Man-Day Post: What Has Happened To All The Fathers?

In Man-day by Jensguy25 Comments

Welcome to another Man-day post from Jen’s husband, Jen’s Guy.

I spoke with my sister the other day and asked her about a family that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. She stopped for a second and said, “I thought you knew.” Apparently the father, who was almost 50, had left his wife and several children. I was incredulous. This father had been a good man, one of the best I had ever known, and had overcome a lot of issues that life had handed him to pull his family together. What had happened?

Apparently, he had become addicted to pornography, and because it had so completely taken over his life, he could not reconcile himself to being tied down to a family and the responsibilities entailed.

I don’t do pornography, but immediately I looked at myself and weighed the “what if” scales with my wife and family on one side and a pornography habit on the other. It wasn’t really a hard call for me to make. And yet, until recently, I suspect it wasn’t a hard call for him either. I also fear the choice my friend made isn’t all too uncommon.

I’ll be honest, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for helping men become better fathers. Very few publications cater to fatherhood, men generally don’t discuss fathering with one another unless they are really close, and media portrayals of fathers tend to be negative. Generally the best resource a father has for fatherhood was his experiences with HIS father. That has become problematic.

A few days ago, the New York Times released an article talking about the percentage of children growing up with both biological parents, broken down by state. Utah was the highest at around 57% and several states came in in below 40%. Fatherhood isn’t being taught in a lot of households, and honestly, there are more than a few households WITH a father that aren’t great places for children either.

So what do we do? Do we abandon the traditional role of father as unworkable and redefine expectations? I have to admit to being a little shaken.

However, I do have some ideas.

First. Men need to buck the Hell up. One of the most enduring quotes I have ever heard was from the leader of my Church at the time, Gordon B Hinckley, in a sermon he gave soon after my wife Jennifer and I were married.

“The girl you marry will take a terrible chance on you. She will give her all to the young man she marries. He will largely determine the remainder of her life. She will even surrender her name to his name.”

Yep, all of that. The minute you say “I do” it just isn’t about you anymore. Especially when you have children. You have a responsibility that nothing can absolve you of. No circumstances in life should break you away from your children, not careers, not other relationships, and especially not entertainment. For society to look upon this with any degree of acceptance demeans fatherhood and the millions who do it right. It is not a great burden. Very few things can bring as much enjoyment or fulfillment as raising children with a loving partner when given the opportunity and, overall, nothing is of a more lasting importance.

Sometimes, people get sick, however, especially with addiction issues. Once someone is far enough along that path, I guess nothing else is as important. As was the case with my friend, sometimes who people ultimately become is not the same as who they once were. Honestly, however, this does not absolve that man of responsibility for his condition. No one forced anyone into a drug or pornography habit. Being a father should have been a primary motivator to stay away from the stuff.

I feel for women in that, sometimes, the man they get is not the man they married and in some cases loved for years. Although you can always hope the guy will turn himself around, women shouldn’t remain with an abusive husband or father nor feel compelled to let someone like that run the family into the ground. Fatherhood isn’t a right, it is a responsibility and must be earned everyday.

That being said:

Mothers and children can help by reaffirming confidence in their husband and father. I have my own business, and some days are glorious and others. . . not so much. Sometimes things can get downright terrifying. Most men deal with that differently than women. Rather than spending a lot of time discussing it, men will seek to withdraw. It isn’t unhealthy, it is just a different way of handling things. It is times like these when I have the most wonderful wife in the world.

“Bad day, huh? Do you need to talk about it?”

“Not yet.”

“Whatever you decide we have confidence in you. If you need help we are here.”

“Thank you.”

“Also, there is a leak under the kitchen sink. I’ll go get you a soda if you want to get started.”

It is really hard to feel sorry for yourself when doing man things.

It is also very hard to feel like a failure when the first thing that happens when I come home each day is the force of a 25 pound toddler-like freight train hitting me with a hug the second I walk through the door.

Men shouldn’t need constant praise and adulation for just doing what they are supposed to, by anyone. It goes a long way however, and will never go amiss. It costs nothing and does much to dispel any feeling of inadequacy or worries that he is probably trying to keep to himself. Popular culture isn’t very appreciative of fathers, alternatively portraying us as a bumbling Homer Simpson or a philandering Don Draper. Your husband would likely defend your honor against a 6’5″ biker guy without a second thought, it isn’t too much to push back when your girlfriend says “Don’t you hate it when your husband. . . (fill in the blank.)” Even if your husband never hears that conversation, it will make a difference in your relationship. Calling her out might make a difference in your girlfriend’s relationship with HER husband as well.

Also, don’t reserve your praise for just YOUR guy. A few months ago I was giving Jennifer a break and took all of the children to a nearby park. After a bit, a sunny little mother came up to me and told me how well behaved my children were and how much she enjoyed watching us interact. She had me confirm that I had 4 children which seemed oddly specific, and asked a bunch of questions about how I felt about having four children. I answered her, and she made the whole process sound immensely less weird than this description makes it out to be.

A couple of days ago, Jennifer and I were at the same park with the children and this same mother walked up to us. She again told us that she loved our family and that, armed with the information I had given her months before, she and her husband had decided to have their fourth child. They didn’t really know anyone with four children and had wondered if it would have been too overwhelming. Suddenly her earlier questioning made a lot more sense. It has been a while since I had felt so flattered. My interaction with my children had led to such a big decision by this couple I barely even knew.

To summarize my rambling. Men who excel at fatherhood are more rare than they should be. If you have one, treasure him, but don’t coddle him. His responsibility is large and constant, as it should be, but he is human too and bound to make more than a few mistakes. There is nothing wrong with the traditional father or even the new-fangled kind as long as they love and support their wife and kids. I grew up in a single parent home and I vowed that my children would not have to do that, but it has been a learning process. Support fathers and fatherhood and do what you can to push back against those who are cynical of the role a father can play. He’ll notice.

Happy Father’s Day.

Go ahead and share this post, you know you want to!


    1. Thank you Janine. This was really hard to write and I admit feeling worries before hitting “publish. . .”

  1. For years children were the responsibility of the mother. Stay at home moms were the norm. Then that changed. Yet much of that responsibility still was placed with the mom. I’m now seeing a new trend. I see many women out working and dad is staying home with the kids. I’m not sure how that will work out in the end, but we can hope that it’s a good thing.

    Men should buck the hell up indeed. I’ve heard too many talk about that’s woman’s work. Shame on them, as they are missing a great opportunity to be a positive role model to their kids. Especially their male offspring. They can show how it should be…like you’re doing.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺
    Comedy Plus recently posted…Ice CreamMy Profile

    1. Yep, the two things that are missing is society recognizing that men in a fatherhood role is important, and for men to rise up to meet that challenge. I think if you have more of the first, you will get a lot more of the second, but then I am an optimist. . .

    1. Seriously, we aren’t going to make “fatherload” a thing. . . Thank you for your kind words.

  2. That article is so sad, and unfortunate. My husband is always complaining about the portrayal of men/husbands/fathers in media as ‘idiots’ and ‘useless’. The reality is that I don’t know how I’d handle raising my children well without their father. I do believe that there are many fathers out there that are very involved in their children’s lives. And there are plenty of single parent households where the father is the primary caregiver (I’m the product of one). I wonder what it would look like if the article broke that information down?
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    1. Sadly, there was much more that I could have written about and more that needs to be said on this matter. I would hope that those things will be said by me and other people. My biggest worry is that people would look at this article and see the things that I didn’t talk about, like the plight of single mothers, and dismiss what I said. I really appreciate your feedback and contribution to the discussion.

  3. Thanks for this great post. We need more men opening up about fatherhood, and sharing their thoughts in this way. Encouraging both for fathers and mothers!

    1. It really isn’t natural for men to talk this way. Writing this post was almost torture. We are going to have to fix that if we want to help fix the institution of fatherhood.

  4. Happy Father’s Day to you and all the other fathers out there. I really love this post, because I see a lot of of my friends with husbands who are not great to them or their kids. Sure, they might try, but it should be more than that. At the same time, there are a LOT of great husbands and dads and they should be appreciated.
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    1. That is very true, and it is up to us men to do a better job of self regulating to let other men know that treating your wife and kids poorly isn’t going to be tolerated by other men. We already do that to some extent, we should do more. And somebody who is abusive to their family isn’t “trying” to hard.

  5. I get irritated when people say dads are babysitting. I may do the majority of childcare duties, but he’s still their father and is just as capable of parenting them as I am. When people act shocked that he makes us all dinner or takes our daughter to dance, I just roll my eyes. He’s their dad, of course he does those things!
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    1. Be gentle. Some people may have never seen a fully operational father in the wild before. . .

  6. This was a seriously fantastic read, thank you for writing and sharing! I wrote a whole post about how moms shouldn’t bash their dads, even jokingly, and like you said, even when they’re not in earshot. I’m a huge proponent of equal parenting, including holding dads accountable for parenting as much as moms (why don’t we ever ask dads how *their* work/life balance is going?). And I wish dads would be more open about discussing their roles and finding tips just as you often see moms do.

    As far as your friend’s addiction, it truly is hard because when you’re at that point, it’s not simply entertainment, it’s really an illness, like drugs or alcohol. It’s tough to say who is the victim. I initially thought that people in circumstances like that are 100% accountable for their choices, but when I read up more on it, then I learned it’s not as easy as we make it seem. Women who are abused or men who suffer from drug addiction are seen as victims—but the minute we find out they’re a mother or father, then it complicates it.
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    1. Men don’t really speak openly about a LOT of things. Family life is just one of them. It isn’t wrong, it just “is.” It has also been my experience that men are generally less judgmental toward one another than women are, and are less likely to compare their family life to another man and offer unsolicited advice. That can cut two ways as sometimes that help or advice might be useful and appreciated.

      And yes addiction DOES take away freedom. However, starting the behaviors that lead to these addictions are certainly a choice, and, as a father, you have a responsibility to stay away from things that could harm your family down the road. Gambling is a big issue that I didn’t even mention in this post that I could probably spend A LOT of time discussing.

    1. Oh, he knows what he is doing is wrong, and I have to imaging that at some level he realizes the price he is paying. TO know this and refuse to seek help puts someone on a whole new level of sickness. This was something he developed later in life, not something he brought to the marriage.

      And Thank you for the kind words!

  7. Ew! How horrible to hear of the man that left his family for porn. Ewww. Fathers are SO important. They do not get the attention they deserve, not even on Father’s Day. Amen!

    1. Sadly, April, it is VERY common, especially now that the internet makes it possible to access pornography so easily and anonymously. Eventually society, not just the individual, pays a price for that behavior and fixation.

  8. This post really got me thinking. What are the main differences between a Man and a Woman being a parent? Why do men as if they don’t get the support they would like? Why do men get a hard time? And I did come up with a few answers….

    Sadly, men and women do not have equal parenting roles (yet). Society is just not there. Oh, it thinks it is, but the reality of it is that it isn’t. Also there are still too many men who pick and choose when they want to be Dads, whereas a Mum always has to be a Mum, no matter how she feels or how hard a day she has had at work or being at home with the children (so much harder than going out to work). Men in general (not all) don’t have the natural instincts to nurture children, just as many women aren’t instinctive providers.

    The sad story of the chap with the pornography addiction highlights that in a way (not saying that some Mums don’t put there own needs above their children’s as I’m sure they do). Bearing in mind that addiction is an illness, his need to be a good Dad was not as strong as his own addictive needs (it could have so easily have been alcohol, gambolling, stamp collecting).

    Society may one day except Mums and Dads as the same when it comes to parenting, but maybe not. Men and women are designed to compliment one another (genetically), meaning we may never be fully successful at taking on one another’s ‘roles’ as it’s just not genetically within us, but that gives us a better chance of creating the lives we want together and being able to live in harmony.

    In a way it is much better to have two people who between them are good at twenty different things, than to have two people who are good at the same ten things….We have to face it; men and women are equal as people, but gender dictates that we are better at different things (on the whole), parenting (probably) being one of them.

    It’s been a while since my brain has kicked into thoughtful mode quite so early, so thank you for that!
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  9. Great post! I grew up without having a father (he died when I was 8), but it really cemented how important a dad or father figure is in life even though my mom did an excellent job on her own. I feel like I missed out, though, especially since I remember he was a good dad, but seeing my husband with my two makes such a difference to me. He’s very hands-on.

    I completely agree — there’s not enough resources for dads. There’s plenty of good ones out there, but we need to support and encourage them more to step up and take charge. This is especially important to show our boys what being a man is about — taking responsibility and being good examples and teaching the next generation. Sometimes, I think part of the problem is the depiction in media that dads are dolts ala Homer Simpson (great show, but…). You wonder if it somehow influences them to think, well, I’m not a good dad because dads are clueless, so why should I try harder, which is so ridiculous.
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