The Changing Face of Fatherhood
I have very few peers who were raised by both parents; most of us lived through our parents’ divorces as kids. As a generation born in the midst of the divorce boom, we learned at least two things thoroughly; divorce is often the right choice (it certainly was in the case of my mom and dad), and divorce is potentially much harder on the kids than it is on the adults involved.
Divorce is as prevalent as it was when I was a child, but there is a new pattern emerging in this generation. In my generation (Generation X) the ending of the first marriage (called a “starter marriage” by a friend) feels like a rite of passage into true adulthood. But this generation and the one after it are writing a new story about what happens after divorce. We have a new generation of fathers; this is the “New Dad.”
The New Dads grew up in houses mostly absent any stable father figure. These men are doing their part in authoring this new ending-as-beginning; they’re sticking around.
Even more impressively, they’re working with their baby-mommas to make it possible to co-parent with as much peace and agreement as possible. This isn’t always an easy task. After all, divorces happen for a reason. Couples grow apart.
Divorce is a more acceptable option for our generation than it was for our parents’ generation. Staunch “family values” types would likely cite this as a proof of a cultural failing. I prefer to look at the positive side, and say that perhaps because divorce has become more culturally prevalent, and overtime more socially acceptable, it’s become a less destructive option.
Out of this awareness, we’ve learned that it’s a great idea to call it quits before a functional relationship with the ex is out of the question, and that the needs of the kids should always outweigh any pettiness on the part of the adults. The New Dad is a product of the divorce boom as well – by merit of the fact that this man was most likely raised primarily (if not exclusively) by his mother. While this is not in all ways a good thing, there are positives that are present.
While the absence of a father figure in a man’s life can lead to confusion about what it means to be a dad, or even a man, there are a few elements working in the positive, and producing some really beautiful fathering by the men of Generations X and Y.
By and large, men raised by their mamas have a lot of respect for the work their moms did to keep them happy, healthy, and taken care of growing up. And, using the examples of their fathers’ actions as a template of how NOT to parent, these New Dads are making new choices. The New Dad is nurturing, involved, sensitive, and engaged with his children. He may be the primary parent, and is anything but a “weekend dad”. After a separation, this New Dad works hard to create a healthy co-parenting relationship with his ex.
In the best case, this manifests as a sense of extended family. In less ideal circumstances, it comes down to putting aside disagreements with the ex in order to create the most positive co-parenting relationship possible. In the absence of a positive father figure while growing up, it’s almost as if the New Dad is starting over with a clean slate. With that slate in front of him, the New Dad is taking out the sidewalk chalk and sitting down with his kids to draw a brand new image of what being a father means.
Here’s a shout out to all the New Dads; Happy Father’s Day, and THANKS FOR BEING YOU! The future is going to be a better place because of who you are today.
Lasara Firefox Allen, MPNLP, is a best-selling author, educator, activist, and coach. Wife to her True Love, and mother to two amazing young women, Lasara believes in living the life you want to create. Lasara is available for coaching and spiritual guidance.