Not enough is written or spoken about children who are being raised primarily or exclusively by men. The tendency in our culture is to believe that only mothers are innately capable of nurturing children. Our media do little to dispel this myth. Yet nothing is further from the truth.
One of the reasons I’m raising this issue is to encourage discussion about our states’ child custody laws. In many states, the law presumes that children would be better off in the care of the mother without seriously looking at the father’s merits. In fact, the father might be the better custodial parent if he is more emotionally and economically stable.
Society in much of the western world has shifted away from the presumption that men always have their act together and women do not, to: men rarely have their act together and women always have. Of course the truth lies somewhere in between for both women and men.
Unfortunately, in our climate male energy is often the culprit. Men do not often represent themselves well in an age where emotion rather than logic sways argument. Many men still are not comfortable expressing sentiment and feelings. They often feel in competition with each other and so aggression and dominance still play a large role in men’s careers and even in their recreation.
After centuries of presuming that wives would (and should) be routinely battered in marriage, today we finally are protecting women from such an outrage. Yet due to machismo, far too many men do not speak about how they have been battered by their female partners. How many of us would laugh at the claim of a 225 pound man complaining of being physically abused by his petite lover?
Our culture really does want to believe men when they tell their stories in emotional terms. They think it’s almost a betrayal of the male archetype dominant in many sectors ever to show emotions, and when they do, they have to make up an excuse or apologize. No so when a woman appropriately and spontaneously bawls out her eyes. If you witnessed a man weeping at a child custody hearing would you think him as capable and strong? Women still suffer from the stereotype that their rational good judgment is clouded by their emotions. But that’s the subject for another blog.
According to William McCloskey’s article “Adventures in (Single Male) Parenting” for Motherlode in the New York Times, there are 2.3 million American fathers raising their children solo. The U.S. Census Bureau says that among single parents living with their children, 18 percent are men. Among these fathers, 11 percent are raising three or more of their own children under 18 years of age…. About 84 percent of custodial parents are mothers and 16 percent are fathers. In other words, more than one in six single parents is a man.
McCloskey goes on to write that this phenomenon is being all but ignored in our society: We found that women had entire industries and cultural phenomena devoted to inculcating and nourishing expertise in motherhood and its subset, single motherhood. If you could conjure any single mother’s circumstances, any circumstances whatever, you could find a dozen books offering her advice and guidance. For single fathers, not so much — and for good reason. I don’t know even one man who would consider buying a book about parenting and I don’t know a single father who would take a parenting class. But I absolutely would seek informal advice from my mother and my two sisters who each had three children, as well as from a few other women with children I knew from work and from those playgrounds.
Have you ever met a man who was raising his or someone else’s children singlehandedly? Have you affirmed him in his role or simply pitied him? Without judging either parent, in what ways have your attitudes developed in this area? Given the fact that so many children are being raised by single parents, what judgments automatically come to mind that need to be examined and released, so that true wisdom takes more control of your life?
Contact the Man’s Coach at email@example.com
loved the article. In the early 80s I left college,(hated it) and for two years while I figured out what I needed to do next I undertook a nanny role for my niece Edith. She was 6 months old and for two years I spent every day with her from breakfast until I left at 6pm to wait tables and mom and dad came home.
To this day it was the most rewarding time of my life. And now Edith is 26 we’re still as thick as thieves. Its the same with my nephew John. He was born when Edith was four, but as I had stayed on with my sister’s household while going back too finish my degree, Ihad no small hand in raising him as well.
It was remarkble to discover my talent with children, and let it wash over me. As an uncle, nanny and art teacher I found my true worth above and beyond the concept of a career. That’s rrare for men and I consider myself blessed for it.
A few final observations, my sister’s friends all asked me to watch their kids as well, or for advice, because Edith and John were so happy. Both of their friends still refer to me as Uncle Peter. And last year when their father died after a long illness, my significant role in their lives was again a blessing. So here’s to false starts that lead us off our planned path to discover our real strengths.
ps I know and have met coutnless woman who have no patience for nurturing kids, and do better in the working world. Enough of the stereotypes already.