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Growing Up without Dad

I have no doubt that there are children who are much better off with their fathers out of the house. Children cannot protect themselves from violence, sexual predation, or the carelessness and neglect of some alcoholic or drug addicted fathers. I salute the mothers who take on the difficult work of raising children alone when this is the case and the selflessness of the step dads who assist some of them.

I also know firsthand what it's like to be thrust into single parenthood through the death of a spouse. It's not easy.

But can these cases possibly account for the fact that today one in three children is growing up in homes without their biological fathers? I suspect not. I fear it's some awful offshoot of the women's liberation movement I have been part of and will continue to support. After World War II, when our mothers had to work, they were sent home to make room at work for all the men lucky enough to return from the war. We Baby Boomers were the result. We became our mothers' important work. And there is no doubt that raising children is some of the most important and meaningful work we can ever do.

Twenty years later, our mothers were restless, and so were we teen girls as we looked at their lack of choices. We created new choices, lots of them. We also created some awful expectations, like the one that we could "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let him forget he's a man" simply by wearing the right perfume.

We Baby Boomer women divorced in large numbers. The divorce rate is a good deal lower now than when we were all deciding that fried bacon was enough, that our kids would be fine on our incomes and our schedules, that marriage was just too challenging, that sex was a bother when we were not being wooed and had to make time in a very busy day for it.

And now our daughters and daughters-in-law are facing life with lots more options automatically available to them. And many more are doing it without the experience of having their biological father in their childhood home than in our Boomer generation.

And our sons and son-in-laws, too, see lots of evidence of people growing up without fathers. As women define roles for them around their own choices, they may feel marriage now allows them choices almost as limited as their post-war grandmothers had.

Marriages can be very painful when they stop meeting our expectations. It is easy, when dealing with this daily pain, to make a plan to live on your own income and whatever a judge will grant you of his, so you can raise your child or children in peace. If you are anywhere near that point, I really hope you will work on the expectations and create a new marriage. It's possible. Every time I watch someone come back from that brink and fall back in love, I get all choked up. It's a beautiful thing.

And while I deal in this blog with finding our way back to a loving marriage, I really feel for anyone who won't consider marrying because they expect the pain.

And this is why I want to send you to an incredible new web page on the National Fatherhood Initiative's website. Before you consider single parenthood, check it out. There is nothing on it about what you should or should not do. Instead, it summarizes the findings of 65 studies on the statistical differences between children who grow up with both parents and those who grow up with their mothers. I did not know any of this when I was facing the pain in my marriage and weighing my pain against our son's. It would have made a difference to me. Maybe it will to you, too.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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