Ward Cleaver. Cliff Huxtable. Cameron Pritchett.
They are the changing face of fatherhood over the years. From the remote and distant fathers of the 50s to the super-involved dads of today there has been a sea change in the role that men play in a child’s upbringing and in what we expect of men.
In the 50s if a man said he wanted to be a stay at home father – well the dirty looks, and the whispering would have put the kibosh on that double-time. But today men are stepping up in ever increasing numbers to be an active participant in their children’s lives and many are making the statement that they want to be the stay at home dad and let mom go slay a few dragons.
It’s an outgrowth of the feminist movement that few foresaw. But for the men who are now primary caretakers of their children it is a welcome role, and for the children who are the beneficiaries of this new dynamic the stage is being set for a new world order.
As a father’s rights advocate it’s gratifying to see more men taking advantage of the possibilities that are available to them. When I see a man with his young son or daughter, it warms my heart to know that that child is the recipient of a new way of thinking. That new worldview will eventually bear fruit for all of us as a new sense of equality and possibility is established.
It’s not easy for the moms though. They’re having a rough go of the adjustment, particularly the ones who suddenly find they have to pay spousal support or child support to a “baby daddy.” It’s a bitter pill for them to swallow. Partly because of other women’s attitudes and judgment.
The woman who does not “win” in family court, who “loses her children” to their father, and must pay support is looked down upon. Not by men mind you, but by other women. She is judged. The fingers and tongues wag that “she must have done something wrong” to have lost in court. For it is expected that a woman always wins her children – she’s just the better parent – everyone knows that.
But that is exceedingly sexist. It’s just as sexist to say a woman is automatically a better parent by virtue of her genetic code as it is to say that a man is not a good parent by virtue of his genes.
To discern what makes a good parent requires a deeper understanding of humanity and what it takes to raise a child. Parenting is far beyond keeping the little ones fed and getting them to school on time. It is about being a consistent, stable force in their lives that teaches core values.
To make a child is easy, to raise a person of character and substance – that takes effort; but it’s not something that is specific to one gender. Other men taught me most of the best life lessons I’ve learned.
I had one biological father, as do all of us. But many men have fathered me over the decades. I would not have survived high school if not for Roger Durant. I doubt I would have made it through childhood if not for my big brother. My 30s were a period of huge realignment in my ego and world view which I owe to dozens of wiser men who let me share my fears, cry my tears and showed me another path.
In my 40s I’m still relying on older wiser men to keep me on the path of growth and exploration. I have a 70-something year old who regularly kicks me in the pants and I’ve 30 year olds who do the same.
Men can be wonderful teachers. Whether with 1 year olds or 50 year olds, we learn from each other. Given the opportunity to demonstrate our skills, share our passions and exhibit our compassion, we make fathering a lifelong adventure and bond, oftentimes with men and boys to whom we are not related.
To all the men who have fathered me over the past 47 years, thank you and happy Father’s Day, I love you all.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.