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.