A commitment to fatherhood
By Rosemarie “Rosie” G. Allen
For the Salisbury Post
RALEIGH ó Parents do the most difficult and important job in our society: raising a new generation of leaders, workers, teachers, voters and parents to future families. Both scientific research and common sense tells us that no parent can do this job in isolation. Rather, parents are more likely to succeed when they have opportunities to learn good parenting skills and when they have a network of community and personal support to guide them.
We have made some progress by providing these supports to our mothers ó some mothers get paid maternity leave and many have access to groups or clubs that provide a chance for sharing, networking and respite. These are critical services and there are far fewer of them than needed. This Father’s Day, though, I urge you to do more to support the fathers in your community.
Too often we fail to elevate fatherhood to the critical institution it is. We do this by writing off male parents with simplistic stereotypes: the disciplinarian, the primary breadwinner, the absent parent, the joint custodian. These limited notions deny the profound and essential role a father plays in his child’s development. Simultaneously, we neglect to honor the great dads out there who teach their children how to play ball or ride a bike, who read bedtime stories and help with homework, and who act as strong partners to mom even if the formal relationship between the two has ended. These activities contribute to more than just happy childhood memories; they are scientifically proven to lead children to adopt healthy habits, achieve in school and become successful adults.
As community members and as individuals, we have both the ability and the responsibility to strengthen the most basic fabric of society and to ensure that every child has the opportunity to become a caring, contributing adult. We cannot accomplish this if we leave fatherhood to happenstance.
This Father’s Day, make a local commitment to elevate fatherhood to a position of honor and priority in your community. Create fatherhood classes and support groups in your churches and community organizations. Tell a dad he is doing a great job. Teach a father who wants to be a good dad how to calm a cranky baby, discipline a toddler or relate to his teenager. Stop writing off fathers who do not meet your notion of the ideal, and start helping them learn how to be more engaged, confident and nurturing dads.
You have the power to support your community’s fathers in the most difficult job they will ever have to do. This year, make a Father’s Day commitment to support and honor fathers as they work to shape our future.
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Rosemarie “Rosie” G. Allen is president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and the former director of Smart Start Rowan. For more information, visit www.preventchildabusenc.org.