England is a “man desert” and 1 million children are growing up without a father. There has been much lamentation, tearing of hair and rending of garments over this revelation in a report from the centre for social justice from the usual suspects. The assumption seems to be that a man – any man – would be better than no man at all in these situations.
What the report fails to address is the question ‘why?’ Did these women choose to be single mothers? Were they divorced? abandoned? abused? Who are the fathers in question? There are many legitimate reasons why a woman might not want a specific man around her children, male role models are great where you can find them but raising children takes more than sperm.
However there is significant evidence that children do better in two parent households and women’s sexuality is apparently linked to their fathers presence or lack there of, so are these women being selfish? Of course according to another recent study, children are ‘happier and healthier’ with same sex parents so it would seem that the problem with single parent families is not the absence of a father or mother specifically but the absence of a second care giver to share the load both in terms of finance and time. The evidence suggests a stable and loving environment is more important than who, specifically, is providing that.
In that case what I think we have here is an opportunity to reassess our model for a stable, loving environment. Our society is currently clinging to a notion of a nuclear family – two parents living in a house with their children. Instead of trying to force people into an outdated model we need to look at what we have: a lot of people raising children on their own. Currently these people, mostly women, are struggling alone but there is surely an opportunity to work together to create family style networks that would mitigate the apparent harm of being in a single parent family. People without children could also form a part of these networks, particularly men who would perhaps learn a greater appreciation for children and the work involved in child rearing.
Before anyone else says it I want to be clear I’m not necessarily advocating a rejection of men or a commune though both may be appropriate in some cases. Nor am I saying that you ought to reject blood relations where they are good and loving. After all I am no one’s parent and I am the child of a loving, two-parent, heterosexual household. But in the end family can be more than blood and stable, loving environments come in all shapes and sizes.
Point of Interest:
The phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ is a bastardisation of a longer phrase: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” ie that the bond between comrades is stronger than the bond between people who have shared a womb. I’ve more than once heard parenting described as a battle – it might be worth investing in some comrades.
Opinions from all over the shop:
- British children growing up in “man deserts” (ruvr.co.uk)
- One million children are growing up without a male role model: Report blames single-parent families and lack of men in classrooms (spinbrighton.org)
- Single-mother families are no ‘men desert’ | Scouse Bird (guardian.co.uk)
- Why do we celebrate Fathers Day? Why is fatherhood important? (winteryknight.wordpress.com)