”. Do they pay their bills on time, do they respect others, do they abide by rules and laws, are the respectful of time etc. These won’t be a 100% determining factor but you’ll get a sense of who they are. But in a lot of cases, if the person is generally a responsible person and they become “a ghost” after the pregnancy/birth of the child, then chances are the real reason he left was sheer fear. Perhaps fear of not being a good father, fear of not being able to financial support another individual, fear of all the changes that will surely come with a child and a million other fears. Expecting mothers have many of these same fears for themselves and their child. So this doesn’t excuse the father.
Seemingly the only recourse that a mother has to tie the child to the father is financial child support. Child support can be a deterrent for fathers to be active parents for two main reasons. The first is that they feel that their obligation is met because of his financial contribution. The second is that they resent the mother so much for garnishing their wages or altering their lifestyle financially that they punish the mother (and ultimately–really, the child) by not spending time or actively engaging with the child. Additionally, they also may not feel any obligation to pay child support, knowing that there are many men who never pay and have commonly not been persecuted for it.
Therefore, if a man has no respect for the child’s mother, lack of responsibility for the child he created, and feels there is no real recourse that forces him to take an active role, then what motivation does he really have to do the right thing?
Most importantly I think that if men who knowingly father children would just be real MEN by adding value to their child’s life. Make that child a priority it’ll be so much more rewarding than imaginable. That fear that most expecting parents have should not deter anyone from doing what is right. For fathers who currently have children and are not participating, step up! You’d be surprise how being a father can positively affect your life and the child’s. Children are a blessing not a burden!
The bottom-line is that you will never really know if someone will stick around after a pregnancy. But you can do what is in your power to give yourself and your child the best possible chance to have a fulfilling relationship with both parents and the family live that he/she deserves.