Sunday, June 2, 2013

Being the Breadwinner is Not the Epitome of Fatherhood

We have all read and heard about the controversies surrounding the stay-at-home mom versus the working-mom versus the know-it-all-single-woman who thinks she knows everything even though she has never had a longterm relationship, marriage or given birth to any children.(HERE HERE) But now we have a new and rather inane controversy  effecting the male members of our society. Apparently new statistics have come out that for a large portion of households, the women are the major breadwinners.  Watch HERE. This seems to have caused some rather neanderthal heads to explode and accuse society of going to hell in a handbasket. HERE

I do understand that we have 24/7 news channels that need to have new topics to discuss on an hourly basis, but in truth there are real issues around the world to talk about that do not involve some first-world-narcissism. I would suspect that in a large portion of the world, in fact in many American households as well, families are less worried about who brings home the bacon as opposed to them actually being afraid that there will not be any bacon in the house at all.

If you also thought this nonsense ended with the news channels you are wrong. Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here

Sadly what has been lost in the hullabaloo about money and worth in our society is just what exactly is the job of being a father?  What does fatherhood actually entail? What actually makes a male a good father?

Is it the size of the paycheck? If that were so I would submit then, that Bernie Madoff was probably a really good dad, even though he ended up causing such trauma for his family that one of his sons committed suicide. The problem with society and so many of our cultural norms is that we are judged not by the content of our character but by the size of our bank balance and paycheck.

Here, then, is my list of dos for being a good father:

* Actually being available when your child needs you.
* Making certain that whatever your child throws at you you deflect it and come back looking for more.
* Patience, understanding and caring about the human being(s) you helped bring into the world before you care about anything else, especially yourself.
* Compassion, teaching your child to care about others.
* Competence, showing your child that whatever they do, they do to the best of their ability.
* Kindness.
* Respect for women. It is essential that real men teach their sons what it means to be in a respectful, mutually fulfilling relationship.
* Role modeling. Men need to show and teach their sons how to be good, kind and gentle people to those around them.
* Ethics and morals are a major aspect of being a real man. There are rights and wrongs in this world. It is essential that men teach their sons that the stronger you are the more ethical a person you will become.
* Not being condescending towards others.
* Laughing with your child.
* Finding mutual interests, or if there are none, supporting what your child likes to do.
* Hugging your child or crying with them when necessary.
* Caring for your child when they are sick.
* Planning for your child's future.
* Educating your child (through graduate school at least).
* Teaching how to clean a house as well as how to rebuild a car motor.
* Knowing that your child is not an extension of you, a golden adornment, but a person in their own right.
* Teaching the right way to defend their beliefs.
* Modeling honor, and duty.
* Understanding that if your child has issues and/or special needs it makes them no less important and no less a person to be loved.

Now where did I learn what it means to be a good father. Definitely from my own dad and watching the hubby help me raise our two boys as well. Fatherhood, like motherhood, is not an easy gig. It takes time, energy, patience and above all selflessness.

Many lament that the breakdown of the marriage has caused this dearth of fatherhood. But simply because a marriage fails or was never in the works, does not mean a man cannot be a good father. Parenthood is divorced from the adult relationship that brought the child into the world. Adult relationship issues have no bearing, or should have no bearing, on raising the child. This is about responsible parenting, nothing more and definitely nothing less.

Responsibility is also something I teach my own sons. Responsibility in life includes the choices you make. If you choose to have sex and are not ready to be a parent use birth control. If the girl gets pregnant its up to her if you become a father or not. If she chooses fatherhood then your obligation to that child is for the rest of your life. So think before you act and be certain the person you sleep with is someone you would want to be the mother of your children.

In the end, it does not mean a man is less than a man if his wife or the woman in his life earns a bigger paycheck. Sometimes that is the necessary reality that people have to live with, especially since the downturn in the economy. Gender roles and the rules are changing in the world. What should also change is the basis upon which we measure a person's worth in this world. What a person adds to the world "ethically, morally, emotionally and spiritually" is what is most important. Not how much money they earn so they can buy crap.

Remember in the end (who goes to an office, which parent if any stays home with the children, or who is the top breadwinner) you need to figure out what is best for your family and ultimately what makes you both good parents.


P.S.  Yes, it is a fact that most women who are the breadwinners are in single family homes without male financial support of any kind (deadbeat dads abound). There is no male role model for the children and no positive male influence. But that is also the choice in many cases of the mother and/or an absent father who does not assert his parental role or rights. The effects on the children have been studied and I can say these studies are not encouraging. Sadly it is also a different discussion for another day.