Can't believe it's been nearly a year already since my dad passed away, and that he won't be around this Father's Day. Although, to be honest, he wasn't around much period while his five kids were growing up, and made no secret of the fact that he had zero interest in parenting. (In case you think I'm exaggerating, each one of my siblings grew up being told that he would leave as soon as they turned 16, and he finally made good on his promise when my turn as the youngest came around.) In spite of this, three of my siblings and I had made some sort of peace with him before he died, and accepted his lack of involvement in our lives as something that wasn't to be taken too personally. A good role model for being a father he wasn't, but it could have been worse.
So with Father's Day around the corner (tomorrow!), and my post on mothering just behind me, I thought I'd take some time and continue talking about parenting. If, as I argued in my previous post, mothering is a role we don't really value, then fathering is a role valued even less. Sure, we pay lip service to the idea of celebrating the role of fatherhood, but even the holiday itself isn't emphasized as much as its counterpart.
Understandable, as regrettably, raising the next generation is still often thought of as women's work. Consider again that most men won't have to figure out how they'll combine work with child rearing, won't get asked how they'll accomplish that feat, and won't have to deal with the consequences of taking time out of the labour force to raise their kids if that's their choice. But that career comes first for men is still a given for most.
As I also stated in the mothering post, the qualities of being a good parent -- nurturing, protecting, guiding, etc., are not, in my opinion, gender specific, and I think it's a shame that we've allowed outdated stereotypes to determine parenting roles. I've long felt that a mature and healthy adult is, for example, strong and sensitive, caring and assertive, rational and warm, empathetic and independent, and to label any of those traits as either masculine or feminine is both silly and limiting.
In that sense, I don't think a child needs both a mother and a father as claimed by those who champion traditional family values, as much as they need an adult in their lives who has the full range of qualities that every grown-up should have. Where it's helpful to have two adults involved in child-rearing is that it lessens the load, and hopefully provides a role model of what a positive relationship can look like. But whether those two adults are of the same gender or not is irrelevant, and I can tell you from personal experience that my own particular family would have been much better off if it had been "broken" far sooner.
And if mothering and fathering doesn't get the status it deserves among humans, then the industrial agricultural complex pretty much strips any status for other species. No respect is given to the natural bonds of motherhood and fatherhood, and parenthood is only valued if it benefits humans. Think puppy mills, zoos, aquariums, and of course all the victims considered food animals. A depressing thought indeed.
So once again I want to end with a reference to two of my favourite human dads, who daily give me hope, and who beautifully illustrate what fatherhood could and should be all about. :)