I’m sorry to have been so long away. I’ve got very little internet access and not all that much time, either. But things should improve. Though this must get to sound like a broken record–I know there are comments but I cannot respond to them right now. (In fact, I cannot even read them–but I know they are there.) Patience? Maybe everyone is off having a lazy time doing summer things? One can hope.
So there’s a story I’ve been meaning to comment about for a while now and because it is the only thing I’ve got to look at here (no current events) this is the moment. It’s off of NPR a couple of weeks back. The idea here is just as there has been a significant movement of single mothers by choice, so there is an emerging movement of single fathers by choice.
It’s interesting to think about single fathers. It’s not exactly that they’ve been invisible. Indeed, they were the stuff of sitcoms in my own childhood: The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, say. And wasn’t that the plot of Family Affair, too? (I cannot recall and I cannot look it up.) They mostly feature fairly inept men who are widowed and left to look after children in what is clearly a woman’s world. Indeed, I think it is the fish-out-of-water aspect of them that is supposed to (and in fairness, often does) make them funny. (Though it isn’t directly on point, I cannot resist linking to the New Yorker cover from this year’s Mother’s Day–another take on the sex-segregated world of parenting.)
As I say, these iconic single fathers were not single fathers by choice–their single parenthood was thrust upon them. But just as there are women who want to be parents and don’t want to wait for the perfect partner (be that partner same or different sex) so there are men in the same position. And as the world has eased up on gender roles a bit, and as adoption rules have broadened, and as ART has become more widely available, these men can become fathers.
Now surely the challenges facing any single father are different in important ways from those facing a single mother. Go back to the NPR story and note the reaction of the toll collector. This is the sort of thing men raising children without mothers (whether they are single dads or coupled gay male dads) face all the time. It’s that presumption about female competence and its counterpart, male ineptitude. It’s all part of that world of gendered parenting.
All of which makes me think about the different ways you can array parents to compare/contrast. You could, for example, talk about how men raising children without women are different from women raising children without men. But you could just as well talk about how those two groups are similar compared to those in a male/female parent couple. Similarly, you could talk about how single fathers are different from single mothers, but you could also think about the ways in which single parents are different from paired parents. And how single parents by choice are different from single parents by happenstance.
Clearly all of this is important when you try to do social science studies in this area. If you’ve grouped all single parents together then you’ve got a mishmash of single mothers by choice, single fathers by happenstance and so on. Each group has distinguishing features, I’m sure. (Is this what regression analysis is supposed to control for.)
But even in more casual considerations it’s useful to think about the sameness and the difference. It seems to me that single fathers by choice are courageous and determined in ways similar to those that single mothers by choice are and perhaps a few more. Think of all the social currents they swim against.
So there’s something to ponder while I get to those comments and get back into a groove. That’s it for today, though.