Are fathers obsolete?
By Dr. Larry Fedewa
After a generation of “free love”, unlimited abortions, increases in divorce, single mothers, unwed mothers, single sex parents, and fatherless children, it may be a good idea to re-visit the concept of fatherhood. For those who are unfamiliar with the term: a father is first of all a man, not a woman. A father is a man who is committed to his wife and who is willing to proclaim publicly and legally that commitment through a marriage ceremony. A father is a man who also has publicly and legally committed to support for any children who may be born of that union. Finally, a father is a man who has undertaken to maintain these commitments for life, through good times and hard times, “until death do us part.”
There is also another definition of “father”, which is taken in a biological sense, as the donor of the sperm which results in a birth, whether in or outside the marriage bond or any other level of commitment. Law and custom have attempted to enforce a commitment to various levels of support for the mothers and/or the children of such unions, but increasingly without success. After all, why bother when an abortion can eliminate the claim, and the refusal to abort can be interpreted as a relinquishment of all such claims? In our current world, therefore, “biological father” is almost useless as a definition of “father”.
That leaves the traditional meaning of the term as described above. It also leaves that definition as increasingly rare in our experience, or so the movies and news would have it. The popular culture has elevated the roles and rights of women at the expense of men in general, and fathers in particular. But what difference does it make? Who needs fathers?
Before we answer that question, it is instructive to think about why such a question should arise in the first place? The answer has to do with the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s. That is when oral contraceptives came into common use in the Western world. This development coincided with the recognition that children were no longer the economic bonus in urban America as they had been in rural America. A large farm family had a financial advantage as the children grew up because of lower labor costs. A large family of city-dwellers has higher costs of housing, food, health care, and education with no corresponding increase in income. The ability to limit pregnancies easily was thus a simple, straightforward answer to this dilemma.
But along with these family planning conveniences came another result: the increased opportunities for promiscuity. Until the introduction of oral contraceptives, the customary and intuitive role of women had been as guardians against out-of-wedlock liaisons. Suddenly all restrictions became unnecessary if the female contraceptives were employed. Sexual activities came to be viewed as a form of entertainment. Adverse results in the form of pregnancies were easily prevented by prescriptions or eliminated by legal abortions.
In this more promiscuous environment, other social movements caught fire. Women began to realize that their social roles were no longer restricted for the family-rearing years by unwanted pregnancies. Women’s rights to independence and careers outside the home had accelerated during WWII when women began during jobs previously reserved for men (remember “Rosie the Riveter”). These trends took on a new life and evolved into a major economic factor as an extension of the available workforce. Another consequence was a massive re-thinking of the role of men in society. The first responses in many cases were nearly grotesque, men taking every advantage of the sudden lifting of female safeguards against illicit sex. Divorce rates soared, marriage rates began to decline, as did pregnancies and birth rates.
As the sexual revolution matured, women demanded an expanded role for men in marriage, e.g. sharing housekeeping and baby care, as well as less control over family matters (since they were often major financial contributors). There were no rules. Traditional rules didn’t really apply and there was little consensus regarding new rules. In the meantime, women re-discovered the joys of motherhood, but increasingly without fathers present.
Who needs fathers? Not today’s modern women, say the feminists.
What are the results of this change in the winds of family life? For one thing, a lot of fatherless children. And a lot of over-stressed and overworked women. And a lot of lonely and distressed men. This new system doesn’t seem to be working.
One place to start rebuilding a healthy family life would be with men. Perpetual adolescence may be fun and exciting, but it is no way to live your whole life. Men need children as much as women do. Men need to have someone to care for, to live for, and, if necessary, to die for. Fathers are not like the bachelor stallions who live on the periphery of the herd waiting for the chance to mate with a wayward mare. We all need our own little band, our family. If circumstances – physical or otherwise – make fathering our own family impossible, some substitute should be found. Whatever its form, that fathering nevertheless has its own requirements.
A father must be a good husband – that means willing to support his wife emotionally as well as financially – to the best of his ability, as long as they both shall live. Some men duck out of marriage at the worst possible times, the times of greatest loss, whether sickness, finances or even death. No family can build a successful life on such a shaky foundation.
A father must be a good father – patient with his children, willing to sacrifice for them, to love them, and to help them face their own lives as they encounter each test along the way.
Who needs a father?
Your son needs a father to show him how to live, how to love, how to have fun, and how to die. Your daughter needs to know that there are good men in the world. Men make up half the world’s population. Your daughter needs to know how to tell the good ones from the bad ones. All her life she will compare the men she knows with the father who raised her.
You are that father. She needs you.
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