Parenting tip: Kids need Dads too…

I got this email from a reader this morning:

“I just wanted to write you and tell you I just came across your site as I was searching for Attachment Parenting groups in Boulder, and am thrilled to have found a voice of a single dad who takes the time to write about his kids and all the quirks that go along with being a parent with an attachment parenting framework…. As a single mother I’m usually focused on my world, which is usually void of men, and all my mom problems; and it is reassuring to know that dad’s suffer the same dillema’s as well. As redundant as that might sound, it is just true. I admire your honesty and look forward to reading more.”

While I am flattered at the positive feedback on the Attachment Parenting Blog, it also struck a chord with the sentence “focused on my world, which is usually void of men”. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard – or seen – this phenomenon, and so I’m going to take advantage of having my own blog to pontificate a bit.

I don’t know if it’s a natural outcome of feminism or what, but as a single Dad I have felt for a while that there’s a great subculture of women who believe that the world would be a better and more harmonious place without men. Any men. And while it might be true that us guys can be aggressive and territorial, I fear for the next generation of both men and women who are growing up in a predominantly female, anti-male environment.

There are definitely some guys who have problems around kids, whether it’s anger issues, inability to deal with children, lack of empathy, or just plain old lack of experience, but I think that only in the most extreme cases is the right solution to cut them out of the child’s life. It might take the proverbial village to raise a child, but it also takes a Mom and Dad to do so too, to create a well-adjusted child who is ready for adulthood.

More importantly, in case you haven’t been paying attention, there are plenty of women who aren’t particularly adept mothers either, and goodness knows I’ve seen plenty of moms yelling at their children, hitting them or just being plain mean while at a store, the park, getting into the car, etc.

Let’s face it, parenting’s pretty tough work and it’s not like there are reliable manuals out there (though there are a million books espousing everything from 6yo autonomy to Draconian consequences for the slightest infraction), but somehow when everything’s equal, it’s men that are blamed, accused and convicted, all without a chance to defend or explain or – more importantly – learn and grow.

So when I see a mom who is clearly a caring parent saying that her child is being raised in an environment “usually void of men” I can’t help but be alarmed. Sure, I’m saddened for the Dad, who I’m sure wishes he was more of a presence in their life (even the most frustrated dads, even those who have no parenting resources at all, still love their kids, at least in my discussions with lots of men), but I’m more distressed for the child.

It’s really not natural, not right, and not a path for a well-adjusted child for them to be in an environment where there are no men. For boys it’s obviously important for them to have male role models to emulate, whether they’re a favorite uncle, a father or a new boyfriend, but even more so for girls: without a man in their adolescent life, they are going to grow up unable to “figure guys out” and are statistically far more likely to get pregnant as teens and otherwise seek the approval of a male figure with their typically exploitive, horny young boyfriends. Not a good outcome at all!

As a single mom, I can totally understand you might have sworn off men after an abusive relationship, a complete jerk of a husband or lover, etc, but as a single dad, I entreat you to think of your child, not yourself. You don’t need to have a boyfriend, but yes, having men in your life, relatives, that cool guy down the street, a counselor from school, whomever, really is pretty darn critical to your child growing up and becoming a healthy, well-adjusted, successful adult.

So where are the men in your life?

11 comments on “Parenting tip: Kids need Dads too…

  1. Great point Dave.
    As you know, my former husband (we’re still very close) is a classic “kid magnet” — kids are drawn to him, and he loves and relates well to kids. We chose not to have kids ourselves, but love having kids in our lives.
    I’ve been surprised at 2 things:
    1) Friends who have kids often assume that people who don’t have kids don’t like/want to be around kids.
    2) Parents too often treat with suspicion men, in particular, who show an interest in other people’s kids — as if they’re all assumed to be potential child molesters.
    I’d encourage parents to examine these assumptions, conscious or unconscious, and consider their child-free adult friends (including men) as potential companions, friends, babysitters, etc. for their kids. Ask people how they feel about kids, and whether they’d like to be involved with kids.
    – Amy Gahran

  2. Wow, Dave, nice “rant”! I just stumbled across your blog, and happen to totally agree with you. I think that we’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy re: uninvolved fathers; that is, we raise boys without father figures and expect them to go out in the world and know how to have functional relationships and be a father to their children when it’s never been modeled for them! I’m not saying it can’t be done, but really the deck is stacked against them. I’ll stop there before I go into my own mini-rant 🙂
    Again, nice blog, I’ll be sure to read more!

  3. Dave, I thought it might be appropriate for me to comment, since you commented/ranted on the one I sent earlier. Obviously I should have clarified a bit more, or you could have asked, but, when I said my world is “usually void of men”, I meant dad’s. In all my playgroups, only mom’s attend, I work as a nanny, so I’m always at the park, where 99% of the caregivers are women (mom’s, and nannies), and as a single mother, it isn’t really easy to meet men. Everywhere I go, my child comes with me, and it’s assumed I’m married since I have a child with me, so I don’t really get out much. When I go to birthday parties, and other gatherings with friends, I am the only single parent there, and the dad’s are almost afraid to get caught talking with me. It’s as though dad’s can talk with other dad’s, and mom’s talk with other mom’s, and they’re not suppossed to mix. I haven’t “sworn off men”, they just don’t really make many appearances aside from family and a few life long friends. As far as men in my son’s life, he has not been cut out of his father’s life as you assumed; he sees him whenever he feels like making an appearance, and I actually share a house with my parents, which I chose to do so my son could grow up with a positive male influence in his life, because I know how important that is, and unfortunately, his father is not going to be the one to provide that. If you knew me at all you would know that the ONLY person I think about every day is my child, and his wellbeing. Maybe next time you should get to know someone before assuming so much about them.

  4. Glad for your clarification, Beth. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention you or offer any identifying information. I also used your comment as a jumping off spot for my commentary, it wasn’t my intention to accuse you of anything: As you highlight, I don’t have any additional information about your life and circumstances.
    What I was talking about instead – or at least *trying* to talk about – was the many single moms who seem to have just given up on men and how that proves to be a long-term problem for all of us.
    My apologies if you felt criticized. It wasn’t my intention, as I said.

  5. To Beth: I run an Attachment Parenting group for the Denver/Metro area that meets the 2nd Saturday of every month. It’s ended up being at my house in Thornton every time, which is kind of a haul from Boulder, but if you’re interested, join us! We do have several dads that attend. None single… yet. I totally agree that *all* of the groups locally seem to be totally without any men. I created our group because I was tired of seeing mom-only options. I wanted something for couples to hang out and talk about parenting (or single moms and dads, but both genders anyway). The hen-only environment can get a bit much for me sometimes. I like the energy that men provide. And besides, I’d like my hubs to be involved. I’ve tried talking hubs into joining no luck yet. All women there too as far as I can see. I don’t understand why *ALL* of the groups (virtual or no) seem to be void of men, but ours isn’t! Getting them to participate in our discussions is another battle, but at least we’re all there together. 🙂
    @Dave — I know a lot of assumptions are made regarding the roles of women/men in parenting, and things aren’t always balanced. But I completely disagree that dads are vilified in the way you describe. I think moms get the blame for most things. Dads that aren’t around for one reason or another may get some deadbeat-dad type accusations, but in most two-parent situations I think the stereotype is that it has been the mom (who is usually the main caregiver)that faces a lot of blame (from others and herself).
    Many women do joke about not needing men. I do think it’s mostly a joke. I also think it’s normal (especially for women) to vent about your partner or former partner, and that could easily be interpreted as blaming the man for things.

  6. Hi! I agree with you on many points. I’ve taken care to provide my daughter with examples of good men, of accepting and loving and strong men, to counter the fact that her biological father is not around at all and if she ever will have a relationship with him, it will not be the healthiest. My ex-boyfriend is abusive and has a drinking problem, in addition to the fact that he is unemployed and lives with/off his mother.
    I would also like to say that it is really hard to find these kinds of men. Strong individuals. I don’t know how it got this way, but it seems women are just doing a lot more for their families compared to men. Obviously there are exceptions, like you, but if I think about the men I know… I know one man personally who is willing to work as hard for his family as his wife. The rest? It seems like either they don’t care or then they just don’t know how to be responsible fathers and husbands. It depresses me. It can’t really be this way, can it?? But when trying to think of good role models for my child I was desperate for a while.
    My own father won’t do, he raised me and I know all the mistakes he made much too well. He’s the kind of dad who sends his teenage daughters off in a desperate search for approval from men.
    Are your friends like you? Do they know how to be adults? Husbands and fathers? In my family and circle of friends, it seems to be the exception that a child lives with or is raised by his/her biological father :/ The mothers I know would never desert their children. The fathers do by the hordes. And even the ones who stay seem to have to be parented by their wives 🙁

  7. Saga, that’s a bit of a drag. I know plenty of loving, responsible fathers, but I feel like it’s often a matter of having to prove ourselves as men, and that there are people who are just waiting for us to have a difficult time so they can say “see! you’re angry and dangerous”. Kind of a tough situation all around, and the people who end up the most adversely affected are kids who end up without fathers or any male role models in their lives.

  8. Hello Dave – I discovered you through Grandma Mary’s blog. Isn’t she a hoot?!
    I’ve been a single mom for the past 19 years and I have four daughters, including a set of twins. Whew! My ex-husband isn’t exactly the “supportive” type and he’s been way too busy leading his own life to be involved in the lives of his daughters. Too bad for him. They’re wonderfully resourceful, talented, self-starters, beautiful, and 4.2 GPA students.
    Since I’ve had to work three jobs, simultaneously, all these years to keep my head above quicksand – I’ve turned into an absolute loner. No time for socializing of any kind and all my family lives about 3000 miles away.
    Surprisingly enough, my daughters haven’t seemed to suffer as the result on not having a male influence in their lives. Quite the opposite. And my two oldest daughters have chosen wonderful partners.
    Feeling blessed – exhausted to the max from raising four children by myself – but blessed. 🙂

  9. An important side note: Studies of girls raised in homes without a biological father, but having another man present (adopted father, etc), have shown that the girls are more likely to go through puberty at an earlier age.
    This may be important to many as it adds an understanding that sexual maturity will find it’s way into your daughter’s life earlier than others.

  10. WELL SAID!!!
    I totally agree! Father’s involvement is crucial in child’s life and development. It makes them feel more secured, and well, everything that you have mentioned above. That is why even the Early Childhood Sector is looking for more male teachers!
    Great Post!!

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