Thoughts on Fathers Day

What are you doing for Fathers Day? My partner, a father of five children all adopted or conceived long before I entered the picture, is off sailing for two days on the Schooner Pioneer and enjoying parts of the Clearwater Festival. (Check his blog for an account, probably Tuesday.)

Our fathers and grandfathers have all passed away (my father when I was a child, my partner’s father just a few months ago) but my partner is himself a father and today I thank him for helping to shape the lives of five truly unique and wonderful individuals. I am honored to know them, and glad that they came into my life as adults so that we could develop relationships based on something other than a step-parent/step-child dynamic. (Don’t get me wrong, step-families can be wonderful! I had an amazing step-mother myself for a while, but I’m grateful for having the chance to know these people without the inevitable difficulties that come with any kind of parent/child relationship.)

I thank my partner too, on Fathers Day, for having done his child-raising before our relationship began, because this has freed me to decide not to be a parent without denying him his chance at parenthood.

Neal Watzman commented back in May on my Mothers Day Post, pointing out that the things I wished for mothers were equally applicable to fathers. I absolutely agree, and today I’m giving you a very slightly modified version of that post, tailored for fathers.

-Sexual openness, sane sex laws, and training in communication about sex so that men can enjoy their sexuality and share it fearlessly with their partners. Through sex we express desires, we communicate, we connect, and we feel pleasure. If men are socialized into a restrictive — albeit privileged — sexual role, they are less likely to be able to experience the fullness of their sexualities or to share themselves as openly, without shame, with partners. In fact, the privilege that comes from masculinity (with all its restrictiveness) makes it even harder for men to challenge the limitations placed on them, making it all the more difficult for them to experience their sexuality fully, openly and shamelessly.

-Access to contraception and recapturing the right to abortion when needed — without restriction — so that all motherhood is by choice. Men need this security as much as women do, and men need easy, affordable access to reproductive health care and education about “women’s health care” so that they can support their women parters when their women partners need care.

-High quality, affordable — dare we even say government subsidized — child care so that all parents who work outside the home — including those for whom work is a necessity and not a choice — can do so without economic penalty or fear for the safety of their children.

-Realistic part-time and flexible work options so that parents have more choices about how to divide the labor of wage-earning and child-care. I don’t mean part time with no stability and low pay. I mean part time with reasonable wages that would exceed the child care costs incurred while working those more flexible hours.

-Universal health care — not just health insurance — so that employers are no longer the ones who provide our access to health care. This isn’t just a matter of concern for the poor, either. Plenty of middle income people end up financially devestated even if they do have health insurance because the part of the medical bills that the health insurance doesn’t cover is still more than they can afford. (This is especially awful for people who have fallen prey to the “two income trap” where two parents are both working to pay for meeting the basic needs of the family and then one gets sick and the other can’t make up the difference.) Oh, and of course this health care has to cover treatment for addictions and mental illness just as it covers physical illness.

-Fair wages for all workers. This means eliminating the wage gap, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, and providing living wages to all workers. Living wages mean that parents can work reasonable hours and spend time with their kids. And we also need reasonable paid leave policies so that people don’t lose out when they need to take care of a child.

-Marriage rights for all fathers. To exclude fathers with male partners from marriage is to exclude their children from the kinds of benefits that marriage confers on couples. While I would still dispute that these benefits ought to be attached to marriage in the first place, as long as they are attached, marriage needs to be available to all who want it.

-Peace. The costs of wars, in dollars and in lives, is too great to justify, and the paying of that cost is keeping us from doing the kinds of things suggested above — things that would make economic security a reality for many more people. War touches everybody, but in the United States men still bear the largest part of the awful burden of actually killing people in war. Men need peace because we all need peace, and men need peace so that they can stop killing people.

All people, regardless of economic status, must be entitled to sexual freedom but sexual freedom feels like a luxury when you are too exhausted from working your second job and making sure the kids got to school to even think about having sex with your partner. When we work for sexual freedom we must take into account the needs of the poor and working class as well as the needs of the middle class and the wealthy.

Health care, child care, contraception, fair wages, peace, and sexual freedom. They’re all connected.

Happy Fathers Day!


Filed under culture, Family, Fathers Day, feminism, Gender, inequality, Relationships, reproductive freedom, Same-Sex Marriage, sex, sexuality

7 responses to “Thoughts on Fathers Day

  1. Great post Elizabeth! Your partner must be very proud of you. It’s strikes me as very elegant and fair of you to refer to him as that: a partner, not a boyfriend or a husband, but a real partner, a compadre we could say. (a song by Method Man and Mary J. Blige goes: “even when the skies were gray, you would rub me on my back and say ‘baby it’ll be OK'”) A couple of days ago I noticed a condom ad, especially designed for Father’s Day, in a woman’s magazine I wrote for. Condoms were placed upon every day of a calendar’s june page, except for the 17. I can’t remember the tag line, which ironically was the reason the commercial disturbed me in the first place.

    I guess I have somewhat idealized what fatherhood means to me, and the commercial sorta brought that out. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you rent or buy Raising Arizona. That movie really speaks to me. Greeting from Guatemala, and please, keep posting!

  2. Duffman, thanks for the compliments. I do think of Will as a partner. I wish we used the word “partner” more regularly instead of words like “husband” and “wife” which seem to have entirely the wrong connotations.

    I’d be curious to know where to find the ad to which you referred. Quite a message!

    I remember really enjoying “Raising Arizona” when I saw it in the late 1980s. I wonder what specifically about it makes you think of idealized fatherhood?

    And thanks for reading from Guatemala! I’ll keep posting. I hope you keep reading!

  3. Thanks for the excellent post about fathers, Elizabeth. Many of us take it quite seriously, and it’s the toughest and most important job we might ever have.

    Oh, and that’s “Neal” with an “a”.

  4. I apologize for spelling your name wrong. How embarrassing! You’ve been a frequent-enough commenter here that I should certainly know better. I went back and fixed it this morning.

  5. Checking back with you Elizabeth. I remember over a year ago, watching the film again, pinpointing the exact sequence where I always cry. Nicolas Cage’s character writes a letter to Nathan Jr., the baby he and his wife, not partner (you could say), had stolen and then returned. He envisioned a life in which a happy family was their destiny: “If not Arizona, then a land not too far away. Where all parents are strong and wise and capable. And all children are happy and beloved. I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.” I’ve had a subconscious feeling, for quite a while, that my parents didn’t love me (I wasn’t particularly planned, my mom had me when she was almost 40), the sort of things I’m working out through therapy. I’ll scan the ad and send it to you, ok. Keep posting, and thanks for the feedback.

  6. Duffman, I’ll keep posting and I hope you’ll keep reading. And I hope the therapy helps. I am of the opinion that just about everybody could benefit from some therapy, and I hope you’re getting what you need.

    I’ll look forward to that ad. Thanks!

  7. As Homer Simpson would say: “You have now made The List!” But don’t worry, contrary to Homer’s grudge list, in a couple of minutes I’ll post a link to your public square. I’ll be sure to keep reading and get a move on regarding the ad I wrote to you about. Great to hear from you!