The first post on a new blog always feels weird. Am I meant to be trying to set a tone, or outline parameters, or provide some sort of justification for why this blog exists and why people might be interested in reading it, or just get stuck into writing some thoughts?
Today is my own father’s birthday. It’s also the day after Father’s Day here in Scotland. Yesterday, my wife and 14-month old daughter took me out to lunch. Thinking that the restaurants would be booked-out with families celebrating Father’s Day, we pre-booked a place. In spite it being a great place that’s usually packed for lunch, we were the only one’s there. Of course, there may be a plethora of reasons for this that I don’t want to list here, but it does make one wonder what is going on and whether it is indicative of broader trends in our society.
And then this morning, I began the day with reading some discouraging and frightening statistics. Of course, for better or worse, statistics can’t tell the whole story, but they can reveal something. In this case, some disturbing trends:
- On Mother’s Day the most phone calls are made. On Father’s Day the most collect phone calls are made.
- In the last twenty years the percentage of single dads has more than doubled, from 10% to 23% of all single-parent households.
- And this from today’s Time magazine:
Worldwide, 10% to 40% of children grow up in households with no father at all. In the U.S., more than half of divorced fathers lose contact with their kids within a few years. By the end of 10 years, as many as two-thirds of them have drifted out of their children’s lives. According to a 1994 study by the Children’s Defense Fund, men are more likely to default on a child-support payment (49%) than a used-car payment (3%). Even fathers in intact families spend a lot less time focused on their kids than they think: in the U.S. fathers average less than an hour a day (up from 20 minutes a few decades ago), usually squeezed in after the workday.
In Australia, the figure of about 4.5 minutes per day has been cited. OUCH!
Whichever group of statistics and studies you believe (see, for example here or here), the almost unanimous consensus is that dad’s are important. This blog exists to do one thing: encourage dads in their dadding – biological dads, stepdads, single dads, all dads. It’s not about a men’s movement, nor about undermining the role of mothers. It’s about the irreplaceable gift that fathering is – to kids, to mums, to society, to dads – not only when the kids are at home, but before they get there and after they leave.
An Israeli study found that the more frequently a father visited the hospital of an infant who is prematurely born, the more rapidly the infant gained weight and the more quickly the infant was able to leave the hospital. U.S. studies show that by the age of six months, the more children have contact with dad, the higher their levels of mental competence and psycho-motor functioning, and the greater their level of trust and friendliness.
So what I hope to do with this blog is to pass on stories, books, sites, films, music and ideas that I find around the traps that encourage me with my dadding. I’m pretty new at this dad thing. I really hope that others might be encouraged to contribute what they find useful or otherwise and have learnt – or are learning – along the way. None of us are experts. Nor, do I suspect, do any of us want to be. We want to be good dads … whatever it takes.