Yesterday I listened to a friend sing “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin, a song about a father and son. When the boy was young the father was too busy to spend any time with his son, and when the father was old the son was too busy.
That was the cultural norm for fathers when I was growing up; dad worked so was always too busy to spend much time with his kids. That’s what moms were for.
But things have changed; now I see fathers carrying their infants on their chests in slings and taking their kids to the park. It’s okay for a man to say, “I love you” to his child. Fathers are much more involved with their kid’s lives and I am very optimistic about what this means for the future. I think this will bring stronger women and more peaceful men.
So I was shocked this week to see a “Room for Debate” on the New York Times, in response to the news that women are the breadwinner in forty percent of U.S. households, asking “What are Fathers For?”
In almost half the American households with children, mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners…So what is the purpose of men in modern families? We’re approaching the holiday that celebrates dads, but do fathers bring anything unique to the table?
How could anyone even question the value of a man’s contribution to the psychological health of his children? In my opinion this is a sign our culture has taken a strange turn in the attempt to bring equality between the sexes.
One of the debaters brought in a few statistics for the value of men in children’s lives, Fathers are Not Fungible, by W. Bradford Wilcox:
Boys are more likely to steer clear of trouble with the law when they grow up with their father in the home. One Princeton study found that boys raised apart from their fathers were two to three times more likely to end up in jail before they turned 30.
Dads matter for daughters as well. Another study found that girls whose fathers disappeared before the girls turned 6 were about five times more likely to end up pregnant as teenagers than were their peers raised with their fathers in the home.
And we know that kids — especially boys — are more likely to excel in school, and to steer clear of the principal’s office, when they are raised in a home with a father who takes their homework and school conduct seriously.My parents divorced when I was 14. My dad really loved his kids, but I didn’t see him much after the divorce. As I've gotten older I have realized how much I missed by not having his input in those formative years. I love watching President Obama with his daughters, because it gives me a glimpse of what I lost.