Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Are Dads Necessary?

Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously observed that the mother’s role in a family is biologically based, while the father’s role is a biological necessity. Afterward, our role is a social creation at best, and a social accident at worst. While the father serves a vital role in terms of conception, from that point forward the father is, well, regulated to the sidelines of raising a child. Some people in religious communities and of certain political persuasions would like to define the contemporary nuclear family as a mom and dad and child (or two), but historians and cultural anthropologists disagree.
In some ways, I can appreciate and relate to Mead’s dry observation and straightforwardness. Many dads in contemporary modern society witness the way that young infants and toddlers respond to the voice and the mere presence of the biological mom. Those of us who were or are stay-at-home dads are green with envy for such a natural bond. The bond between my children and me was not born of nature per se, but constructed through intentionally spending more time and creating more experiences together. Given that I was a more stay-at-home dad in my children’s early years (the luxury of having a flexible schedule while working in higher education), our parent-child relationship was a bit more unique and stronger than others. But I didn’t have a lot of other stay-at-home narratives that gave me examples of ways I could be a dad who stayed at home. As for stories of being a dad who is gay and in the closet while staying at home, those tales were yet to be written. Those stories fit into a book of “fairy tales,” (tongue firmly in cheek), that would begin with the introduction of “Once upon a time…”
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