As we say goodbye to May and enter June, my thoughts have turned to upcoming Fathers’ Day. Father’s Day unlike Mother’s Day, is often overlooked and greeted with laughter. Fathers often joke about the ‘horrible’ gifts they get; when I was young one of the fashionable gifts to your dad and/or grand dad was the ‘soap on a rope.’ Imagine getting that as a sign of appreciation. However what should not be overlooked and what is not a joke is the importance of not just fathers but fathers who are involved with and living with their children.
Last year CNN reported on a study by the Pew Research Center that said America is quickly becoming a dual society when it comes to fatherhood. One the one side are fathers who regularly participate in their children’s lives, and by regularly I mean “everyday in every aspect under the same roof.” On the other side are fathers who live apart from their children and do not have the type of relationship that would be called consistent and involved. According to the study the good news is that the fathers that are living with their children are much more active in the lives of their kids than those same type of fathers from 50 years ago. Parenting has evolved for fathers beyond being the providers and disciplinarians–they are now involved with all other aspects. However the problem for our society as a whole, in my opinion, is that the percentage of fathers living apart from their children has more than doubled, going back to 1960. The report highlighted that one out of every four fathers lives separately from their children. This adds up to is the troubling fact that 20.3 million children don’t have a father living with them.
My own father died shortly after I had turned 10 years old and the pain of his absence under our roof is something that is with me to this very day, so I know a little something about some of the feelings those 20.3 million children have about their particular situation. I do not believe we need any experts or studies to tell us what we already know or should already know. Any father or any parent for that matter that is living in the same house as his children will most likely be more involved with the lives of his children and those children will be better off for it.
The Pew Research Study was also very troubling to a subject near and dear to my heart–the plight of the African-American community. The study found that while 21% of white fathers and 35% live away from their children, Black fathers were at 44% when it comes to living apart from their children. Personally I believe that 44% number to be overly generous; I would not be surprised if it was actually higher. In fact I believe it probably is. Now I must admit I have not done a study to prove that, I base it on my own experience and knowledge and also on the fact that 72 % of black babies born today are done so out of wedlock.
The study also highlights some stark economic realities for fatherhood. It found that besides white fathers, fathers with a college education, and fathers with higher incomes are also more likely to live with their children. The study pointed out how fathers with less than a high school diploma who lived away from their children accounted for 40% of dads not at home, compared to 7% of college educated fathers.
What is alarming about this for me is this would seem to suggest that, for the first time in our country’s history, poor families, working class families, middle income families, and high income families are becoming vastly different in not only how their families are structured but also in how they operate and I do not think I need to spell out which ones have the advantage. While high income and middle class families have always had an economic advantage, there was a time when low income families of all ethnic and racial backgrounds were on par and sometimes better when it came to having both parents under the same roof with full time access to their children. If high income families were and are able to give their children a head start in life through their economic advantage, there was once a time that parents in the home working together as best they could to offset any disadvantages their economic status placed on their children. One can only imagine how much harder such a task is for such families with the father living separate from his children. This is not to say that every two parent household is ideal and that there are not some fantastic households headed up by just mom, because there are– I grew up in one after the death of my dad–but those families and situations are not what I am discussing here. I am simple stating my viewpoint that having fathers that live with their children is the most ideal situation for our society has a whole. I believe any honest examination of the facts will support me in my opinion.
I would like to conclude with a shout-out to all the fathers out there who are doing it right as we approach Fathers Day. If you are active in your children’s lives and providing for them and loving them, you are a hero. God bless you and all that you do, you are making your children, your family, your community , and your country stronger by your efforts.