I could never raise my son without his father. I’d have to, of course, if my husband died. But it would be very, very hard. When it comes to my son, my husband is simply indispensable. (He’s indispensable to me, too, but that’s a different post!)
I wish every boy in America had a father like my son’s. Without strong fathers to guide, instruct and discipline them, boys lack purpose. And that’s what we have far too much of in America today: boys who lack purpose.
According to the Census Bureau, 24 million children in America live in biologically father-absent homes. The results are mind-boggling. “Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherlessness: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, teen pregnancy, suicide. All correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor,” writes Stephen Baskerville in “The Politics of Fatherhood.”
Fatherlessness hurts sons and daughters, of course. But I’m focusing on males for several reasons. (1) Our culture spends enough time on women and girls and not nearly enough on boys and men. (2) Males are different from females in that they have a propensity to act out on their personal pain, and society suffers as a result. Women’s pain is more internally focused. (3) Boys are ‘men in the making’ and are therefore harmed by fatherlessness in a primal and unique way.
The reality is, I can’t be Dad. No matter how much I love my son, I can never identify with his masculinity. I can’t know or feel it the way his father can. I can’t teach my son what it means to be a man. I can’t help him navigate puberty the way I can my daughter. Boys need men.
The first time my son attended a sports camp run by men (as opposed to a basic day camp run mostly by women), his entire face lit up. He was engaged. Excited. Interested. He felt an immediate sense of purpose—as if to say, “Now this adult gets me.”
Still, even father substitutes can’t be Dad. The consequence of boys who grow up without fathers is so severe I don’t think any woman should divorce her husband unless he’s a chronic adulterer, addicted to drugs, a wife-beater, or just a really bad parent. Sometimes a so-so father can be better than no father.
When my son is with me, I know he feels loved beyond measure. But when he’s with his dad, he feels loved and he feels understood. And purpose-driven—that’s key. What my husband brings to the table that I don’t is immeasurable. I try hard to be the best mom I can be. But no matter how hard I try, I can never be Dad.
Suzanne Venker is an author and Fox News contributor. She has written extensively about marriage and the family and its intersection with the culture. Suzanne is also a founder of Women for Men (WFM), a news and opinion website committed to supporting the needs of boys and men and to bringing the sexes together. For more on Suzanne, visit www.suzannevenker.com.