On Friday night, as I was changing River’s diaper in the church nursery, a woman walked up behind me and said: “Wow, I’m surprised that, as a father, you’re quite good at this diaper change thing!” Even though it was a nice compliment for me, I often find something troubling about this. What troubles me is that it points to two common assumptions in the society:
- Mothers are the primary parents
- Fathers are generally uninterested and incompetent taking care of children
In June, a study was published that claims lesbian parents turn out better-behaved kids. But the study doesn’t prove anything because it has a dubious funding bias, used incorrect research methods and made wrong assumptions (more analysis of the study can be found here and here). But it’s yet another disturbing slap in the face of fatherhood, especially given the timing of the publication just a couple of weeks before Father’s Day 2010.
Society’s view on fatherhood wasn’t always this way. The book “Gospel-Powered Parenting” says that “before 1830, virtually every manual on parenting was addressed to fathers …… society assumed that mothers were assistant fathers” (p.127). In those times, people took biblical values more seriously, and when we look carefully in the Bible, we find that parental authority and responsibility fall solely on the shoulders of the father (see Eph 6:4, Ps 78:1-8, etc.).
Unfortunately, it’s hard to convince today’s fathers to confidently take charge of a primary parental role in the family life. We’re often told, as if it’s an indisputable fact, that a good man is one who is career-oriented (if you google “男人該以事業為重” you’ll find many things such as this disturbing male advice article). And I know that men are all too comfortable putting our work and our recreational interests at the forefront and abdicating more and more of our family responsibilities.
I hate to let “Father’s Day” be an annual reminder that the society increasingly sees us fathers as obsolete and unneeded. I don’t know how we can turn this thing around, except to make a change one family at a time. If you are a father and you want to make this “Father’s Day” a real day to celebrate the parenthood of a man, then be a real man and a real father.