There Are Big Consequences When Fatherhood, And The Societal Role Of Men, Diminishes

Andrew J. Harvey | Author

I grew up without a father. Well, sort of. My parents divorced in the 1960s when I was a small child, and I stayed with my mother in Los Angeles. My father remarried and moved to a small suburb of Atlanta known as Tucker.  For one month out of the year in the summer, I would fly back and spend time with my dad, so I had a father at times.

Further, I had a series of stepfathers who ran the gamut from wonderful guys to alcoholics to dangerous individuals.  All of this recently led me, many years after the fact, to write a childhood memoirHaving lived through such experiences, I find it amusing when people say that children really need a father in the home.  Well, if he is a good father and a good man, then I agree completely. If he is not, then the child might actually be better off without him.  We don’t just need fathers – we need good fathers.

Men have been involved in some pretty extraordinary things since the beginning of America.  They created a country, won a revolutionary war, fought in two World Wars, created things like the light bulb and the telephone, and advanced medicine with the discovery of anesthesia. They cured diseases like polio, went to the moon and back, prevailed in the Cold War, and built an economic powerhouse the likes of which has never been seen, creating a previously unknown standard of human living and comfort.

However, you would never know these breakthroughs from watching television, as men and fathers are invariably portrayed as buffoonish idiots who are incapable of performing the simplest task.  They are petrified even of their own wives. These portrayals in shows and commercials have become so commonplace we don’t even think about them, but they are there as yet another example of the American male diminishing in the eyes of popular culture.  

The feminist movement was designed to lift women up, and it has certainly done that, but an unintended consequence of this was the resulting attack on men at every opportunity.  Single motherhood has been built into a badge of honor, and to some extent it is. But at what expense? Was it necessary to denigrate the institution of fatherhood in order to bestow this title?  There is a reason that for so long the family unit has served society very well with a man and a woman parenting children. Men and women are quite different, and act as a yin and yang. The child gets the benefit of balancing strengths and weaknesses of a man and a woman.

Of course, now it is not politically correct to speak of this. We are instructed by our “betters” that a single parent is just as good as a traditional mother and father in raising kids, and that having two fathers or two mothers is also equally as good.  And woe be it to anyone disagreeing with this doctrine. Even though there are many thousands of years of human experience supporting the mother and father as parents, and only a veritable blink of an eye in history with the “new” way of thinking–no matter, we know best!

I feel it fair to say I ended up a very successful adult, at least that’s what people tell me. So how did I do it going back to a time when for my mom being a single mother was not the badge of honor it is now?  I think it started with me having a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Normally this is not a good thing, but in my case it was rocket fuel for achievement.  Not having a father in my life gave me something to prove, and it motivated me in an “I’ll show you” way.

I also strove, even as a little boy to be self-sufficient, and not rely upon my parents except to the extent necessary.  This kind of independence I believe is highly missed in this day and age of highly managed children with “helicopter” parents hovering above them constantly.

I think also I never wanted not having a father in my life to be an excuse for myself.  We make and allow excuses constantly these days, but I just never felt that feeling sorry for myself was going to get me anywhere.  I think if children can adopt such mindsets early in their lives it can be helpful. What would be even more helpful would be to admire and revere those in society who are the good fathers.  As one who did not have one, I think it safe to say there is no effective substitute for such a person.

Dr. Andrew J. Harvey is the author of the new childhood, southern memoir, Tucker & Me: Growing Up A Part-Time Southern Boy.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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