What Should it “Take” to Be a Father?

(c) 2012, Davd

Paralleling substantially but not entirely, what i wrote in April, as Mother’s Day approached, this essay is about the seriousness of fatherhood, about the social conditions required to do it really well, and about the reasons, more legal and bureaucratic than ecological and demographic, not to enter fatherhood “lightly.” Motherhood is easier to get into and stay into, than fatherhood, these days. That does not make it more important nor easier, though many Feminists seem to believe it is.

To repeat the question that i asked about motherhood, and many people asked about parenthood generally in less wealthy but wiser times: Should all men be blessed—even allowed—to father children? The usual answer, historically, was No: Men who were able to achieve, with the support of their community, a family homestead1, trade, or business, which “produced enough to support a family”, were allowed to marry. Marriage was for life; and with marriage nearly always came children2. As a natural consequence of fidelity, children grew up in their fathers’ homes. The social atmosphere furthermore, prescribed father custody if the father was competent and not guilty of grievous fault: Only widows were blessed to have children without husbands.

Most childless men were bachelors; a few were ‘sterile’ or married to women who were. A very few became gigolos, but that was extremely rare—much rarer than were women with the wealth to support one.

Times have changed drastically since conditions were “like that”; and we are just beginning to see the social consequences of the changes. First came the Industrial Revolution, and a few men had job-employment that paid well enough to support a family. Then came labour unions, and many more men had job-employment that paid well enough to support a family. Partly because job-workers, unlike farmers, home-based tradesmen, and professionals, could not readily supervise their children during working hours; mother custody became common and then predominant upon divorce, which itself became steadily more common.

The “Baby Boom” which took place during the 20 years immediately following World War II, resulted from the combination of abundant well-paid jobs, a “Great Depression” followed by a war (which suppressed childbearing for 10-15 years), and the “social inertia” which maintained marriage fidelity for the late 1940s and 1950s—not perfectly, but well enough for most women to be faithful to decent but imperfect husbands; and thus, for most men to trust marriage. The 1960s began much as the “Baby Boom” years had been, and ended with “sex, drugs, and rock-n’-roll”.

Today, some 50 years after that “Sixties change” began, more marriages end in divorce than by “death doing us part”; mother custody upon divorce is “normal”, which places a burden of proof upon men seeking to remain fathers even if they are entirely qualified and did not seek to end the marriage; and so, being a father at all is no longer a matter of willingness and fidelity, as it was for most men when i was a boy. This is doing immense social damage, which has been documented (Finley, 2010). It is a “correctional truism” that very few boys with good fathers go to prison. It is a “social work truism” that fewer girls with good fathers get pregnant in their teens, go on drugs, or catch STDs. A mother who wants her children “off drugs”, free of STDs, teen pregnancy, and criminal experience; can do more to achieve those worthy goals by sharing their nurture with a father, than by worldly success (never-mind fashionable attire or location).

Why are fathers—resident, participating fathers—effective at keeping children out of prison? Armstrong (2008: 12) states of the words Duty, Obligation, and HonorI’d read them in books. But I’d never used them, and certainly not as a reason for having done something.” She goes on to write that she was quite surprised that most men do give great weight to these words, and don’t much trust the minority of men who do not. On pp 44-5, she specifies that women lie when they say “I care about you”; and as context for her surprise that men care about duty, obligation, and honor, she remarks that her reason for spending a no-fun day to please her mother, would have been that Mother would be mad at her if she didn’t (2008: 11).

Men more often operate from principle, women more often operate from a desire to feel good and after that, to help others feel good. Is it difficult to deduce which style will lead to more crime? more drug use? more unplanned pregnancy and STD transmission? Senator Daniel Moynihan is quoted as saying, “A community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken homes, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future—that community asks for and gets chaos.”

“Society obviously wants” its children off-drugs, free of STDs, teen pregnancy, and criminal history; or at least, that’s what seems logical. When we look at how “society” treats fathers and fatherhood, it would be easy to conclude that society is behaving self-destructively. Glubb (1978) would perhaps conclude that “American society” is senile3. Canada is not an empire and never has been one; but as an adjoining and substantially dependent ‘state’, may be inferred to have adopted many of its practices from the U.S.A.—and from Britain, an empire whose end Glubb (1978: 2) dates at 1950, very shortly before the beginning of the reign of H. M. Elizabeth II4.

The main points i wrote in “What Should it Take to Be a Mother?” apply to fatherhood as well: A 25-year or longer commitment to parenthood; a durable, faithful marriage; a natural liking for children—and for seeing them grow-up rather than remain babyish; and a disposition to rear three or more children, preferably with grandparents, uncles, and aunts to share the work and the fun. It’s at least as true for men as for women, that if you’re not the sort for parenthood, you should feel no guilt and no shame in saying so; and no pressure to accept responsibility to raise or support children if you don’t want it (and have made clear that you don’t want it.)

There seems to be no scarcity of men who like children—surely not in relation to family sizes of 3-8 children per couple—and men seem more disposed than women to encourage children to mature, to grow up. Contrary to some Feminist rhetoric, women today abandon and desert their husbands more often than men do their wives; and the best interpretation “Why?” seems to be “because the laws favour women upon divorce.” Given the legal biases in statute and practice, today’s divorce statistics may not prove that women are less faithful than men; but they do demonstrate that women will put selfish interests ahead of keeping their word5.

The need for—and frequent failure of wives to keep—a durable, faithful marriage is the chief cause of today’s crisis of fatherhood, as best we can tell. More women, more often “fail their men;” than do men fail those women who are willing themselves to keep faith. There are two “levels at which women fail their men (and thereby, fail their children)”: Desertion [abandonment], and exploitation of their legal privileges, typically via threats to break the marriage. Desertion breaks the day-to-day connection between father and child; exploitation [intimidation by threat of legal action] warps the natural exercise of fatherhood. “Yes, dear”, especially when uttered in a timid voice, is not an independent second opinion—and often, an independent second opinion from the more-principled male perspective is “what is best for the child.” Most mothers can be “relied upon” to provide ample intuitive emotionality; and some may provide too much.

So while i urge all men contemplating fatherhood to look candidly at themselves and “make sure” of their natural liking for children, their disposition to see those children grow-up rather than remain babyish; and their disposition to rear three or more; those are seldom sources of trouble. Most men who want to be fathers even knowing their legal disadvantages, have those qualities. “The hard part” is assuring the fidelity of your marriage in a legal environment where marriage in law falls far short of what the Holy Books of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism meant it to be—in a legal environment where the word “marriage” has changed almost as profoundly since “the Fifties” as has the word “gay” in Politically Correct verbiage6.

If i know a strategy to pursue, to empower yourself as a father and maintain that empowerment and the fidelity that goes with it, for the decades that fatherhood should last; that strategy is brotherhood, in at least two senses of the word. If you have brothers in the natural sense, men who have the same father and mother and were boys with you in your boyhood home, i would strongly encourage you to stick together geographically and perhaps occupationally. But if you haven’t natural brothers, or if for reasons of age-difference or-whatever, you have buddies, a father, uncles, men-cousins, who are closer to you than your genealogical brothers—remember that humanity evolved with men hunting in closely interdependent teams. Brotherhood is something men can learn their way into if they’re not born-into; and the Great Faiths back that up7.

Imagine, if you’re urban, that you and some “brothers” born or buddied, own a small apartment house as a co-operative. If you “marry” a woman, move her in with you, and she turns fickle—your home belongs to the co-operative, you are the senior member if she became one at all, and naturally, you stay there if there’s a break-up. Which means your children can stay in their regular home with their uncles and cousins next-door—in your care. (Some rural parallels might be a big farmhouse shared with kin, or two or more farms near by one another, or a co-operatively owned fishing boat tied up at the wharf near where you all live.)

That’s a salutary incentive not to turn fickle, eh?

Similarly, if your work is organized within a co-operative of brothers born or buddied, you can have fatherhood time when you and-or the children need it. Your career can be as irregular as best serves your whole life including those children, and very possibly your contribution to subsistence will be substantially non-monetary. (Yes, two of the things that went wrong in the Baby Boom Fifties, were men going away from home to work and women staying home without adult kin, where many did more consumerist than real “work”.)

Perhaps there are other strategies than brotherhood, that will work comparably well. Brotherhood is my own favourite, for very good reasons that are positive rather than merely defensive. Whatever your strategy, if you want fatherhood and not failure, that strategy should provide incentives to fidelity (for you as well as for her, but recognizing that these days women are more tempted to stray); and provide that if despite those incentives she strays, the children will stay with you.

Tell any woman; tell women in general: “Show me how I can trust your fidelity, before I seriously consider marrying—or starting a pregnancy—with you.” Yes, that’s asking a lot. Given the many stories “out there” about men being betrayed, men being intimidated, and men being subjected to “divorce theft”, you need to ask a lot—because the law, as statutes and as precedents, give women a lot of incentive to exploit.  Brotherhood-in-action is one salutary way to offer an answer, a “how I can trust…” that men should value, cultivate, and acknowledge as part of the context of fatherhood.  There is much validity to that folk-saying “It takes a village to raise a child;” and villages are very often networks of kinship and buddyship.

It’s not just you who will suffer if you “lose your children.” They will suffer at least as much, more in life-chances than in “instant gratification”. They need you even more than you need them.

References:

Armstrong, Alison, 2008. Making Sense of Men. Sherman Oaks, California: PAX Programs Inc.

http://www.avoiceformen.com/mission-and-values/about/
Canning, Dr. Greg, 2012. “Girls behaving badly”. http://www.avoiceformen.com/women/girls-behaving-badly/
Dafoe-Whitehead, Barbara, 1993. “Dan Quayle Was Right” Atlantic Monthly, April.
http://fallenfathers.blogspot.com/2007/03/children-without-fathers-statistics.html
Finley, Gordon E., 2010. “On Fatherhood.” Men’s News Daily, June 16.   Prof. Finley has published considerable research on fatherhood, and this text has more authority than many.
Glubb, John Bagot, 1978. The Fate of Empires. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd. ISBN 0 85158 127 7

What Should it Take to Be a Mother?”   Everyman website, April 25.

1. There were family estates, among the rich, that were operated substantially by hired or slave labour; and there were a few professions, especially medicine, law, and the [Jewish, Orthodox and Protestant] clergy, which provided housing and income enough to rear children.

2. Let’s remember that reliable low-cost contraception first became available in the 1930s.

3. He observed that of some 13-14 empires [depending whether or not one includes the United States of America, which his text discusses but his table does not list], all had lifespans of 207-267 years except the last, the United States of America, which at the time he wrote had existed for 200 years or less and was not yet due to expire. He provisionally concluded that the natural lifespan of an empire was about 10 human generations, or 250 years. 34 years after Glubb’s short book was published, the U.S.A. is now in its tenth generation of existence, and thus, by his analysis, moribund.

4. The present Canadian Government seems to be emphasizing the British Monarch as Head of the Canadian State, meticulously compelling new citizens to swear allegiance to Her, contrary to the majority sentiment of the public (CBC News website, Apr. 5). It is worth noting that the British Empire ended some two generations ago, according to Glubb; and that the latest commonly given date for its end was  the 1956 “Suez crisis.”  The retention of the British Monarch as Head of the Canadian State would seem to indicate subservience to a former imperial mistress—and in respect to fatherhood, subservient acceptance of misguided denigration which seems to parallel the last days of the Roman and Arab Empires.

5. “Before entering into marriage men need to know the odds are so stacked against them in divorce that the failure of a marriage literally can kill a man.” The article linked contains several affirmations of specific aspects of misandric biases in divorce, custody, and support law. (It is written by a practicing physician.)

6. I really like dogs!—and one of my favourite breeds is the “Labrador retriever.” A dog book i brought home from the Public Library to read with one of my sons, described the breed as carrying their tails “gaily”—it had been published before the homosexual lobbyists had captured “gay”. My son thought that was comically absurd; i was saddened.

7. Christianity has Matt 23: 6-9; Islam teaches the brotherhood of all Muslim men.

 

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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