By Mark Wachtler
Senior Editor, Whiteout Press
June 19, 2011. Everywhere USA. This year, instead of giving dad whatever last-second, homemade gift he normally gets, or whatever mom told you you’ve gotten him, give your father something he truly needs – the love and appreciation he deserves. Dads are a unique breed in the animal kingdom. In some animal species, dads occupy the traditional roll of the mother. In others, he plays no roll at all. And in some rare instances, Mother Nature has done away with both moms and dads and given a few select animals the physical attributes to be both parents at once.
In the human realm however, the roll of fathers has transformed more than any other vital aspect of human nature. For thousands of years, because of their physical size and strength, fathers were forced to tame the wild so their wives and children could survive. When that monumental task was accomplished, dads were once again sent off – this time to foreign shores to fight off any and every possible danger or threat to their loved ones. Dads gave their lives by the tens of millions to once again make it possible for their wives and children to survive. This time the threat wasn’t from nature or wild animals. It was from ruthless armies that would rape, murder or enslave their families.
In modern times, mankind has slowly civilized himself. But dads still face the self-sacrificing hurdles that have defined chivalry and honor throughout time. These days, fathers are still giving their lives fighting foreign armies or deadly beasts to protect their children. But they also sadly find themselves fighting a multi-front war against those they are trying to protect.
When black and white television swept the world, it replaced grandma as the family unit’s expert on what a father should and shouldn’t be. Instead of relying on the time-tested wisdom handed down from generation to generation, Americans tuned into shows like Courtship of Eddie’s Father to learn about fatherhood. Bill Bixby and his TV son Eddie were soon joined by Andy and Opie Taylor and even Mike Brady. Mr. Brady wowed them all with his attempt to actually raise three kids by himself.
But that’s one of the ironies one notices. As wonderful, inspiring and respected as each of those TV fathers was, in the eyes of Hollywood and indeed society, not one of them was capable of raising a child. Bill Bixby needed Mrs. Livingston. Sherriff Taylor couldn’t survive without Aunt B. And Mr. Brady had live-in housekeeper Alice, even before he met Mrs. Brady and her three girls.
Yes, it seems dad has always been viewed as a bumbling idiot. Today’s television commercials make a daily, if not hourly, habit of selling products by making viewers laugh at how clueless dads are these days. Most of the time, dad gets treated like he’s never met his kids before and doesn’t know a thing about them. It’s almost as if dad didn’t spend his child’s lifetime sitting up night after night, rocking a crying baby to sleep, or terrified over what may be causing his child pain, or carelessly getting vomited on when the ailment comes to fruition.
Dads are treated as if they didn’t live and die with each agony and triumph their child faces through life. It’s as if they’ve never been a part of the life-changing parent-child conversations one goes through during the quest for adulthood. If anything, fathers are looked down on for some reason, as if their half-decade shorter life expectancy were due to some genetic flaw instead of the self-sacrificing acts and results of a lifetime of providing for and defending their children.
Modern America hasn’t treated dad much better. If anything, the trend only gets worse. While experts argue over whether life imitates art or art imitates life, TV land has continued to give us Hollywood’s version of fatherhood. Danny Tanner had a Full House with his three daughters. But at least for the first time, society seemed to trust a dad to raise daughters alone. Until now, it was widely believed that mothers and daughters spoke a foreign language that fathers simply couldn’t understand. But even Danny Tanner needed Uncle Jesse and best friend Joey to move in and help him raise the adorable Olsen twins and their sisters.
If America’s most popular television sitcom Two and a Half Men is any indication, dads may be doomed. Starting as responsible, professional, well-meaning characters, TV dads evolved into responsible, well-meaning goofs – none of which were capable of raising a child alone. Now, we see America’s single dad still can’t raise his own kids. Only now, he’s introduced his whacked-out brother Charlie Sheen and a never-ending stream of alcohol, vulgarity, prostitutes and sex.
For generations, fathers have taken it in stride. They don’t complain, cry foul or demand an apology for having been offended so. Just as dads are too proud and protective to ever let their children see them hurt, fathers also take the humorous punishment in the same vein as when they injure their back carrying heavy boxes for mom or the kids. They may grimace in pain. But they’ll still smile on the outside and gladly go through the exact same series of events the following day. Because that’s what dads do.
These days however, dad often doesn’t even get the chance. He’s shut out of his children’s lives not only by mom, but also by the government and even society. The groundwork had already been laid a generation ago when men were forced to submit to second class citizenship. Any doubters need only look at college applications, financial aid forms and even government employment standards. In all if those cases, and many, many more, it’s perfectly legal and acceptable to discriminate against men, legally. In fact, it’s encouraged and rewarded with government subsidies and tax breaks.
The headlines read, ‘Equal Opportunity - We don’t discriminate against any individual based on race, sex, nationality or religion’. But the fine print proudly proclaims, ‘we do however award extra credit and consideration to women and individuals of a minority group’. Women are not only the majority in America’s colleges, but they now outpace men in college graduation rates and are rapidly approaching the day when girls will outnumber boys in college by a 2 to 1 ratio. In 2007 alone, women earned an unprecedented two-thirds of all college Associates Degrees and six out of ten Bachelors Degrees. Education is indeed power.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the double standards men face in American society today, specifically dads.
Why is it that when dad works all day, he’s legally and socially considered an ‘absentee father’ who’s more concerned with his career than he is with his own children? But when mom works, she’s a responsible, proud, hard-working woman who’s providing for her kids?
And when women are stay at home moms, they hold the most praise-worthy and under-appreciated job in society. We’ve all seen the annual study that shows if women were paid a salary for the wondrous work they do raising their kids, they would be paid a quarter million dollars a year. But for some reason, when men are stay at home dads, they’re nothing more than good-for-nothing deadbeats who are too selfish to get off their lazy butts and get a job.
Those are only the first of a never-ending string of comical double standards. But when one looks at the results, they’re not so comical. Consider these statistics from Fathersforlife.org:
-90 percent of all homeless and run-away children are from fatherless homes.
-63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
-71 per cent of school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
-85 percent of incarcerated youth are from fatherless homes.
And yet today, nearly 2 in 5 American children live in a fatherless home. Why?
From the opinions of many single dads, the answer is simple. The government took complete control and responsibility for safeguarding the day to day lives of children of single or divorced parents. Unable to manage such an impossible task, government officials and local welfare caseworkers have taken a Japan-style approach where all mothers are automatically awarded custody. Forgetting that each of the millions of individual cases represents a fragile, defenseless child, government agents have taken the quick and easy way out and simply default to the mother’s requests.
Consider these facts from Fathersforlife.org:
-80 percent of custodial mothers are awarded child support.
-In comparison, only 30 percent of fathers in the same situation are awarded child support.
-47 percent of non-custodial mothers default on their support obligations.
-In comparison, only 27 percent of non-custodial fathers default on their support obligations.
-Only 20 percent of non-custodial mothers are required to pay child support.
-In comparison, 61 percent of non-custodial fathers are required to pay child support.
-46 percent of single mothers are receiving public assistance.
-In comparison, only 21 percent of single fathers are able to receive public assistance.
Nationwide, lawyers specializing in ‘fathers rights’ flood the airwaves with their commercials offering to help fathers maneuver the one-sided system. Unfortunately for the single dads, these special lawyers always seem to charge two or three times the hourly rate as other attorneys – not something a single dad receiving no financial support can afford.
"The news shouldn't be left wing or right wing, conservative or liberal. It should be the news. It should be independent" - Mark Wachtler, Whiteout Press founder
More often, as is the case with millions of undocumented single and divorced fathers throughout America, these dads simply go about their day, raising their children alone, while still being forced to pay child support for kids they are single-handedly raising. Not only is dad not entitled to receive any support from the estranged mother, outrageously enough, he’s still forced to pay her. “Child support has nothing to do with children” is the standard line thousands of case workers, judges, lawyers and government agents recite each day, “It’s the mothers money to spend as she sees fit”.
But what if the kids don’t live with her? What if they live 24/7, 365 days a year with their father, for years? “Doesn’t matter” they explain again, “You do get a 10 percent discount on your support payments though, because you’re the one actually raising your kids. You should be happy about that”.
With millions of American dads having physical custody, while mom retains custody on paper, already fragile families are being destroyed by government and society’s refusal to be fair. Instead of insuring dads get the same support mothers get in the same situation, fathers are forced to provide for their children with one income in a two-income world. Adding insult to injury, they’re not entitled to any help and even more destructive, they’re actually forced to pay child support for the kids they’re raising alone. “What part of Women Infants and Children (WIC) do you think you are?” they condescendingly tell dad.
While dads may not be perfect, they’re the only real dad you’re ever going to have. And even if your father isn’t a part of your life for one reason or another, please consider giving him another chance. I guarantee he wants it. In fact, it would be the best Fathers Day present he could ever receive. Happy Fathers Day dads – all of you.
Mark Wachtler is a 16-year single dad and the Senior Editor at WhiteoutPress.com. Permission is granted to reprint this article, in part or in whole, provided credit and a return link are included.