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The Father Factor

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Why Cohabitation is Like “Rent to Own”

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

(Video) Oprah on Fatherhood & the Mistakes Single Moms Make

"It's difficult to be what you don't see." —Roland C. Warren, Board Member, National Fatherhood Initiative (on the importance of role models)

Roland Warren was on Oprah’s LifeClass last Sunday to discuss fatherless sons and single moms working to parent their sons. In the video, Roland asks a single mom in the audience, "what kind of father do you want for your son? What kind of father do you want your son to be?"

The show focused on mistakes single moms often make. Single mothers tend to focus on the finances. In the video, Roland explains that finances can't be the primary issue of focus. Watch the video and see Roland share vital advice with a single mom on how she should be raising her fatherless son. He makes it clear that finances aren't as important to your child as you being there physically for your child.

What Remains After a Father Leaves

More on The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative. This post is his response to feedback from his original post The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood.

My most recent blog post titled “The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood” generated a lot of feedback, some positive and some negative. I argued that as a society we have rationalized non-married fatherhood to the point that it is no longer a moral transgression. It has become excusable and, thus, we no longer need to worry about children growing up without their fathers despite reams of data that show when children grow up in single-parent homes—the vast majority of which don’t include fathers—it is detrimental to children and our society.

Several of the responses we received indicated that some non-married fathers—primarily divorced fathers—took the post personally because they thought National Fatherhood Initiative doesn’t appreciate the yeoman’s work they do to be involved in the lives of their children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. NFI recognizes the contributions of and efforts that all fathers make to be involved in whatever circumstances they father.

Co-Parenting Through Thick and Thin

This is a guest post by Dave Taylor. If you would like to guest post on this blog, email us here

Junior Seau's Fatherhood Story

There are still many unanswered questions about the tragic death of former NFL player Junior Seau. From our perspective here at NFI, many of the most important questions surround his family life.

Dwayne Wade: More than a Championship

With the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat are favored by many to win the NBA Championship this year. Wade is ranked as one of the top 5 basketball players, was contracted with the Heat for $14 million, and has over 750,000 Twitter followers. He certainly has a lot of pressure and high expectations riding on him. However, off the court Wade has much more on his shoulders -- the future of two little boys.

Wade has two sons and is in the middle of an extremely public and messy divorce. More important than any championship or million dollar salary, Wade has a responsibility to teach his boys about being good dads, good men, and about treating the most important woman in their lives with respect.

When asked about divorce, 76% of children think it should be harder to obtain. It comes as no surprise when you look at the impact of divorce on children. Financial status aside, children who are the product of divorce are three times more likely to divorce themselves in their adult lives. Additionally, children of divorce suffer from increased emotional and behavioral problems.

Dwayne Wade’s $14 million salary will not be a solution for the future of his sons. More importantly, he has to model what an involved, responsible, and committed father looks like, and he has to treat his sons’ mother with respect, regardless of what they may think of each other. How both mothers and fathers model their parenting and relationships before, during, and after divorce is what their children will learn and pass on themselves.

Parents owe it to their children to treat each other with respect and to cooperate in the best interests of their children. With that task ahead of him, Dwayne Wade has something more important than an NBA championship to focus on.

The Thankful Campaign: Thankful for the Journey

Today, NFI is launching The Thankful Campaign to celebrate fathers and families. We're asking daddy bloggers, prominent fathers, and everyday dads to share what they're thankful for and how they're raising grateful kids. We're kicking off our campaign with a guest post from Dave Taylor. Dave is a single dad to three kids, based in Boulder, Colorado. Dave blogs about parenting and fatherhood at The Attachment Parenting Blog, and you can find him just about everywhere online. Start here to make your journey easier, though: DaveTaylorOnline.com.

This is going to sound weird in this season of Thanksgiving, but I want to share how I am thankful for pretty much everything that's happened in my life, good and bad. I'm a single dad in a world where moms are lionized and us guys are deadbeats or just plain idiots, according to contemporary culture, so I see a lot of the good and bad around us. Am I thankful for that? Well, that's another story, but I will say that it's helpful in that I get a lot of positive feedback about what a great, attentive Dad I am because it's portrayed as atypical.

Look, guys, it's easy to be thankful for good things, but what about the bad? What about those experiences that, yeah, truthfully, it'd be better if you hadn't gone through them? I'm thankful for those, too.

The reason I'm thankful for everything is because I like where I am now in my life. I have a successful business, three great kids who are growing up just fine and who love me -- and whom I love immensely -- and I have the freedom to create a life for us in a way that I wasn't able to do when I was married or prior to my marriage (when I didn't have kids, for one thing).

I don't know if this is some sort of Zen thing or what, but we are all the product of our journeys and none of us would be exactly who we are today if we hadn't experienced everything in our lives, both good and bad. Life is about trade offs, after all. I had a difficult marriage that was more characterized by disagreement and unsatisfying interaction than warm fuzzies, but I got three amazing children out of the experience, in a way that was completely transformative for me as a man, so I will forever be thankful for my ex and our continued mostly smooth co-parenting efforts to raise three fun, happy, productive members of society.

Not too many people know this, but as a kid I was pretty darn shy and didn't go to my senior prom because I was too gawky and clueless to ask a girl to the dance. Am I thankful for that? Yes, because it gave me the motivation to become an outgoing extrovert when I got to college, and that was a great experience that really set me on the path I'm on now, with tons of friends, a vast social circle, and party invites every weekend.

Here's another thing I'm thankful for too: computers and social networks. Yes, if it wasn't for Twitter and Facebook, the last few years would have been far more difficult, as I found myself sitting around in a barely-furnished townhouse wondering where my domestic life and my kids had gone. Being able to connect with others and make online friends to shoot the breeze with made it much more tolerable and gave me plenty to laugh at and appreciate -- glimmers of light in a long, dark tunnel that I'm also thankful to have finally escaped.

My point with this article is to be thoughtful on this season of thanksgiving about how it's more than our friends and family that we can be thankful for. I am, of course, thankful for my friends and family, but I think that my life is a journey, along which it's my challenge to make the best of it, to find happiness, love, humor, fun, etc., and that it's the sum total of all my experiences along this road that make me who I am. And for that, I'm thankful.

To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.


Getting sacked from "the blind side"

Few are surprised that Sandra Bullock filed for divorce last Friday from Jesse James, who admitted to having an affair while Bullock was filming The Blind Side. It's ironic and sad that Bullock's husband abandoned his marriage vows while she won an Academy Award for a movie about a strong, intact family. As we’ve said numerous times on The Father Factor related to Tiger Woods, Jon Gosselin, and Steve McNair, when celebrities violate their marriage vows, it’s not only publicly humiliating, but it leaves a hurtful legacy for their children.

What makes the Bullock-James divorce unique from other celebrity splits is that they were in the process of adopting a 3 ½-month-old boy from New Orleans named Louis, whom Bullock will now raise as a single mom. James has said that losing Louis has "left a huge hole in [his] heart."

Interesting choice of words… NFI President Roland C. Warren often says that children have a hole in their soul in their shape of their dad, and when their dad is not able or willing to fill that hole it leaves wounds that aren’t easily healed.

Little Louis will now join the ranks of the 24 million children growing up without their fathers, and, given the actions of the man who almost was his adoptive father, the hole in his heart could bring some unique pain.

New York Times columnist David Brooks addresses Bullock’s simultaneous cinematic success and relational troubles, and more specifically what family breakdown says about our culture’s priorities, in an article titled "The Sandra Bullock Trade." Brooks connects the dots between marital happiness and overall well-being – a connection that he says our culture doesn’t make very well in how we educate our youth, where we focus more on preparing for careers than preparing to make social decisions.

NFI agrees with Brooks that we need to invest more time in preparing youth to make good decisions – and we think marriage is one of the most important ones. Thus we created Why Knot?, a marriage-readiness program designed to prepare young men to make the decision to get married and subsequently to be good husbands to their wives (and by extension, good fathers to their kids). For pre-teen boys, we created Boyz2Dads, an interactive CD-ROM that helps boys prepare to make good choices related to relationships and peer pressure.

Jesse James’s behavior has not provided a good example of a husband and father to his children, but he seems to be on the right road toward fixing that by admitting his faults and seeking help. Meanwhile, NFI is working to promote a culture that prepares youth for the important responsibilities of being a husband and father – a mission we take seriously when so many children like Louis lack that role model. We don’t want to see other families, as Brooks puts it, “getting sacked from the spiritual blind side.”

Absent children?

I just read this on "Motherlode," the parenting blog of The New York Times: "A recent poll in Great Britain found that one in 10 adults speak by phone with his or her mother just once every four weeks... Why are grown children so absent?"

If grown children speak so infrequently to their moms, think about how little they speak to their dads! After all, we know that in both Great Britain and the United States, it is more often fathers who are absent from their children's lives than mothers.

So, at least with fathers, my guess is that absent fathers breed "absent" children. Makes sense. But what is the explanation for children being "absent" from their moms' lives?

Interestingly, we know from research that father absence can also play a role. Bear with me...

Studies have found that children whose parents are married, have, on average, better relationships with both their mothers and their fathers. Further, children of divorce, when they become adults, are less close to both their parents than children whose parents remained married. How about elder care? Yep - children whose parents divorced are less likely to offer their elderly parents co-residence.

So, it seems that at least part of the issue with children absent from their moms' lives is that their fathers were absent from theirs (in the case of my illustration, as a result of divorce, which impacts about 1 million children per year).

This may sound like a stretch. What do you think?

A Turn in Custody Battles?

Fathers have long complained that the post-divorce custody decision was slanted against them because they spent (or appeared to spend) more time working than actively parenting. In this recession, however, it seems that some working moms are experiencing the same phenomenon. A Working Mother magazine article profiled some working mothers who did not get as much custody as they had expected, and the New York Times followed up with another viewpoint.

Obviously custody battles often produce Pyrrhic victories, and one wishes they never had to occur. However, to make a fair decision about co-parenting responsibilities, judges need to consider a wide variety of factors about both mom and dad. Having moms get less custody time in some situations does not, by definition, mean the wrong decision has been made. What do you think?

Wild Things

I saw "Where the Wild Things Are" over the weekend. The artistry and creativity of the film are top notch. However, I am not sure that the film's message is especially helpful.

Without giving too much away, the film is about a boy struggling to come to grips with his parents' divorce.

The story effectively explores the emotions that many children of divorce go through. But, in the end, it communicates that it is a child's responsibility, not the adults' responsibility, to "grow up" and "get over" his parents' divorce.

The only conclusion I could draw from the story arc is that divorced parents really have little responsibility for the behavior of their child or the consequences of their actions - it is up to the child to come of age and deal with it so that his parents don't have to feel guilty.

If you have seen the movie, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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