Is Fatherhood Dead?

Papa’s son-in-law and my husband, Cliff Keith, wrote this thought provoking blog for Father’s Day.  I thought I’d share it with you…

Is Fatherhood Dead?

What breaks my heart today is how fathers are perceived by many people as being inconsequential. The press rarely speaks about fathers except in a negative light. Fathers aren’t presented as a necessary element to the family unit even though governmental studies have shown how important a father is to a family. Even parenting groups have many articles on the important role of fathers in a family.

If you see an ad about families on television, it usually depicts a woman with her children and the father is nowhere to be found. I understand that traditionally the mother is the stay-fast person who spends the most time with the kids. However, I am led to believe by these ads that fathers are rarely present and don’t have concerns about the welfare of their children. It’s a crying shame. Is it really only “women’s work”?

I understand that Madison Avenue targets mothers because they have the buying power for products geared for children and families. But as obvious or subtle as these images without dads may be, I think they give us a skewed view of the father’s role and importance in the family.

When was the last time you saw a prime-time television ad with a father represented as competent in his interaction with his family?  Dads in commercials are typically portrayed as drinking beer, burning food on the barbeque, incapable of sorting laundry, making a mess in the kitchen when mom’s away, freaking out when the teenager asks for the car keys, or turning a small fix-it project into a home disaster. And on TV sitcoms, Dad is almost always played as a doofus whom the rest of the family makes fun of right in front of him! Did you EVER do that to your Dad?

I was once asked to comment on a book cover that was supposed to depict family education. It had a colorful illustration that readily conveyed the image of a family learning together except for one thing: There was no father on the cover – only a mother and two children. My comment was, “Where is the father?” The publisher changed the cover to include a dad, however, the idea that it was acceptable to release a family education book without including a father is a sad commentary on the common perception of the family unit.

The positive depiction of a family with a competent, caring father is missing from our culture today. Is that okay with you?  Maybe boycotting products and programs that depict fathers as irrelevant idiots would be the best gift for Father’s Day. And conversely, support companies that get it right. If we insist on the portrayal of a responsible, nurturing father who has his family’s best interests at heart, then all families (and by extension, humanity) will be better served.

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