Jenet Erickson

Men don’t mother

Jenet Erickson
By Jenet Erickson
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November 14, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse) - There’s been a strange turn of opinions about fatherhood—at least in recent public debates. Decades of research have now documented the tremendous challenges children face when they grow up without their fathers. But you would never know it by looking at some of the recent public arguments for “genderless parenting.”

So what do the decades of research on fathers say? Boys from fatherless families are twice as likely to end up in prison before age 30. Girls raised in homes without their fathers are much more likely to engage in early sexual behavior and end up pregnant as teenagers—for example, girls whose fathers left home before their daughters turned six are six times more likely to end up pregnant as teenagers. Children who grow up without married mothers and fathers are also more likely to experience depression, behavioral problems, and school expulsion.

There is also more abuse in homes without fathers. In studies of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, fathers living with their children emerge as strong protectors—both through watching over their children’s activities and communicating to others that they will protect them. In one study, abuse was 10 times more likely for children in homes with their mother and an unrelated boyfriend.

These differences can partly be explained by the fact that these children are more likely to grow up in poverty. But that too reveals the importance of dads, as married fathers are the primary breadwinners in almost 70% of married families—providing resources that benefit children in a whole host of ways.

In spite of this evidence, some academics and voices that shape public opinion are asserting that fathers are not, in fact, essential. As two researchers recently argued in a top-tier family science publication, “The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.” Though it may be important to have two “parental figures,” their genders and relationship to the child don’t matter that much. Fathers—as well as mothers—are supposedly disposable when it comes to their own children’s development.

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Not surprisingly, arguments for “genderless parenting” are often based on a particular view of what defines male and female equality. Depending on the definition, one can do what the other can do, and do it just as well, if given the chance. Thus, mothers and fathers are interchangeable, and one or the other gender is unnecessary and replaceable.

It’s easy to see why these claims seem believable. We all know mothers who are breadwinners, and fathers who perform the traditional female role of providing full-time quality child care. And a body of research shows that fathers have both the desire and capacity to be protective, nurturing, affectionate, and responsive with their children.

But are fathers and mothers really the same? Do mothers “father” and do fathers “mother” in the same way the other would do?

Canadian scholar, Andrea Doucet, has explored this question in her book Do Men Mother? Her extensive research with 118 male primary caregivers, including stay-at-home dads, led her to conclude that fathers do not “mother.” And that’s a good thing. Although mothering and fathering have much in common, there were persistent, critical differences that were important for children’s development.

To begin, fathers more often used fun and playfulness to connect with their children. No doubt, many a mother has wondered why her husband can’t seem to help himself from “tickling and tossing” their infant—while she stands beside him holding her breath in fear. And he can’t understand why all she wants to do is “coo and cuddle.” Yet as Doucet found, playfulness and fun are often critical modes of connection with children—even from infancy.

Fathers also more consistently made it a point to get their children outdoors to do physical activities with them. Almost intuitively they seemed to know that responding to the physical and developmental needs of their children was an important aspect of nurturing.

When fathers responded to children’s emotional hurts, they differed from mothers in their focus on fixing the problem rather than addressing the hurt feeling. While this did not appear to be particularly “nurturing” at first, the seeming “indifference” was useful— particularly as children grew older. They would seek out and share things with their dads precisely because of their measured, problem-solving responses. The “indifference” actually became a strategic form of nurturing in emotionally-charged situations.

Fathers were also more likely to encourage children’s risk taking—whether on the playground, in school work, or in trying new things. While mothers typically discouraged risk-taking, fathers guided their children in deciding how much risk to take and encouraged them in it. At the same time, fathers were more attuned to developing a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual independence—in everything from children making their own lunches and tying their own shoes to doing household chores and making academic decisions.

As she evaluated these differences, Doucet wondered if fathers just weren’t as “nurturing” as mothers. Their behaviors didn’t always fit the traditional definition of “holding close and sensitively responding.” But a key part of nurturing also includes the capacity to “let go.” It was this careful “letting-go” that fathers were particularly good at—in ways that mothers were often not.

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Her findings provide empirical evidence for the feelings described on Public Discourse by Robert Oscar Lopez in his recent account of growing up without the influence of his father. Lopez yearned for what kids in traditional families often take for granted—the opportunity to learn how to act, speak, and behave in ways that reflect the unique gender cues provided by the parenting of a father and a mother. Although Lopez would have appeared normal on most sociological indexes (as a well-trained, high achieving student), inside he felt confused. In his own words, he grew up “weird,” unable to relate to or understand either gender very well. And that made it hard to understand himself.

Andrea Doucet ends her report by sharing an illuminating moment from her research. After a long evening discussing their experiences as single dads, Doucet asked a group of sole-custody fathers, “In an ideal world, what resources or supports would you like to see for single fathers?” She expected to hear that they wanted greater social support and societal acceptance, more programs and policies directed at single dads. Instead, after a period of awkward silence, one dad stood and said, “An ideal world would be one with a father and a mother. We’d be lying if we pretended that wasn’t true.” Nods of agreement followed with expressions of approval from the other dads. Although many had had bitter experiences of separation and divorce, they couldn’t help but acknowledge the inherent connectedness of mothering and fathering—and the profound deficit experienced when one or the other is not there.

Arguments for the non-essential father may reflect an effort to accept the reality that many children today grow up without their dads. But surely a more effective and compassionate approach would be to acknowledge the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers in their children’s lives, and then do what we can to ensure that becomes a reality for more children.

Jenet Erickson is an assistant professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. This article reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse.

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Maine Supreme Court denies rapist contact with his daughter

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By Ben Johnson

A ruling from the Supreme Court of Maine denied a rapist any visitation rights to his child, refuting a prevalent claim from abortion activists that rape victims who keep their children will be tied to their abusers for life.

Richard Sullivan began raping his victim when she was 13 or 14 years old – and he was 60. She endured his abuse at least weekly.

Like many rapists, he “took steps to conceal his abuse,” in the words of the court ruling, written by Justice Donald Alexander. “Once, when she was sixteen, Sullivan arranged an abortion for Doe, without her parents' knowledge.” Maine has no parental consent requirement, according to Planned Parenthood.

Sullivan fathered a second child, a daughter, with the young woman in September 2007 when the victim was 20. In 2011, the young woman obtained a temporary protection order against Sullivan, who promptly sued for custody of his daughter.

In a 13-page decision in Sullivan v. Doe on August 28, the Maine Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that denied Sullivan all custody or contact with his child, cut off access to any of her records, and required him to pay $38,019 in back child support.

Sullivan is now facing five charges of sexual molestation in York County, Maine, for the molestation of the girl's mother.

The pro-life community welcomed the decision.

“Rapists don't deserve rights, innocent children and mothers do!” Monica Kelsey of Save the 1 told LifeSiteNews. “A woman who is raped deserves to be protected from her rapist at all costs, and if there is a child involved the child deserves protection, as well.”

“Women won't choose life for their child as often as they do now if they feel that they have to be associated with the rapist for another 18 years,” Kelsey, who was conceived in rape, warned.

Pro-abortion lobbyists often exploit this fear in their public attacks on the pro-life position. In 2012, Health Care for America Now (HCNA) blasted a “militant, absolutist Republican” position that would force women into “submitting to the rapist-father’s assertion of paternal rights regarding visitation, religion, education, health care and countless other issues...Welcome to the GOP’s shocking approach to women’s rights.”

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a national “grassroots” organization comprised of more than 1,000 left-wing activist groups – mostly labor unions and left-wing political organizations funded by billionaire George Soro. Its members include the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion Federation, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

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Studies show approximately 70 percent of rape victims choose not to have an abortion.

“We as a society need to protect these women and children from further trauma, and these men need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Kelsey told LifeSiteNews. 

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Janna Darnelle

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My husband divorced me for his gay lover - then took our children

Janna Darnelle
By Janna Darnelle

Every time a new state redefines marriage, the news is full of happy stories of gay and lesbian couples and their new families. But behind those big smiles and sunny photographs are other, more painful stories. These are left to secret, dark places. They are suppressed, and those who would tell them are silenced in the name of “marriage equality.”

But I refuse to be silent.

I represent one of those real life stories that are kept in the shadows. I have personally felt the pain and devastation wrought by the propaganda that destroys natural families.

The Divorce

In the fall of 2007, my husband of almost ten years told me that he was gay and that he wanted a divorce. In an instant, the world that I had known and loved—the life we had built together—was shattered.

I tried to convince him to stay, to stick it out and fight to save our marriage. But my voice, my desires, my needs—and those of our two young children—no longer mattered to him. We had become disposable, because he had embraced one tiny word that had become his entire identity. Being gay trumped commitment, vows, responsibility, faith, fatherhood, marriage, friendships, and community. All of this was thrown away for the sake of his new identity.

Try as I might to save our marriage, there was no stopping my husband. Our divorce was not settled in mediation or with lawyers. No, it went all the way to trial. My husband wanted primary custody of our children. His entire case can be summed up in one sentence: “I am gay, and I deserve my rights.” It worked: the judge gave him practically everything he wanted. At one point, he even told my husband, “If you had asked for more, I would have given it to you.”

I truly believe that judge was legislating from the bench, disregarding the facts of our particular case and simply using us—using our children— to help influence future cases. In our society, LGBT citizens are seen as marginalized victims who must be protected at all costs, even if it means stripping rights from others. By ignoring the injustice committed against me and my children, the judge seemed to think that he was correcting a larger injustice.

My husband had left us for his gay lover. They make more money than I do. There are two of them and only one of me. Even so, the judge believed that they were the victims. No matter what I said or did, I didn’t have a chance of saving our children from being bounced around like so many pieces of luggage.

A New Same-Sex Family—Built On the Ruins of Mine

My ex-husband and his partner went on to marry. Their first ceremony took place before our state redefined marriage. After it created same-sex marriage, they chose to have a repeat performance. In both cases, my children were forced—against my will and theirs—to participate. At the second ceremony, which included more than twenty couples, local news stations and papers were there to document the first gay weddings officiated in our state. USA Today did a photo journal shoot on my ex and his partner, my children, and even the grandparents. I was not notified that this was taking place, nor was I given a voice to object to our children being used as props to promote same-sex marriage in the media.

At the time of the first ceremony, the marriage was not recognized by our state, our nation, or our church. And my ex-husband’s new marriage, like the majority of male-male relationships, is an “open,” non-exclusive relationship. This sends a clear message to our children: what you feel trumps all laws, promises, and higher authorities. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want—and it doesn’t matter who you hurt along the way.

After our children’s pictures were publicized, a flood of comments and posts appeared. Commenters exclaimed at how beautiful this gay family was and congratulated my ex-husband and his new partner on the family that they “created.” But there is a significant person missing from those pictures: the mother and abandoned wife. That “gay family” could not exist without me.

There is not one gay family that exists in this world that was created naturally.

Every same-sex family can only exist by manipulating nature. Behind the happy façade of many families headed by same-sex couples, we see relationships that are built from brokenness. They represent covenants broken, love abandoned, and responsibilities crushed. They are built on betrayal, lies, and deep wounds.

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This is also true of same-sex couples who use assisted reproductive technologies such as surrogacy or sperm donation to have children. Such processes exploit men and women for their reproductive potential, treat children as products to be bought and sold, and purposely deny children a relationship with one or both of their biological parents. Wholeness and balance cannot be found in such families, because something is always missing. am missing. But I am real, and I represent hundreds upon thousands of spouses who have been betrayed and rejected.

If my husband had chosen to stay, I know that things wouldn’t have been easy. But that is what marriage is about: making a vow and choosing to live it out, day after day. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, spouses must choose to put the other person first, loving them even when it’s hard.

A good marriage doesn’t only depend on sexual desire, which can come and go and is often out of our control. It depends on choosing to love, honor, and be faithful to one person, forsaking all others. It is common for spouses to be attracted to other people—usually of the opposite sex, but sometimes of the same sex. Spouses who value their marriage do not act on those impulses. For those who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex, staying faithful to their opposite-sex spouse isn’t a betrayal of their true identity. Rather, it’s a decision not to let themselves be ruled by their passions. It shows depth and strength of character when such people remain true to their vows, consciously striving to remember, honor, and revive the love they had for their spouses when they first married.

My Children Deserve Better

Our two young children were willfully and intentionally thrust into a world of strife and combative beliefs, lifestyles, and values, all in the name of “gay rights.” Their father moved into his new partner’s condo, which is in a complex inhabited by sixteen gay men. One of the men has a 19-year-old male prostitute who comes to service him. Another man, who functions as the father figure of this community, is in his late sixties and has a boyfriend in his twenties. My children are brought to gay parties where they are the only children and where only alcoholic beverages are served. They are taken to transgender baseball games, gay rights fundraisers, and LGBT film festivals.

Both of my children face identity issues, just like other children. Yet there are certain deep and unique problems that they will face as a direct result of my former husband’s actions. My son is now a maturing teen, and he is very interested in girls. But how will he learn how to deal with that interest when he is surrounded by men who seek sexual gratification from other men? How will he learn to treat girls with care and respect when his father has rejected them and devalues them? How will he embrace his developing masculinity without seeing his father live out authentic manhood by treating his wife and family with love, honoring his marriage vows even when it's hard?

My daughter suffers too. She needs a dad who will encourage her to embrace her femininity and beauty, but these qualities are parodied and distorted in her father's world. Her dad wears make-up and sex bondage straps for Halloween. She is often exposed to men dressing as women. The walls in his condo are adorned with large framed pictures of women in provocative positions. What is my little girl to believe about her own femininity and beauty? Her father should be protecting her sexuality. Instead, he is warping it.

Without the guidance of both their mother and their father, how can my children navigate their developing identities and sexuality? I ache to see my children struggle, desperately trying to make sense of their world.

My children and I have suffered great losses because of my former husband’s decision to identify as a gay man and throw away his life with us. Time is revealing the depth of those wounds, but I will not allow them to destroy me and my children. I refuse to lose my faith and hope. I believe so much more passionately in the power of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman today than when I was married. There is another way for those with same-sex attractions. Destruction is not the only option—it cannot be. Our children deserve far better from us.

This type of devastation should never happen to another spouse or child. Please, I plead with you: defend marriage as being between one man and one woman. We must stand for marriage—and for the precious lives that marriage creates.

Janna Darnelle is a mother, writer, and an advocate for upholding marriage between one man and one woman. She mentors others whose families have been impacted by homosexuality.

Reprinted with permission from the Public Discourse.

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Stevie Nicks confirms she wrote hit song about baby she aborted with Don Henley

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By Ben Johnson

Stevie Nicks is no stranger to rumours. She finally confirmed longstanding conjecture that she wrote one of her best-known songs partly about the child she conceived with Eagles frontman Don Henley, then aborted.

Henley said more than 20 years ago that the Fleetwood Mac song Sara, which hit number 7 on the Billboard charts in 1979, was about the baby they never saw.

“I believe, to the best of my knowledge, [that Nicks] became pregnant by me. And she named the kid Sara, and she had an abortion – and then wrote the song of the same name to the spirit of the aborted baby,” he told GQ magazine in 1991. "I was building my house at the time, and there’s a line in the song that says, ‘And when you build your house, call me.'”

In a special interview with Billboard magazine on Friday, Nicks said their baby inspired many of the song's lyrics.

“Had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named her Sara,” she said. But Nicks said the song – which was originally 16 minutes long and included nine verses cut from the album – also dealt with Mick Fleetwood's wife, Sara, and other aspects of the band's disintegrating relationships.

The revelation sheds light on the song's lyrics:

Wait a minute, baby
Stay with me awhile
Said you'd give me light
But you never told me about the fire...

Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
And now it's gone
They say it doesn't matter what for
When you build your house, call me…

All I ever wanted was to know
That you were dreaming
There's a heartbeat
No, it never really died
You never really died

Four years after the song's release, she said, “Sara was my favorite, for that kind of song. Sara was, and is, the love of my life.”

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Nicks and Henley's torrid two-year affair had been no secret, and the subsequent abortion had been well-known. According to Eagles biographer Marc Eliot, Nicks “was deeply upset about what she considered his fast and easy consent to her decision. Nicks took it as Henley's way of saying he wasn't interested in any type of serious long-term commitment.”

But Nicks had never acknowledged that the song was dedicated to her child until last week, 35 years after its release. The closest she had come was a statement in 1979 that “If I ever have a little girl, I will name her Sara. It's a very special name to me.”

Nicks never had children, something she blamed on her cocaine addiction.

Sara cast a shadow over her life for years to come. When she entered the Betty Ford Center in 1986 – doctors said she had come dangerously close to a brain hemorrhage – she used the name “Sara Anderson” and commemorated the experience in the song Welcome to the Room...Sara for Fleetwood Mac's last album, 1987's Tango in the Night.

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