Who needs dads, anyway? by Steve Hampson

January 28, 2013


A father rants at late thirtysomething women who opt to have a child without a partner.  Extracted from Finding Mr Right by Annie Harrison.

I’ll tell you who needs dads, children do!  Our increasingly feminised society has undermined the status of men for a number of years.  Medical advances, political correctness and legislation have conspired to make men’s roles as fathers obsolete.  Sure, plenty of women raise children as single mothers, and many children are caught in the cross fire of divorce, but this doesn’t make it the best option for the kids involved – they are the casualties.  Numerous studies show an association between fatherlessness and a wide range of social pathologies, including drug abuse, promiscuity and delinquency.  Who wants to add to these statistics?  Raising children in a nuclear family is difficult enough with two parents as we try, bloody hard, to do a good job.  Bringing up kids with just one parent must be nigh-on impossible.

So, for whatever reason, a 38-year-old woman has left it too late to find a partner to make a baby with – it must hurt being childless and seeing families all about.  But wait! There’s a quick-fix solution to this problem: donor insemination.  This solo operator, this one half of the genetic code, doesn’t need to form a relationship with anyone (she’s already failed thus far), and she doesn’t even have to have sex in order to procreate.  She won’t need to cook any meals for someone coming in late, or turn outside-in dirty socks, or put the toilet seat down, or tolerate Sky Sports on TV.  No, like the latest consumer must-have she can have a baby without a dad in sight!

Just you wait:  Parenthood is not something you train for – in its magnitude it’s the biggest responsibility of your life.  Until you become a parent, unless you have qualified as a nanny or nursery teacher you will have no understanding of what it’s like to bring a baby home and raise that little person into a child, a teenager and an adult.  At work we are sent on courses; if we do sports, we train.  If we play a musical instrument, we practice…  We rehearse and there are people there to support us.  If we stop liking these things, we can jack it all in and do something else instead.  Not so with parenting.  Your real work is cut out for you the day your first child is born, and we busk this parenting lark from the outset.

And still the feminists say a father doesn’t matter.  Tell that to the pregnant soldier’s widow, tell it to those adults whose fathers died when they were just children, tell it to the little boy who dreams of one day being a great dad; tell it to the girl whose single mother has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  And tell it to the millions of hardworking fathers out there who are striving to protect and provide for their families.

I have two sons and a daughter.  From the moment their lungs first screamed their resentment at arriving in this crazy world, I have been as involved in their lives as much as is humanly possible, given that I have a full-time job. When they were little I changed, bathed and burped them and read them stories. I did rocket launches with the babies, pushed the buggy and took them swimming; I clowned about at birthday parties, built a wooden fort in the garden and soothed them when they had fevers. Now they are older, I help out on the school run, oversee homework and stand on the touchlines at football, yelling encouragement at my boys. I idle away an hour a week at the riding stables when my daughter has her lesson and I ferry them all back and forth to sleepovers, parties and play days.

I am a parent and a team member: the team comprises me and Claire, my wife.  Team Hampson works flat out.  I honestly don’t know how single parents manage 24/7, year after year.  How does a single mother manage to do all the domestic drudgery – laundry, cleaning, shopping while simultaneously working and managing the complicated and demanding role of parenting?  How des she do any of this if she or her child is sick?  How does she simultaneously take one child to a swimming lesson and the other to a friend’s house to play ten miles away, fit in the MOT on the car, do a big shop at Sainsbury’s and wait for the gas man to come and fix the boiler?

How often does she rugby tackle or wrestle with her sons, or kick a football about or take them to the tank museum?  How does a single person alone make important decisions about education, particularly if one of her kids is falling behind? How does she deal single-handedly with issues like bullying or shyness or genius?  How does she manage to give her time, the very best opportunities and unconditional love if she is doing ten million other things at the same time?  And when does she take a break or integrate a love interest into her life?

We haven’t got there yet, as our children are all under ten, but when they hit their teens, there will be a whole raft of new issues to contend with.  Surely even the most hard-nosed, devoutly single mother would agree that fatherly influence during this critical, emotional, hormonal and peer-pressured time would be just a teensy bit useful?

Yes, single parenthood can strike at any time – through separation, divorce or widowhood.  It’s a tough world out there and even the most rock-solid partnership or marriage feels the strain at times.  Often, there’s no choice for the single parent other than to soldier on bravely, calling on the goodwill of friends and family for support while buying in childcare, but to deliberately conceive a child through artificial means for one’s own personal gratification seems to me to be an act of wanton selfishness.

Children don’t need dads?  My arse!

Steve Hampson is a 44-year old husband and father of three.

Lighten up a bit and see how important dads really are.  I’m a daddy and I know it.

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