Ron Collins writes an excellent piece about fatherlessness at A Voice for Men.
Why are so many fathers separated from their children? For every man who is not actively engaged in the lives of his children, there is a story, of a decision that was made by someone. Many would have us believe that the norm is irresponsible, immature men who fear the commitments of parenthood and shirk their role out of pure selfishness. But how true is this?
Not just for Father’s Day, but every day, the realities of fatherhood need to be scrutinized through a new lens, of an inescapable truth about childhood and the life of families: that motherhood, not fatherhood, is seen more and more as the senior position in the parental hierarchy. Whether a good thing or a bad thing, it is rare indeed to see a family unit with or without the father present, that is not clearly skippered by the woman of the house.
I have never been particularly drawn by the idea of patriarchy, of “what I say goes” and “my home is my castle”, or even in every case “father knows best.” I haven’t lived it, haven’t seen it, wouldn’t know how to go about it, don’t really see the need for it. But the very notion of male headship of a home, or even an equitable sharing of parental authority as opposed to an openly matriarchal model, has been under siege now for generations. Fatherhood as anything but a subordinate adjunct to motherhood, at whatever level of participation, has become the extreme exception whether parents live in the same home or not.
There is widespread agreement that fathers play a vital role for children throughout their lives. In whatever form advocated, it is common enough to see the role of fathers spoken of positively. But what is this role to be, by whom defined, and to what extent is it incumbent on mothers to allow and facilitate and honor it, lest it become impossible to carry out?
Canadian journalist Barbara Kay has remarked that “misandry in family law arises from an ideology that sees children as their mothers’ property.” This was a comment on divorce and custody law as discriminating against fathers, within a much broader talk that covered a great many topics on men’s issues, but it comes as close as any analysis I have seen to describing what is increasingly the foundation of family life for today’s fathers: maternal seniority, or more simply put, matriarchy, is what poses the core requirements of parenthood to fathers.
So what does this say to address why so many children grow up without their living, unincarcerated, non-institutionalized, fully capable fathers?
My Father’s Day challenge to my readers is to ponder this: are men apart from their children for being no good, for being failures, for being dangerous to them? Or have a great many just not ultimately suited the preferences of someone with whom they conceived a child, someone who has assumed from the start that she may outrank and overrule her child’s other parent at will and in perpetuity?
In today’s world, there are few things to “move on” from that are accompanied by so many ways and means and rationales for leaving them behind, as fatherhood.
So a great deal of what I see, hear and read around Father’s Day rings hollow with me, and not entirely for personal reasons: I have come to live with the knowledge that fatherhood with all it has to offer, under the rule of matriarchy, has become optional.