I wrote a piece yesterday putting forth the exceedingly controversial opinion that kids need dads. I argued, provocatively, that only a man can teach a boy how to become a man. That should be self-evident, of course, and it was self-evident for the entirety of human civilization up until recently. But what was once self-evident has now become obscene.
Much of the criticism of my piece came from single mothers. Many of the supportive comments also came from single mothers. It would seem this demographic is divided roughly into two camps. On one hand, there are those women who wholeheartedly agree that dads are crucially important and they feel deeply saddened that their children do not have one. On the other hand, there are those women who insist that single motherhood is actually good and desirable on its own terms. They insist that no child really needs a dad anyway because the mom can completely fill both roles. They diminish the importance of dads, and men in general, and demand that single motherhood be celebrated and that they themselves be worshipped as heroes.
The angry messages I received came from category 2, and it is to category 2 that I address the rest of this column:
1) Several of these women said that I should have at least “acknowledged” single mothers in my article. Why? Why must I pay homage at the altar of Single Motherhood in order to say something about fathers? Why am I not allowed to talk about men without including women? Why must single mothers be injected into every discussion of fathers?
This is the problem. Men are not permitted to be their own separate entities in our culture. Some women feel they must intervene any time men are being given any kind of credit at all. These are the same types who wish themselves happy Father’s Day, because even Father’s Day has to be about them.
This is part of the reason why boys are lost in our society. They cannot be celebrated for their own unique talents and capabilities. Women are celebrated all the time, everywhere, constantly. But even just one little article on The Daily Wire cannot be dedicated to discussing the unique importance of men. This type of woman scours the Earth to find evidence that anyone, anywhere, is talking about something other than her, and then she explodes in fury. No wonder her marriage didn’t work out.
2) Single motherhood is not ideal. It is not desirable. It is not a societal good. There are good single mothers, but single motherhood itself is not good. Just as there are many admirable cancer survivors, but cancer itself is terrible. Just as there are many amputees who accomplish great things, but it’s still better to have all of your limbs. If you are a single mother, all you can do is make the best of a bad situation. You cannot make the bad situation into a good situation. It is still bad, no matter what you do with it.
Whatever the reason for your single status, the fact remains that your child is left without a dad. This is a sad thing. And it comes across as quite selfish and even cruel for a mother to be happy that her child is fatherless. It would seem that the needs of her child are not a primary concern to her. If they were, she would lament the fact that one of his greatest needs — a father — is not being met.
3) Mothers are not fathers. You cannot play both roles. You can only be the mother. If your left hand is chopped off, your right hand doesn’t suddenly become both your left and your right. Your right hand is just your right, and now you have only one hand. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed. It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful and happy in spite of it. But one hand is still just one hand.
A father does many irreplaceable things but one of his most important responsibilities is to teach his boy to be a man and to teach his daughter how she ought to be treated by men. A mother can only impart these lessons verbally, intellectually, she cannot embody them and demonstrate them. A mother can say to her children, “Men do this.” A father can actually do it, and his children can see him do it, and they will learn far more from the example than they ever would from mere words. A mother can only say the words that a father might say. She cannot be a father.
4) Not all single mothers are victims. A woman who has been abandoned by her husband is a victim. A widow is a victim. In my experience, these types of single mothers are the first to extol the virtues of fatherhood. They would never be offended at a discussion of the importance of fathers. They know well how important dads are to their children and it is through no fault of their own that their children must grow up without one. They mourn the circumstance and do everything they can to make the best of it. These are the single mothers we should admire.
These, however, do not account for the entire single mother population. Some of the fathers of these “fatherless” kids are the victims of vindictive and unfaithful women who blew up the marriage and then fought for, and won, full custody of the children. These men are not allowed to be a part of their own children’s lives. Their wives get credit for being “super moms,” but there’s nothing super about them. They were bad wives and now they are self-centered, manipulative mothers who have turned the children against their father. I hear from these men all the time. They do exist. Their stories are heartbreaking. And it’s even more heartbreaking because nobody listens to them or cares. Men are not always the bad guys. It's not always the man's fault when a marriage falls apart.
But these are the extreme cases on either end of the spectrum. I think most probably fall into the middle. Most broken marriages are the fault of both spouses. It takes two to form the marriage covenant, and, much of the time, two to break it. In most personal disputes, especially marital disputes, there is no clear good guy or bad guy. Both have been the bad guy in their own way. Both chose to abandon the marriage.
Celebrating a mother who is herself to blame, or at least partly to blame, for her divorce, is like celebrating her for recovering from a car accident that she caused. And there may be nothing wrong with celebrating her in that situation, if it weren’t for the fact that there was a truly innocent victim in this wreck: the child. It’s great that she can walk again, but the child is still hurt. It seems rather gross to throw her a party and give toasts to her heroism while the child is still limping around on crutches.
Somehow the child always gets lost in these conversations. But he is the one who now must live in a broken home without his father. He is the one who will go without. He is the one who is being deprived. Whatever the reason, whoever is at fault, it is a tragedy and it should be treated as such.