Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Bit of a rant
Statistics NZ released figures this week showing that the rate of solo parent homes is projected to increase from 31% to 36% over the next 20 years. The media ignored it, and the politicians said nothing...
Here are the details: The number of one-parent families is projected to increase from 219,000 in 2006 to 267,000 in 2031. At the same time, the number of two-parent families is projected to decrease from 480,000 to 467,000.
Okay, there are solo parents who fit in that category through the death of their partner, which will reduces the shock factor of these figures somewhat. There are solo parents who fit in the category through no fault of their own, and who do a remarkable job in the circumstances. And of course there are solo fathers.
The concern are those solo parents who are in that place by choice, especially women who have a range of partners over a succession of years and no stable male figure in the household. Whatever the politically correct brigade may think, having a stable father-figure in a family unit is more than valuable, it's vital.
The statistics relating to boys in particular, (but also to girls), who grow up without a father in the home, don't make good reading: crime, mental health issues, emotional difficulties in relationships and more can frequently be traced back to the lack of a father.
And lest it be said that I'm just talking stats here, my own experience is one of growing up without a father. My parents separated when I was three for reasons I only partly know about - and that was the last time I saw my father. Over the period of my childhood and teenage years, I heard from him only once or twice, and that was almost by accident. In fact, I never knew I had a living father until I was in my early teens.
I lived with my mother, her parents and two uncles. My grandfather, who was a wonderful father figure, died suddenly when I was 8 or 9 (and died in hospital after collapsing at home - I never saw him again after the ambulance took him away and I don't think I was even taken to the funeral). The uncles were too intent on making their own way in the world, and were not much cop for me in the father-figure department.
The missing father eventually left a hole in my emotional life that took years to heal. (One of the most healing aspects was coming to know God as Father.) In my twenties I obsessed about not having got to know my biological father (he died when I was about 18). This left me not only with longstanding regrets on my side that I hadn't tried to contact him, but an underlying anger that he hadn't kept in touch with me - and a sense of betrayal.
My situation was actually one in which it was possible to survive the lack of a father. Many boys are not in a situation that has the positives I was given.
How do we change this here in NZ and elsewhere? We have to keep bringing the issue before the public, have to ignore those who say that fathers don't matter, and, while agreeing that there are abusive fathers and that they certainly do damage, have to keep on saying that good, plain, honest down-to-earth fathers are an absolute necessity for children growing up.
Photo from Flickr.com