The new fatherhood, same as the old fatherhood

The new fatherhood, same as the old fatherhood

Time magazine has an article “Fatherhood 2.0 on the “new” notions of what it means to be a father. They note that more fathers are spending more time with their kids and are more active in raising them than previous generations were. Or are they?

Here’s Times’s notion of what “traditional” fatherhood entails:

But what does it mean, exactly, to be a man these days? Once upon a Darwinian time, a man was the one spearing the woolly mammoth. And it wasn’t so long ago that a man was that strong and silent fellow over there at the bar with the dry martini or a cold can of beer—a hardworking guy in a gray flannel suit or blue-collar work shirt. He sired children, yes, but he drew the line at diapering them.

Something tells me the reporter has unresolved daddy issues. This may be what fatherhood and manliness looked like in the 50s and 60s, which goes a long way toward explaining the cultural issues we’ve been dealing with ever since. But it’s certainly not what fatherhood was for everyone or what it was like in a previous age. When most dads were stay-at-home dads, i.e. when they were farmers or workmen who labored in home-based workshops, their children labored by their sides. Boys and girls learned firsthand from fathers and mothers what it means to be a man or a woman.

A prescient diagnosis

It was with the rise of industrialization and the newly automobile-enabled suburban commuters that fathers began to be separated from their children (and wives) and eventually the mothers followed them out of the home.

Does changing a diaper or helping your wife through labor make you less of a man? Are you kidding me?

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger famously diagnosed the world’s ills as boiling down to a single problem: a crisis of fatherhood. Look at every major social problem: Abortion, sexual immorality, homosexuality, gang violence, lack of work ethic, radical feminism, drug abuse. While it’s not the sole cause, the crisis of fatherhood is right there at the root of each one.

Time offers the Stuart Smalley ideal of contemporary fatherhood: “It’s not quite masculine, but … that’s okay.” After all, stripping men of masculinity is one of the major post-modern ideals. But fatherhood, properly understood, is the height of masculinity par excellence. A masculine dad offers love, strength, stability, drive, and—importantly for both sons and daughters—an example of how a man should love a woman by how he loves their mother.

Don’t underestimate that last one’s influence on current pop culture.

(And I haven’t even delved into the spiritual example of a masculine dad. That’s a whole other blog entry.)

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
23 comments
  • I understand most of those, but what is the homosexuality connection to inadequate/absent dads? 

    And this could not be more true:

    “and—importantly for both sons and daughters—an example of how a man should love a woman by how he loves their mother.”

  • Dear Domenico:
          Thanks for the very needed lucid comments on the crisis of fatherhood which is the crisis of civilization and our own American cultural meltdown.  Everywhere we look we see the feminazation of our society, one of Marx’s favorites, he, being one of the first to invent this monster of radical feminazation of society through the ilk of Margaret Sanger and all the radical feminists who run around today supported by our Federal marxist monster government that imposes upon society a welfare system that supports ADC and other programs like Childcare to promote more radical feminism and useless male studs.
          Nor does this fail to penetrate Holy Church and the feminization of the priesthood, especially with homosexuality problems amongst the clergy and priests who water down the liturgy and their sermons into a feel-good feminized experience for the indoctrinated laity. 
          Please keep up your aggressive fatherly lead on what is morally right in our female obsessed society.
            j hughes dunphy
      http://www.theorthodoxromancatholic.com

  • Domenico,

    From where do you get the tortured list of “every major social problem?”  What about the healthcare crisis, poverty/distribution of resources, homelessness, crime, war, discrimination, illegal immigration?  I’d put those ahead of most of the ones you listed.

  • Also, a lot of people who are atheists are people with father issues. Broadly speaking, people tend to see God the Father in the same terms they view their own fathers—loving and close, stern, distant, evil, or uncaring. (They can change this mental image, of course, but it helps to have a basic image that’s healthy and powerful.)

  • Rick: It was not meant to be an exhaustive list, however I would place issues that would tend to deny you eternity in heaven—matters of personal morality—over those things concerned solely with this world—poverty, homelessness, immigration, etc. It doesn’t make the latter unimportant, as Catholic teaching makes quite clear, but in the hierarchy of importance, they are second.

    Joanne: You’d have to ask the Pope why he included it in the list, but from a former homosexual that I know, he says that in his experience, most gay men are looking for the daddy love they think they missed. Ditto with lesbians.

  • “from a former homosexual that I know,”

    I’m just curious – I guess I don’t think there is any such thing as a “former” homosexual, although of course some homosexuals can and do stop acting on their homosexual impulses – but I’m wondering if this person is currently married to a woman, if that information is not too personal to share.

  • The way he described it was that he was healed of his attraction to other men. He credited the work of Leeanne Payne (sp?) for his healing.

    Last I heard from him, he was discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

  • Having quite a few friends who self-identify as gay, they all have one thing, and nearly all have two, in common.

    An absentee or viciously overbearing father, and in most of those cases, an inappropriately intimate mother.

    I understand it is verboten to claim that these are root causes of the disorder, but that they correlate very well seems undeniable.

  • Joanne,

    as you quoted from Dom, “A masculine dad offers love, strength, stability, drive, and—importantly for both sons and daughters—an example of how a man should love a woman by how he loves their mother.”

    If a son doesn’t learn how a man should love a woman, then there is a chance that he will direct romantic love toward other men instead.

  • I’m always baffled by articles about “New” fathers, and how much more involved they are than man of the previous generation.

    Look, my Dad was as far from a touchy-feely New Age man as he could have been. He was a tough, old-school Catholic and a stickler for discipline. He believed men should work and women whould take care of the home (he died in 1970, and would have HATED most of what feminism wrought).

    And yet…

    My Dad made breakfast and lunch for me and my brothers all the time. He looked after us while my Mom went to college at night. He rocked us to sleep and nursed us when we were sick.

    In short, my conservative, old-school, macho Dad did at LEAST as much child care, nurturing, and housework as the self-congratulatory, sensitive Alan Alda/Phil Donahue wannabes of today. My Dad didn’t write magazine articles about taking care of his kids- he just DID it, and didn’t expect any special praise or credit for it.

    And my Dad wasn’t unique among his peers. MOST of the Dads I knew growing up did the same.

    Which means that “New Fathers” aren’t really all that new. Which in turn means they should shut up and go away.

  • “If a son doesn’t learn how a man should love a woman, then there is a chance that he will direct romantic love toward other men instead.”

    I don’t know. Maybe. I am not trying to be argumentative in this thread, but I’m just not convinced that a person being attracted to members of the same sex follows from a disordered home life or absent/bad father (although I do know one homosexual and one lesbian for whom this WAS the case). I still tend to believe though that sexual preference is simply part of us from birth, or before birth, really – and there isn’t anything that could or couldn’t have prevented a particular outcome.

    A previous poster mentioned the possible phenomena of atheists having had poor relationships with their dads. This to me is much more plausible, partly because atheism is based on beliefs, which can change, as opposed to a predilection, which I guess I tend to see more as hardwired from before birth.

    And the idea that sexual orientation springs from family dynamics also doesn’t explain how one sibling might be gay, and the others not. In the case of the gay man whom I am friendly with, he has two siblings, one male and one female, who are in heterosexual marriages. Another gay man I know is one of six children – with the other five all in straight marriages. However, I will say that I do know of two families in which two of the siblings (in both cases, boys) are gay. But then these latter cases could also point to other factors, such as a genetic predisposition to homosexuality.

    Either way, I guess I sort of bristle at the idea of “former” homosexuals marrying because when they do so, they are necessarily involving other people (their spouses and perhaps – *shudder* – even children) in what I would consider to be an extremely dubious “recovery.”

    To astorian: my father was a very conservative person, but did alot of diaper changing, taking care of us while my mother was out bowling one night a week, cleaning up after dinner when my mother started working outside our home, doing grocery shopping, etc. You’re right that it’s not a contradiction in terms for a man to have traditional ideas and still be an involved and loving husband and dad!

  • Joanne: There’s no scientific evidence that homosexuality has a genetic basis. The only “study” that is always cited was never peer-reviewed and the data was subsequently exposed as faulty.

    Even if there were a biological predisposition, there could be environmental factors that trigger it. You experience of your parents is different from your siblings.

    That would explain why some people with a familial predisposition for depression don’t have it while siblings do, for example.

  • Domenico,

    How are our actions with respect to poverty, homelessness and immigration policies not a matter of personal morality?  You seem to be suggesting that premarital sex will deny me an eternity in heaven, but ignoring the naked beggar at my doorstep will not.

  • The problem of anecdotal correlation is that it has zip to prove about causation. One could more reasonably speculate that the distanced father-son relationships reported here were the result of the father distancing himself (however subconsciously or conciously) from a son he perceived as not fully gender-conforming. There is considerable anecdotal reportage about that, too. And lots of situations with no suffocating mothers.

    In fact, what these anecdotes have in common is a a latter-day Freudian guilt trip on parental responsibility. It’s very odd to witness people embrace such a thing.

    One thing we do know – sexual orientation among men is largely experienced as given, not chosen. We don’t need any studies to prove that; personal testimony is amply sufficient. This dynamic appears to be somewhat less so among women.

    In any event, the more salient question would seem to be how one would behave if one’s child were to self-reveal as gay. Knowning that one’s internet commentary would likely be discoverable by that child. One thing we do know: being a devout Catholic parent is no bar whatsoever to having such a child. Whatever one speculates about etiology, the piety of parents appears to be independent of it.

  • “One could more reasonably speculate that the distanced father-son relationships reported here were the result of the father distancing himself (however subconsciously or conciously) from a son he perceived as not fully gender-conforming.”

    I thought of this too. I think that is a good possibility. And Dom, I wasn’t basing the “genetics” opinion on research – I didn’t know such research – however poorly done or reviewed it was – even existed. It’s sort of surprising, actually, that more research hasn’t been done on this topic.

  • Liam,

    Did I make any causal attribution?  I didn’t think so.

    And of what value does how “sexual orientation* is experienced” have?

    *A social construct if ever there was.

  • I should also point out that Joanne’s thesis of the origins of same-sex attraction wouldn’t account for, for example identical twins, one of whom suffers from SSA and the other who doesn’t.

    Like my own father and his mirror-image twin.

  • Franklin

    Your prostataion that claiming causation was verboten seemed very much in the line of protesting too much because of the emphasis on correlation you then made.

    As for twins, what studies there are seem to indicate increased rates of homosexuality among identical twins, IIRC, but of course sample rates are somewhat small. The other correlations seem to be increased incidence for younger brothers where their mother has had more pregnancies of boys (born or miscarried). I certainly know a number of gay men who have gay brothers, and they do tend to be the younger group (and, interestingly, the abusive/absent father-cum-sufficating-mother meme seems to be much less salient in that group).

    And how sexual orientation is experienced in terms of chosenness and givenness is quite relevant. I fail to see its irrelevance except that it is politically incorrect in certain American Catholic and evangelical circles to say its relevant.

  • “Joanne’s thesis of the origins of same-sex attraction”

    If you are thinking I believe that homosexuality is in every case a matter of genetics, that is not so. I said I believe it’s present at birth – that can also mean *congenital,* and could therefore, as far as I know, apply to twins as well as single births. You may know more about twins than I do, having them in your family, but I believe it’s possible for a congenital problem to affect one and not the other.

  • “And how sexual orientation is experienced in terms of chosenness and givenness is quite irrelevant. I fail to see its relevance except that it is politically incorrect in certain American circles to say its irrelevant.”

    Or, in other words, you’re just making assertions.  We can all make assertions until the cows come home, and it won’t do a bit of good.

    Joanne,

    So it is a disease?  That’s much farther than the Church is willing to go (merely disordered and of unknown genesis).  Of course, you could be right. 

    Well, here’s hoping for a cure!

  • “Congenital” I suppose would mean a birth defect of sorts. I say, “defect,” because if everyone were homosexual and acted exclusively on those tendencies, the human race would die out. So, obviously, whatever the origin of homosexuality, it’s not normative.

    This discussion is an important one, but I don’t really get any pleasure out it. I have no animosity towards gays or lesbians, and I don’t enjoy describing anyone as “defective.” As far as I’m concerned, they have a cross that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I don’t blame homosexuals for the downfall of our culture, and I get annoyed when others do. Heterosexuals constitute the vast majority of the population and thus it seems to me, the culture and its pillars (marriage, family life, etc) were – and are – ours to lose through our own neglect and misbehavior.

    Take care –

  • “I don’t blame homosexuals for the downfall of our culture, and I get annoyed when others do.”

    Well, since everyone here seems to be blaming crappy fathers, you are at least safe from annoyance.

  • “Well, since everyone here seems to be blaming crappy fathers, you are at least safe from annoyance.”

    *he he*

    Good point! wink

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