Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


What's the big deal with fathers anyway?

I thought I could do some links this week, but after a few days during which I had some time to surf the web, I ran into obstacles. The kids are actually taking up a lot of my time - imagine that!

So it's Father's Day, and although I don't buy into these ridiculous Hallmark-mandated holidays (I'm not knocking it, because I got a few books from the wife, but it's still silly), it is a good day to reflect on fatherhood and what it means in today's world.

I love being a father. Despite yelling at my kids when they don't do what they should (well, Mia gets the brunt of it, because she understands me, but Norah knows the word "no" now, so she gets a little of it) and realizing that I shouldn't yell at them because it will eventually turn them into serial killers, I really enjoy being a father. In our society, there is a lot of debate about "traditional" families and how those crazy gays and lesbians want to destroy it and how can two women raise a child when kids need a father, damn it! That's what the "traditionalists" say, anyway. Well, maybe, maybe not. Lots of fine people have been raised by single mothers, just as lots of fine people have been raised by single fathers. Fatherhood, however, still doesn't get a lot of respect, which is strange.

Part of this is due to feminism. Yes, I'm going to attack feminism! Well, not really - the basic tenet of feminism, it seems to me, is that women should be treated as human beings and not chattel, which is certainly a noble thing. Feminists, for the large part, are not man-hating harpies, as the conservative right would have you believe, but a vocal segment of feminists claim that one woman can do the job of two people (whether they are women or men doesn't really matter). In child rearing, this means that a single mother is just as capable as a woman married to a man, or two women, or two men. This is where fathers become downgraded and even extraneous, and it bothers me. Because no single person can do as good a job, especially in raising a child, as two people can. We are, of course, talking about committed individuals - if one part of the couple isn't interested, it could be far more damaging than a single person raising a kid. Because mothers are seen as having a far more emotional attachment to their children - they did, after all, carry them in their wombs for nine months - fathers are the ones written out of the equation.

This bugs me, as it should everyone. Again, I'm not going to bash single mothers, most of whom have no choice in the matter. However, you can't tell me that a devoted single mother is a better choice to raise a child than two devoted parents, which usually means a mother and a father (not to downplay gay couples raising kids, but I suspect their numbers are miniscule). First, single mothers usually have to work, and work a lot, and this cuts down on time spent with the children. Kids need to spend time with their parents, and that's difficult when the single parent has to work all the time just to provide the necessities for their kids. In America, obviously both parents have to work often, which presents the same problems, but at least parents who both work can try to juggle their schedules. The extra income is nice, too. In a household where only one parent has to work, like mine, the kids benefit from the time they get with the parent who stays home. If Krys were a single parent, she would probably be forced to move closer to her home because she wouldn't be able to afford the kind of child care that Mia needs. And if Mia were in a "regular" day care (which she probably wouldn't be, because they wouldn't take her, but let's imagine), she wouldn't get the care she needs. We're lucky that I get to stay home, but the situation is the same in households with two parents - the kids get to bond with their parent, and I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that makes for better kids.

Fathers in the equation are often discounted because they have always been seen as the breadwinners. Ironically, in our post-feminist world, stay-at-home dads are still seen as a bit of an anomaly, mainly because even after all the advances feminists have made, men still get paid more and are hardwired to a certain extent to believe they must be the providers in a family. A small example of this: above the title of Parenting magazine is the tag line: "What really matters to moms." [Emphasis mine, obviously.] The articles are largely mom-centric, although not overwhelmingly so. There still seems to be an unspoken criticism of stay-at-home dads, as if they can't provide for their families and there's no possible way they could be as good a parent as the mother. It's a bizarre double-standard, and one that is slowly changing as more fathers stay home with their kids and more mothers stay in the workplace. I'm certainly not saying I'm any better than Krys as a parent - I'm different, but not better. But I think I do a pretty good job when I am home alone with Mia and Norah, and they seem to have a good time, too.

The biggest problem with fathers today is fathers themselves. Men in general are weird in different ways than women are, and unfortunately, neither gender wants to admit that they can learn stuff from the other. Men, I think, find raising children less macho than they should, and therefore often pass off to mothers the nuts and bolts of it. This has a lot to do, I think, with the way men are raised - not necessarily poorly, but it does seem a lot more difficult for men to be as emotionally connected to their children. I love Mia and Norah more than anything, but I think Krys feels more connected to them - again, because she carried them inside her. That allows me, I believe, to be a little more objective about them. Krys spoils them more. Part of this is because she's a woman, and part of this is because she's not around them for hours and hours on end. When she gets home from work, they pine for her, and she indulges them a little more than I do. I shouldn't write "spoil" because I don't think they're spoiled. I suppose she's more attendant to them - I ignore them a lot, because I think they need to figure things out for themselves. Well, not Mia, but Norah. I've had to stop typing this twice because she has wandered off, and I looked around and realized she was far away. So I had to follow her - I'll ignore her, but I don't want her getting into trouble! Krys doesn't do that - she sits with them and talks to them more than I do, and I don't know what's better. I think it's good that they get a mixture of both styles. But I still love them dearly, and I can't imagine being the kind of father who doesn't show them how much I love them. Fathers need to realize that showing emotions doesn't make you less manly, while mothers need to realize that smothering your kids with kisses doesn't mean you love them more than fathers do. The balance between mother and father helps kids, I think, to be more well-rounded. Krys and I both have different skills as adults, and I hope we can pass on both to our kids. I know I'm going to teach them not to "throw like girls," because Krys sure won't be able to!

It's a shame in society that fathers often end up the deadbeats and losers in a relationship, but it also seems like bad fathers get more publicity than bad mothers. In Arizona, as I'm sure around the country, there is a bit of an epidemic of boyfriends killing the children of their girlfriends. The men get the worst of it, naturally, but only until recently did the state start holding the women responsible as well - the kids, after all, are theirs, and often they're more concerned about pleasing the boyfriend than making sure their kids are safe. There are bad father and bad mothers, but for some reason we always try to find excuses for bad mothers - they're insane, they're depressed - instead of just recognizing that some people are bad parents. We have no problem trashing a dad who does something horrible, after all.

So it's a day to celebrate fathers, and that's fine. I think being a dad is a wonderful thing, and I'm very glad Krys and I decided to have kids, even though they drive me insane occasionally. It's also nice to see that we are continually breaking down stereotypes of both men and women, because that can only benefit both the kids and the family unit in general. Kids flourish in families - no matter what kind - and that's what's important. Isn't it?

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Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

"In child rearing, this means that a single mother is just as capable as a woman married to a man, or two women, or two men." In everything I've ever read about feminism, and I've read a lot, especially last century, this has NEVER been a conclusion I would have drawn.

19/6/06 3:42 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

If anyone deserves a happy father's day, it's the guys like you who have elected to stay home to care for the kids. I don't have kids, but it doesn't look like an easy job!!

19/6/06 7:51 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Roger - I completely forgot to follow up on that. I don't mean across-the-board, but it seems like there is a great deal of literature written by rich and famous people who laud the raising of a child one their own as single mothers. It's not the prevailing trend by any means, but I find it humorous that rich people claim they're single mothers when I'm sure they have a battalion of people taking care of their kids for them. It annoys me. I didn't mean to tar all feminists with such a broad brush, because as I mentioned, "feminism" to me means making sure women are treated like human beings, which is a good thing.

19/6/06 8:51 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks, Ashley. It's not easy, but it's easier than I expected. Especially when the kids are good, like mine are!

19/6/06 8:52 AM  
Blogger chosha said...

"Fathers in the equation are often discounted because they" traditionally and even today tend to spend far less time with their children, and when they do, tend to play, not feed/bathe/dress/teach them.

"Ironically, in our post-feminist world, stay-at-home dads are still seen as a bit of an anomaly, mainly because" so few of them exist.

I know good fathers, but it has been true in the past and is still often true today to say that even a lot of married women are still single parents. Some guys have stepped up to the plate to change that, but it's nowhere near being the norm.

19/6/06 6:25 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I don't have any empirical evidence, Chosha, so I'm not going to say that fathers spend less time with their kids - it's probably true, but I'm not going to say it! However, it's strange that when an evil mother shows up, we don't condemn all mothers, but when an evil father shows up, we condemn fathers in general. That ain't right!

You're right, though - very often fathers don't act like fathers. It's all about the way they're raised, I imagine. I hope it's changing.

19/6/06 7:38 PM  
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