I tread a fine line each June when Father's Day comes around. I have a great Dad - he's unconditionally supportive and makes a lot of effort to do his best. I want to celebrate my Dad but at the same time it's a tough event for Cameron. The absence of his father is, of course, a huge deal in our lives and it's important for me to be sensitive to that.
I treated my Dad to a low-key brunch on Sunday with chocolate dipped fruit and home made cinnamon buns whilst we all caught up on our news. No fanfare but enough to mark the day and let my Dad know that I appreciate him.
As Father's day approached my inbox filled up with press releases and opportunities to promote products. Most of the time I just say a polite "no thanks" and get on with my day but one of them really upset me. It quoted recent research on the importance of fathers which apparently shows that:
"children whose dads are involved in their lives early on are:
Ø More likely to do well at school
Ø More secure with fewer behavioural problems and happier
Ø Less likely to get involved in crime"
I'm sure that's very nice to hear for all of those families where it has been possible to stay together and make it work but I think this kind of statement is rather simplistic and insulting.
I have three points I'd like to make.
1. The presence of two parents is not a guarantee of happiness and security. Parenting requires effort - whatever the circumstances. Simply being together isn't enough (and if you need a special ego-boosting press release to inspire you to read The Gruffalo to your child then you're not working hard enough at it, in my opinion).
2. From the parents I have met, I find single parents to be the most attentive and hard working. They're doing the job of two parents and doing their best. You're more likely to find them over-compensating for the fact that it isn't perfect than neglecting their children's needs.
3. Flippant statements such as the above condemn my child and others like him to a bleak future for no good reason and makes assumptions about what our home life is like. My child doesn't have a father present but we have a close relationship and he feels comfortable enough to ask me anything. He does well in school, is ambitious, good natured and is interested in life. He knows the difference between right and wrong, grew up with everything he needed, had a story before bed every night and always has at least two vegetables on his plate at tea time etc. There's nothing special about what I do/did - this is reality for most single parent families that I know.
A father is important, I don't dispute that, but life is not perfect and we don't always get a choice. Isn't it about time we stop beating single mothers (and the children of them) with this "research"? What does it achieve?