Saturday, January 03, 2004


"Most fathers are, in some ways if not in others, assets to their children - or can become so. Not just through shared activities and communication, but through the time, money and skills they contribute to the household, the support they provide to their children's mother, through the networks (family, friends, workmates) attaching to them.

And in less tangible but no less meaningful ways, as a cornerstone of their children's identity and security, as the family representative of that powerful archetype "the father" and through their tendency (as one researcher put it) "to be irrationally emotionally connected to their children". That is, to love them madly and stay loyal to them for life.

As a society, we do almost nothing to support fathers in their multi-faceted roles: whether in the work/family arena (who talks about giving working fathers "choices"?), in maternity and children's services (where parent almost invariably means mother), in the child-care debate (where dads are never mentioned), in the criminal justice system or in education (where strategies to engage fathers are as rare as hens' teeth). Let alone in separation and divorce - where, because the quality of the father-child relationship is so powerfully affected by the mother-father relationship, relationships between men and their children are often on the rocks long before either parent walks out the door.

We have no targets, no aspirations for mainstreaming fathers' involvement in any sector. Hysteria over the alleged "epidemic of fatherlessness" erupts periodically - but who notices the one-in-three young adults from "intact" families whose relationships with their fathers rate as "very poor"?

Who looks out for the father-daughter relationship, among the gnashing of teeth about boys growing up without role models? Who challenges the "cult of motherhood" which places such heavy burdens on new mothers - and, later, on employed mothers? Who notices that while girls are encouraged to broaden their employment horizons, and the number of women going into child care dwindles yearly, there are no corresponding strategies to prepare boys for non-traditional occupations?"

More here.

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