J. Soltys's Weblog

June 27, 2008

Fathers, daughters, fishing, and Patsy Cline

I went out of town for a few days with a friend to a small lake for some fishing and some R&R.
It gave my friend and I a chance to talk guy talk – the talk that is mostly of nothing important, but at the same time, has those moments when men leave open the door of vulnerability, and proceed to express/share a thought/feeling with another man. Men are usually risk takers, but this is the kind of risk most men will take to see if another man agrees with him – an emotional risk – stretching his normal emotional boundaries to clarify or define his normalcy or manhood. When this happens, a man will look to another man, or other men, to see if these men feel the same way. If the other man/men agree, he knows he and his manhood are safe. If the reaction is one of, “You’re not serious dude – are you!”, he knows to keep those feelings to himself for the rest of his life.

I can clarify this by sharing a story that seems to be pretty common among men at some point in their life. I have experienced it, and have heard the story repeated by other men. It usually involves close friends, a late night card game, and alcohol.

At some point late in the evening, one man, usually the host walks over to the stereo to change the music. He decides to play a song that he enjoys, one that moves him emotionally, but hesitates because he knows the other men might spend the rest of the night humiliating him for the selection. But he says screw it, and takes the risk.
He puts the CD in, finds the track he wants to play, and the music begins to fill the air.

The card game stops as every man turns towards the stereo with an expression of disbelief. At that moment, the poor soul that took the risk knows his reputation, manhood, and status is balancing on a fine thread.
Then in a shocking moment of male bonding, all the men in the room say,

“F**cking “A” dude. Turn it up.”

The card game comes to a complete standstill while everyman soaks up the emotions and bliss the song evokes.

The man who played the song has not only maintained his manhood and status among his close male friends, but has in fact elevated it, because he had the balls to play the song around a bunch of men and admit that he likes the song. The other men in the room secretly liked the song also, but may have been afraid to admit it. Therefore, the “real man” of the group is the one showed courage for taking the risk and playing the questionable song.

I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I find most men can recount a moment like this, recalling it usually took place sometime in their early twenties.

While there are many different songs, there is usually one particular song that is common. So what is that song? “Crazy” by Patsy Cline.

So while sitting in the boat this past weekend, the sun going down, a beer in my hand, a fishing pole in the other (ditto for my friend who I’ll call Tim) and a small radio playing in the background, Tim says,

“Can I tell you about my Fathers Day?”

“Of course,” I say.

But before Tim speaks, here is some background that is meaningful to the story.

About ten years ago Tim went through a contentious divorce. His ex was awarded custody of their only child, a daughter.
At first, Tim experienced no problems with his daughter, the ex, or his visitations. But after about a year, he noticed his daughter, now entering her teen years, began putting distance between them. She was no longer excited to spend time with him, and Tim noticed she began making statements and comments that implied he was not a good father.
Tim talked to his ex about the situation. She seemed quick to blame Tim, and he sensed she also wanted the relationship between him and his daughter to end. She told Tim their daughter was old enough to make her own decisions about whether she wanted to have a relationship with him, so let it be. Tim suspected his ex was influencing their daughter.

Overtime Tim learned his daughter was being fed a consistent flow of negative comments about him by his ex-wife. Her comments did so much damage, that at one point when Tim ran into his daughter at a neighborhood social event, she ran away from him in fear.
I remember how affected Tim was by this. He told me,

“The only hope I have is that as she gets older she will recognize everything her mother told her about me is false. I hope as she matures and begins dealing with serious relationships herself, she will recognize how emotional they can be, and how people will do things to try and seriously hurt others out of spite. I can only hope she will recognize this, and put two and two together, so I can salvage a relationship with her after missing out on so much of her life.”

Then about two years ago Tim’s daughter called asking for money to put towards college expenses.

“How typical” Tim thought. “She only wants contact with me now because she needs something.”

So Tim said he would give her the money if she agreed to sit down and have a talk with him.
She agreed.

Tim figured he had one chance to set things straight, so he was going to tell like it is and keep his fingers crossed.
To summarize a lengthy conversation, Tim told his daughter that he knows he’s not a perfect man, not a perfect father, and will never achieve either. But the one thing he assured her is that he has always tried very hard to be both, not just for himself, but for her also, because he has always loved her and never stopped loving her. He said,

“I could sit here and rip your mother apart for the lies she has told you about me. I could spend hours talking about how she has destroyed our relationship and how I will never get those years back – they are lost. But I won’t do that. I feel you need to see for yourself how your mother has damaged our relationship. And the only way you can see that is by letting me back into your life so you can determine for yourself if I am this terrible person your mothers says I am. Give me this one chance, and I promise you, you will not be disappointed.”

His daughter agreed, and surprisingly confessed that overtime she had become more aware of mom’s bitters towards him, and began to question if everything mom said about dad was true.

Today, Tim enjoys a great relationship with his daughter. In fact, his daughter spends more time with him than she does her mother, and their relationship has blossomed, as both have discovered how much they have in common, particularly their same sense of humor.

Back on the boat, Tim tells me how his daughter came over this past Fathers Day, and they spent the day doing a variety of things together, going from one place to another until evening came, when they decided to stop for ice cream before heading home.
When they got back to Tim’s, they both began to watch TV and eat their ice cream. At this point Tim was starting to feel guilty. He had just spent the whole day with his daughter and they never talked about anything on an intimate level. All conversations were spoken in generalities. Remembering how much time was lost between him and his daughter, and trying to be an open, compassionate, and an involved father, Tim decided to ask her if their was anything she wanted to talk about.

She responded, “Like what?”

Tim began to tell her how he felt uncomfortable going the whole day without having a serious, or deep conversation concerning her, him, her life, his life, or their relationship, as a few examples. Tim said I feel that in order to be a good father, I should be having these conversations with you. I should be more involved emotionally with you.

She replied,

“You are dad. Just by being with you, spending this time with you, and just knowing you are always there for me, I get all the emotional comfort I need.”

Back on the boat there was a pause.

Tim then turned to me and said, “You’re a father. Doesn’t that make you want to cry?”

I said, “Yeah, It sure does.”

There was a moment of silence on the entire lake.

I then turned to Tim, and with a lump in my throat said, “Is that Patsy Cline I hear on the radio?”

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June 19, 2008

Obama “Irresponsible” in Fathers Day Speech

Well I noticed a shift this year. After years of men complaining about the negative portrayal of fathers around Fathers Day, it seemed this year many media outlets were steering away from negative stories and images of fathers, but there were still those that did, and I was glad to find their comments sections filled with men (and women) who challenged these negative perceptions.
It appears people are starting to realize the tremendous difference in the way we honor mothers on Mothers Day, and the way we “honor” fathers on Fathers Day.

So let’s look at the biggest offenders of fathers on Fathers Day.

Barack Obama showed his overt discrimination against fathers – again – on Fathers day.
While calling on black fathers to take responsibility for the numerous fatherless homes in the African-American communities, he also extended his venom towards all fathers.
He told a Fathers Day crowd this about black men,

“They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.

He also told the crowd with an austere lip,

“we need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception.”

He even scolded those fathers who are present in their children’s lives, implying they are lazy and uninvolved:

“It’s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don’t just sit in the house and watch ‘SportsCenter’ all weekend long.”

He concluded that,

“What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — any fool can have a child,” he said, to applause. “That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”

His cure for this problem is the co-sponsoring of a bill with Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, which would increase enforcement of child support payments, and increase services for domestic violence programs.

Sorry, but Barack is showing how immature he is to handle the responsibility of the most influential and most powerful job in the world. His solution to put more fathers into homes across the nation is to enact legislation that will put more fathers in jail. Current domestic violence laws, along with child support enforcement policies have been known to not just put troubled fathers in jail, but to also have put many innocent and law abiding fathers in prison too. Both of these social ills, and the laws enacted to combat them, have been fraught with innocent men winding up in jail on fraudulent charges. If Barack Obama really knew the issue as he claims, he would know by strengthening these programs without correcting them first will do the exact opposite of what he desires – it will REMOVE more fathers from their children, and lead to more men frustrated and angry with a system that is quick to persecute first and ask questions later.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s pause to look at the tone of language and imagery used by Barack Obama on Fathers Day towards fathers:

“lazy; uninvolved; not man enough; a fool; lacking courage; and irresponsible”

Now let’s take a look at Barack Obama’s speech to mothers’s on Mothers Day taken from his own website:

Senator Obama’s Mother’s Day Statement
Chicago, IL | May 11, 2008
This Mother’s Day, I’ll be doing what so many other Americans are doing – spending time with my family and thinking about the mothers in my life. My mother, Ann Dunham, was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and what is best in me, I owe to her. My grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, helped raise me, sacrificed again and again for me, and loves me as much as she loves anything in this world. And the mother of my daughters Sasha and Malia – my wife Michelle – is the rock of the Obama family and a woman who continues to make me a better person. We couldn’t have done this year without my mother-in-law Marian Robinson, who stays with our girls while Michelle and I are on the campaign trail. And my two sisters, Auma and Maya, each the mother to young daughters, are not only my family, but my dear friends. So to the mothers in my life and to the mothers in all our lives, Happy Mother’s Day.

Is it just me or is his imagery and tone towards mothers completely different?
In his Mothers Day speech, these are the words and imagery created:

“thinking about mom; kind, generous; the best for me; owe a lot; sacrifices for me; loves me immensely; rock of the family; make a better person”

I’ve always admitted that maybe I’m not always right, but this is definitely one of those times when I know I’m not wrong – Barack Obama is obviously anti-father.
On Mothers Day, Obama refused to say anything negative about mothers, which in turn, displays an egregious discriminatory attitude towards fathers.

While the problem with absent fathers is real, particularly in the black community, let’s not forget ALL reasons why fathers may not be present in the home. If Obama is truly serious about tackling this problem, he must be ready to address the uncomfortable realities of why fathers may be absent, which means extending his criticisms towards women and others:

  • Is Obama ready to make substantial changes to the family court systems across the country that favor mothers over fathers, awarding custody to mothers in approximately 70% of all custody cases?
  • On Mothers Day, is Obama ready to address the serious problem of women using false allegations of abuse and violence which lead to orders of protection being issued as a cautionary measure in the absence of any substantial evidence, which in turn, forces the father from his home and separates him from his children?
  • On Mothers Day, is Obama willing to scold women – along with the men – who choose to have numerous children by numerous partners?
  • Is Obama willing to address the fact that men have no reproductive rights, meaning that the number of absent fathers will always be greater than absent mothers due to abortion?
    Over three thousand children are killed each day in this country as a form of birth control; the feminine path to avoid parental responsibility.
    And abortion laws afford only the female to make the difficult decision as to whether she is mentally, emotionally, and financially ready to be a parent. Fathers are not given the choice. After conception, they only have two dark choices: adhere unconditionally to a frightening, life-altering decision made for them by someone else, or run from the situation, which will lead to being ostracized and vilified at best, or spending time in jail at its worse. Is Obama ready to address this disparity?
  • African-American men are incarcerated at a much higher rate than any other group. This is found to a major component in father absenteeism. And in most cases, these fathers are still responsible for child support payments while imprisoned. Most will fall into the “deadbeat” dad list.
    Also, when these men get out of prison, most will not be able to land a job due to the rise of employers using extensive background checks for all new applicants. Most employers will not hire convicted criminals. How is Barack going to address the problem of a men wanting to work, capable of working, but finding no employer will hire them? At the same time, their court ordered child support payments go unpaid. This will lead them back to prison, and out of their children’s lives again, and leave mom raising the kids alone.
    Tightening child support enforcement without addressing this paradox will only cause more difficulties for them, and raise the potential that these fathers will run away to escape this vicious cycle.
  • Also, death rates for young African-American men are greater for this group than any other group. So how is Barack going to tackle this cycle of violence that leaves many children without fathers?

So as one can see, there are many COMPLEX reasons why African-American fathers (as well as other fathers) are not present in the home. To just blame fathers, calling them immature, irresponsible, and lazy is actually more indicative of Obama’s own emotional immaturity. It also is a display of his own irresponsibility, by speaking on this issue in a narrow-minded manner, and shows HIS lack of courage to hold others accountable who also contribute to the dilemma of absent fathers, particularly women and other politicians, because he is fearful of upsetting these people, and losing their support and their votes.

I feel it is obvious Barack Obama is not emotionally interested in fathers, only his chance at the presidency. While some of the comments he made about fathers were inspiring, the majority of it was negative. And while he addressed the problems black fathers face, it sounded no different than any other election year rhetoric – he offered only what has been promised before.
So at this point I would like to elaborate using words from his speech:

“Any fool can say what they want to get elected, but it takes a real man, and a real leader to implement real change. Let us realize that when it comes to addressing fathers that are absent in homes across this country, we shouldn’t send a boy to do a man’s job.”

(Note: Syndicated writer Kathleen Parker covers this same topic in her most recent article titled, “Calling all fathers, and mothers too”)

Other negatives on Fathers Day

When Mom and Dad Share It All – This article appeared in the New York Times on Fathers Day. Written by female writer Lisa Belkin, it is an extensive, 10 page feature article covering the disparity in housework between men and women, with extensive stats that keep reiterating how men fail at helping out at home. While some sections of the article defended men,

“Many women will also admit to the frisson of superiority, of a particular form of gratification, when they are the more competent parent, the one who can better soothe the tears in the middle of the night.”

its core message was obvious – family management is unequal and men are to blame.

It’s no coincidence that the New York Times ran this piece on Fathers Day. The NYT has always been supportive of feminism and its causes. And it’s disturbing to realize that it could have used 364 other days to run this piece, but it chose Fathers Day to intentionally damage the only day of the year set aside to honor good men and fathers. Think they would do that on Mothers Day?

But many female bloggers who read the article felt vindicated by it. Here are some responses:

“good for the Times staff to stick this around Father’s Day and I’m thrilled a few hairs were ruffled”

“my husband and I were surprised and, I admit, somewhat amused to hear that some readers took offense to the piece as somehow man-hating or anti-fathers”

“The article was challenging Dads on their special day to be better fathers – and not to just rest on their laurels”

It’s good to see these women found time to write their thoughts in between insulating the attic, changing the hot water heater, up on the roof cleaning leaves out of the gutters, and putting in a new sump pump.
Oh, I forgot. That’s men’s work!

Dads who grew up without fathers find their own way – This article is written by a woman named Carroll Cradock who is the director of Behavioral Health Services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Her discrimination of fathers is a little more insidious. On the surface it appears to be written to honor those men who grew up in a fatherless home, but unlike their fathers, chose to embrace the responsibility of fatherhood when they had children.
It appears to be a compassionate piece, stating,

“Many people have the mistaken idea that a man can’t be a good man — let alone a good father — if he didn’t have a dad of his own to show him how.”

How true. But then the writer throws a curve ball, saying,

“Despite such pessimism, these boys have good reason to believe they can become strong fathers. Although boys from homes without fathers dominate troubled groups while they are young, the majority do not fall to the wayside.”

This is the exact kind of paradox I’ve written about before, how society demands men understand the importance of their role in a child’s life, but at the same time, men are consistently reminded how unimportant their role is when all things are considered.

She goes on to say she has met or helped many men who were determined to become good fathers, in spite of the lack of a fatherly role model in their own life. She says these men did it by being persistent in asking others for help and guidance as they navigated the unfamiliar task of fatherhood.
Sounds great until she writes this:

“Other fathers I interviewed said they learned the most from their mothers, grandparents and the mothers of their own children.
Maybe it has always taken a village to raise a father. Maybe we’ve lost sight of the fact that uncles, mothers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, spouses and friends have always had a hand in mentoring men into fatherhood.”

Again we see the image of mother/female superiority over the father/male. Men are flawed creatures, always needing the guidance of women to help them navigate through life. Ironically, I have never read an article on Mothers Day – or any other day for that matter – that postulated that the best mothers are not those guided only by the wisdom of other women, but those who received relentless doses of male wisdom from the men in their lives.

She goes back to what I’ll call the fatherhood paradox by saying,

“It may be the case that future fathers and children most at risk are not those without a father in the home, but those living in communities with few adults willing and capable of putting the needs of children first.”

So again, if I’m reading it right, it is not that an absent father is actually a problem, but rather the community of adults who refuse to step up and mentor the fatherless child.
This reeks of the “children do not need a father, they just need a male role model” ideology, which is a component of feminist thinking. You will never hear someone say a child does not need a mother, that the role of motherhood is easily interchangeable with a part-time female role model. (To read another man’s point of view on this topic, go to Sweating Through the Fog)

My final thoughts: So are fathers important, or are they expendable?  And if fathers are important, why do we openly discriminate against them? Is this the gender equality feminist are fighting for, to discriminate against fathers on Fathers Day, but not mothers on Mothers Day? Why aren’t they speaking out against this gender inequality?

And lastly, when did the venture into motherhood automatically proclaim women infallible?

Now just the good news

The only way this discrimination is going to end is to start protesting it, without letting up. Some men have already begun the process. This is what took place on Friday:

Fathers 4 Justice, Los Angeles (F4JLA) and the National Coalition For Men, Los Angeles (NCFMLA) stood front and center this morning at the entrance to a downtown Los Angeles Courthouse. The corner of 1st St. and Hill St. is always a bustling intersection and this morning it was a little busier than usual. All across America, today is Fatherless Day, and folks are taking to the streets to call attention to the way family law and family law courts mistreat Fathers.
Story and pictures here.

And here is another example of how things are beginning to change as more fathers protest their discriminatory treatment:

Fathers sleep a lot, and they snore loudly. When they’re awake, they like to fish or golf, but they’re comically bad at both. They drink so much beer they’re practically alcoholics, and they’re complete couch potatoes, always watching television and hogging the remote. At least, that’s the less-than-favorable image of Dad on Father’s Day greeting cards. It’s a striking contrast to the poetic praise often expressed at Mother’s Day. Many men say they are tired of the “put-down” cards and would like some affirmation for a change — and at least one greeting-card company is listening.

The company is Hallmark – read it here.

Contact:

soltys.joe@gmail.com
https://jsoltys.wordpress.com

June 15, 2008

HAPPY FATHERS DAY! – and some great father stories.

Happy Fathers Day to all Dad’s, from one continent to another.

Today I’ll share some stories with my reader that portray what I feel is a more realistic image of fathers as compared to the negative images portrayed by the media and feminist leaning thinkers.

  • Sadly, Tim Russert died this week of a heart attack at the young age of 58. Tim was best known as the host of the successful political show “Meet the Press”. But Tim is also known for writing a best selling book about his father titled Big Russ and Me, and another book about fathers called Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons, which is composed of positive stories from sons and daughters about their fathers.
    Glenn Sacks has covered the passing of Tim, and his legacy to fathers extensively at his website. To read more click here.
  • In a 2004 interview, Tim discusses his book Big Russ and Me, his father, and fatherhood with Neil Cavuto from Fox News. To listen, click here.
  • This next story is one that defies the general perception of fathers being lazy. Instead it shows how fathers have the capacity to love, care for, nurture, stabilize, and extend themselves beyond average parental responsibilities when it comes to their children.
    Paul Goncalves is a truck driver who’s son has a condition called hydrocephalus, which causes an accumulation of spinal fluid on the brain. His son requires round the clock care that Paul’s wife cannot manage because she has severe depression. So Paul takes his son on the road, turning his cab into a mobile care center.
    This is just one incredible father. Hat’s of to you Paul!
    Have brain-fluid shunt, will travel
  • This story is about Mark Harris, and how he will celebrate this Fathers Day. Mark will spend it protesting the biased family court system in England. You see Mark is a member of the father’s rights group Fathers 4 Justice.
    If you have ever wondered why father’s rights groups are needed, read how Mark was consistently denied the right to see his children for a number of years due to frivolous accusations and a biased court system that keeps good fathers from their children. It becomes clear why men like Mark do what they do.
    Justice 4 my father, says daughter of rooftop protester
  • Here is a heart warming story about a father and his son who has Down syndrome. Mike and Casey Deegan do everything together, at that includes spending Fathers Day doing what most people would never expect – skydiving!
    Read Mike and Casey’s story, and see how this father and son appear just as normal as any other father and son team.
    Despite Down Syndome, Son Jumps at Any Chance to Follow His Dad
  • This next article comes from a woman named Lizabetta who has her own blog detailing her life as a once single mother. In this article, she uses her blog to eloquently convey the appreciation she has for her husband, not just as a spouse, but as a loving, caring father.
    However, I have to note that I am partial to her writings. She is a visitor to my blog, appreciates my writing, and I have corresponded with her in the past. But even with that being said, it does not take away the beauty or sincerity of her article.
    Fathers Day Reflections

 

Again, Happy Fathers Day to All!

Contact:           

soltys.joe@gmail.com
https://jsoltys.wordpress.com
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June 7, 2008

At CNN, Moms More Important As Fathers Day Approaches

Recently I wrote an article explaining how if history repeats itself, the approaching Fathers Day weekend should be imbedded with negative stories and events about fatherhood, displaying a completely opposite trend when compared to mothers. As Mothers Day weekend approaches, we graciously overlook all of “mom’s” failures and indiscretions she has committed, and instead, honor her for all her wonderful attributes and sacrifices. For fathers, we ALWAYS find room to let them know how they have failed us, and how they can do better in the future. (Mothers Day Has Passed. Prepare for the Assualt on Fathers Day!)

Well, I have now found another discreet form of parental discrimination as Fathers Day quickly approaches. It appears CNN is running a special segment within their website which contains numerous articles about motherhood and the hardships working mothers face today. The segment is called “Busy Moms – Staying Afloat” and features such articles as “How CNN moms balance work and family”, “8 things no one tells you about being a mom”, ” ‘Soccer moms’ juggle motherhood and sports”, and “What working moms miss and wish for”.
Maybe I’m letting my adversarial side get the best of me, but why is CNN running a special segment about the joys and stresses of motherhood a week before Fathers Day? In a society that continually preaches the importance of fathers, and stresses the need to find ways to keep children and fathers connected, why spend so much effort on mothers as Fathers Day approaches? And what’s worse, the stories themselves are filled with selfish victimhood – treating some family events and issues as if only working mothers experience them, ignoring the similar impact on working fathers in similar situations.
In all, I find it discriminating and misleading.

For instance, in the article “What working moms miss and wish for” it states:

CareerBuilder.com’s annual Mother’s Day survey finds that working mothers are eager to trade the office for family time if only it were financially feasible.

FYI: Same with men. One of many studies showing men trend towards the same feeling is a study of men ages 20-35 by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center at Harvard University which showed:

82% put family time at the top of their list, keeping pace with 85 percent of women in those age groups. Breaking ranks with their fathers and grandfathers on the important issue of work-family integration, 71 percent of men 21-39 said they would give up some of their pay for more time with their families.

Another part of the CNN article states:

Finding the time to do their job and still be involved parents is a daily struggle for today’s working mothers. Late nights in the office can mean missing a family dinner, a teacher conference or baby’s first words.

And how many fathers over numerous generations have experienced this painful reality as the sole bread winners in the family? But now that mothers are beginning to face this reality, it’s suddenly a terrible tragedy. Should I assume we place more value on a mother’s loss than a father’s?

Seventeen percent of surveyed mothers have missed three or more significant events in their children’s life in the last year. In fact, 34 percent of mothers admit to spending less than three hours each day with their children.

Same again. But this time, let’s consider numerous studies that have shown fathers spend less time with their children than mothers. Every time one of those studies is released, negative criticism is assiduously applied to fathers. It is assumed the data represents that fathers are trying to abdicate from their parental responsibilities. Years ago I remember women advocating men spend “quality” time with their children, and becoming frustrated and angry with them if they didn’t. This was in response to studies at that time which showed how little time men spent with their children. Society and the media echoed this “stand up and be a real man” movement.
But now that women are found to be in a similar situation, compassion and understanding are given in copious amounts.
What a considerable difference in approach and acknowledgement of the same findings. A mother spending less time with her children due to the demands of her career is neither less a mother or a woman. But a man who spends less time with his children is met with skepticism as it relates to being a good father, and is perceived as less of a man because of it.

One common way mothers attempt to balance their workload and their families is to bring work home with them, which can help advance their careers but also damage their personal relationships.

Am I missing something here? If you want to meet the archetypes of bringing work home from the office to balance work and family, it is fathers. They invented, cultivated, and refined the “bringing work home” strategy, staying up late at night in order to spend quality time with the family after work.

Although your family is the most important thing in your life, you might forget to show it. Devote your weekends and any free weekday evenings to family activities. Even if you can’t plan a mid-week activity, make a quick phone call to your children to see how their school day went.

Again, the best consultant for this type of behavior is dad. He has been at it much longer than mom. I’m sure he’d be willing to give out a few pointers.

I’m not sure what CNN was thinking by running this special before Fathers Day. And as I pointed out, these struggles between work and family are more familiar to dads than they are to moms. So why not run a similar special about fathers, and the corresponding joys and stresses of fatherhood? I feel this would have been more appropriate and productive for families at this time.
But as I have written before, fathers are treated as second class parents who expected to quietly perform first class responsibilities with little or no argument. So to find CNN running a segment on the trial and tribulations of motherhood right before Fathers Day validates those feelings of discrimination that I have.

I’ll have more to say on this subject in my next post.

May 15, 2008

Mothers Day Has Passed. Prepare for the Assualt on Fathers Day!

Mothers Day has passed, the day when we set aside any differences, wrongs, resentments, and other negatives about our moms across the country, and focus on all the good mothers have accomplished in raising us, the sacrifices, the hardships, the unconditional love, and other benevolent qualities perceived as only coming from moms.
It’s wonderful that we have created a day to remember the good things about our moms, as any person in the psychology profession will tell you, harping on the negatives without considering the positives in any given situation in life will only lead to anger and resentment. Even better is that we have actually created a day where society – families, media, politicians, governments – will not dare to venture into, or raise awareness to the number of mothers that have failed miserably at the role of parenthood. This is not the time to dwell on the dark side of mothers in America they will tell you. Instead, it is a day to honor women who have managed the difficult role of motherhood for better and for worse – and I couldn’t agree more. Positive, emotional reinforcement will carry greater benefits for women and their children in the long term rather than berating them for their failures during Mothers Day weekend. We all need to know our efforts are being recognized and appreciated, and that our imperfections are being judged relative to our imperfect humanism.

In a short month, the mood will change. Fathers Day weekend will arrive and society – families, media, politicians, government – will let fathers know they are appreciated, but not without condition. Unlike mothers, fathers will hear every detail of their failures, and unlike mothers, will not have the opportunity to enjoy a weekend of compassionate reminiscing, where society refuses to dwell on the negative, and makes an effort to focus only on the positive results of fatherhood.
Right now, politicians are preparing speeches that will remind us how important a father is in a child’s life. The speeches will be eloquent, dramatic, and condemning, because in the end, these politicians will let fathers know they are failing in this important stabilizing family and societal role.
Police chiefs across the country at this very moment are organizing their usual Fathers Day “deadbeat” dad sting operations, as a way to remind men and fathers of their obligations and responsibilities as a parent. These dark headlines will be splashed across most newspapers and newscast during the weekend and will be a mood altering topic of conversation at most family gatherings.
Media outlets will begin to organize tributes to fathers for Fathers Day, but will also make sure to find room for stories that highlight the failures of fathers in order to bring “perspective” to the present condition of fatherhood in society.

So what’s wrong with reminding fathers of the significance and influential role they play in the lives of their children and society? Nothing, except why aren’t these same pivotal, poignant speeches and actions addressed to mothers around Mothers Day? Isn’t the role of a mother just as important as the role of a father, and therefore, a good jolt of reality placed upon them just as important?
The only reason this isn’t done is due to the unjustified discrimination of fathers and men in this country. In the arena of family issues, men and fathers are perceived to be inferior to women, yet this daily discrimination goes unaddressed. In the role of spouse or parent, men are seen as dysfunctional, irresponsible individuals, in need of constant fixing, adjusting, and scolding in order to eradicate and manage their many faults and maintain sensibility. If the genders were reversed, it would be called blatant sexism.
If you think I’m kidding, let me show you why I think this way.

-– Last year presidential contender Barack Obama gave a Fathers Day speech in which he said:

“It’s about to be Father’s Day, let’s admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child.”

When was the last time a politician chose Mothers Day to humiliate irresponsible mothers by calling them little girls that need to grow up? It has never happened and never will. The discrimination of fathers is based on the mythology that mothers are superior to fathers, in spite of evidence that proves otherwise.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Administration for Children and Families
reported that in 2006, 40 percent (39.9%) of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone; another 17.6 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone.
The agency defines maltreatment as: Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

According to Obama, the reason he felt the need for his Fathers Day speech:

“The key to having this conversation constructively is to realize that there’s really no excuse for not behaving responsibly toward our children.”

If this is true, then why has Obama not chosen to scold or humiliate mothers on Mothers Day for the horrific abuses towards their children which is more that double of that with respect to fathers?
Is he implying that a father who refuses to participate in the raising of his children is not a real man and does not deserve forgiveness, but a mother who abuses her children should be forgiven and honored?

 -– Last year, here in the Chicago area, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart launched a weeklong “deadbeat dad” sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 130 deadbeat dads. Sherriff Dart also arrested four deadbeat moms to show that he was being gender neutral.
However, Dart addressed his reasoning for carrying out the sting around Fathers Day this way:

“For hundreds of thousands of people Father’s Day is just a very, very painful day,” Dart said. “It actually serves as a perverse reminder of just how difficult their life is because there is no father, and not only is there no father there, but there is someone who has walked away from their responsibilities.”

Isn’t Mothers Day a very, very painful reminder to all the children that are abused every year by their mothers? And if Sheriff Dart is truly concerned with the difficult lives of children neglected by a parent, why not launch a campaign around Mothers Day touting the many irresponsible and criminal mothers in society that are abusing their children. It can include the little known fact that besides abuse, mothers also lead fathers in failing to pay court ordered child support.
Glenn Sacks and Jeffery Leving wrote an article refuting Sheriff Dart’s claims that all the men arrested were intentionally avoiding their responsibilities. The article also reveals the discrepancies and complexities between society’s perception of the deadbeat dad and the human reality.

 –- Last year for Fathers Day, Time magazine wrote an article called The Psychology of Fatherhood  which questioned whether fathers deserve to be honored with a special day like mothers because of men’s alleged undesirable track record concerning parenting.
The two female writers (coincidence?) wrote how the research they uncovered shows that:
– In the U.S., more than half of divorced fathers lose contact with their kids within a few years.
– Men are more likely to default on a child-support payment (49%) than a used-car payment (3%).
– U.S. fathers average less than an hour a day (up from 20 minutes a few decades ago), usually squeezed in after the workday.
The female writers never mentioned what research or sources their information can be referenced to, but men’s writer Glenn Sacks was familiar with the sources. He wrote a response to the article and the research in question, showing how the women used family research from the 1960’s and other sources that were eventually proven to be unreliable.
But the best repudiation of the Time’s article comes from the magazine itself. In 2005 it ran an article about fatherhood called The Missing Father Myth in which it disputed the very claims made by it’s own female writers two years later.
In this article the male writer (coincidence?) claims the perceptions of the irresponsible father is false. His article looks at recent study of teenage fathers which show:
– 82% reported having daily contact with their children
– 74% said they contributed to the child’s financial support
– Almost 90% maintained a relationship with the mother
The findings of this study are very similar to the findings of other studies concerning fathers and families. (An excellent, in-depth look at the reality of fathers and custody issues can be found here.)

– Paul Coughlin, a writer of Christian issues wrote an article titled Pastors, Don’t Use Mother’s Day to Bash Dads in which he writes about the discriminatory practices within churches concerning mothers and fathers. Paul writes,

This Sunday we will extol the value and benefit of motherhood, which is great. But in some churches, this will be done by degrading Christian husbands, which is not great. “Our pastor makes us husbands get on our knees on Mother’s Day and beg for forgiveness. I don’t want to do it again this year,” one reader tells me. Another writes, “Our minister makes husbands write on paper all the things we’ve done wrong. Then we’re suppose to give it to our wives and pledge that we won’t do them anymore.”

A church in my community handed out a flyer to all parishioners this past week which read:

With all respect to fathers, no one influences a child as much as a devoted mother. She passes on her faith in God, her beliefs in all the virtues, patience, kindness, forgiveness. As the growing child follows her about, all the mother’s ways of thinking and doing things, are flowing into the life of the child. One might say, the mother is programming the brain and the heart of the little one on how to live in this world.

Well…if this is true, why does society even bother trying to convince men of their importance in a child’s life? After such an overtly pious description of the dominating influence mothers have on their children, what is left to say to men and fathers on Fathers Day that will convince them fatherhood has any value, or is need at all?
And if the writer of this piece really believes that mothers “program” the brains and hearts of our children, is the writer willing to accept the consequences that he/she is implying that the blame for children who grow up and engage in violence and sin must rest solely on mothers since they – not fathers – are fully responsible for the “programming” of the child?
Of course not. If the individual grows up to be a criminal, it’s because the father wasn’t present. Or if he was present, he taught the wrong set of values and virtues – despite the admission of his limited influence.
And so the cycle of discrimination against fathers continue.

While men are expected to share the responsibilities of raising children; the stress, the frustration, the anxiety, the financial drain, the personal limitations, etc., it becomes clear that when it is time to wallow in the rewards, fathers are told to sit in the corner of the room and wait until they are called – if they are ever called.
Fathers are expected to share all the first class responsibilities and hardships of being a parent, yet are treated as second class parents, or even strangers when the adulations and rewards are handed out.
Mothers are given honor and rewards in spite of their failures. Fathers are given greater scrutiny, humiliation, and shame in spite of their numerous successes.

Is it any wonder there are any good fathers left these days? Despite being vilified, disparaged, and unjustifiably attacked at every turn, including Fathers Day itself, men are consistently making progress at becoming better fathers regardless of the roadblocks so many vindictive people try to place before them. In this environment, it would be much easier for men to walk away and give up, yet many choose not to.

I will be smiling in admiration this Fathers Day.

 

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