Do Dads Matter?

Filed under: Single Parenting, Opinions

Jennifer Aniston stepped on a cultural landmine.

"Women are realizing more and more that you don't have to settle, they don't have to fiddle with a man to have that child," the actress said while discussing male sperm donation, a central theme of her recent movie, "The Switch."

Shortly after, Bill O'Reilly, blasted her for "diminishing the role of the dad." These messages, O'Reilly said, are not only hurtful to dads, but also destructive for society.

I agree.

Fatherhood matters, and in our tabloid culture where it has become trendy to "go it alone," there is a real danger that the unique and intended role of fathers in the lives of children is being diminished by popular culture and the celebration of celebrity moms who are touted as heroes and hailed as "empowered" for choosing to parent without a dad. While their baby bumps, designer strollers and adorable baby outfits are closely scrutinized, the effects of a fatherless childhood for their new little bundles barely merits a mention.

There is no substitute for the love of a father. And experienced moms will tell you that no matter how devoted (or wealthy) a mom is, there are certain things that only dads can do for their children.

This is a fact I am experiencing first hand this summer, as my husband Sean's campaign schedule has left me to care for our six children, for the most part, without him. With a brood this size, I obviously miss his help with meals, baths and bedtime. But surprisingly, it's not the physical help of a partner that I miss most: It's the absence of a dad in our home that is hardest on me and the kids -- especially our boys.

When my 8-year-old son began playing baseball this summer, he didn't know how to hold a bat and could barley catch a ball. The first few games were painful to watch -- for both of us. Each time Jack struck out or clumsily missed a catch, his embarrassment was palpable to me from the bleachers. One evening, on the way home from a game, he confided that he was being teased about it by a boy on the field. I felt helpless. I didn't know how to properly hold a bat, either. Every time Jack stood on home plate with a helmet and a bat, his coach would patiently help him position his arms before each swing. More than a coach or my encouragement, Jack needed his dad.

In the meantime, I had convinced myself that my Lego-building son just wasn't cut out for sports. That's OK, I told myself as I hugged Jack after a particularly bad game, who says he has to excel in athletics?

Before long, Sean was back and spent several afternoons with Jack playing catch and pitching balls. By the next game the crack of the bat to the ball from Jack's first hit brought a lump to my throat. His confidence soared and he played respectably well for the remainder of the season. Working with his dad made all the difference, not just for this baseball season, but perhaps for his life. After all, his mom was prepared to write off his athletic ability altogether. His dad knew better.

And that's the point. Sometimes, fathers really do know best. Dads matter. They matter to moms and they matter in big and small ways to their children. Denigrating their importance through movies, magazines or a flippant remark in an interview, as Aniston did, may appear harmless on the surface, but in this age of celebrity dominance, it has the cumulative effect of sending a message that fathers are an "option" rather than an integral and vital force in the lives of their children.

With so many fractured families and fatherless children in America, now is not the time to fiddle with such consequential cultural matters.

Related: Parents Hate Parenting Because They're Doing it Wrong

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.