Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dichotomy II

I wrote a few days ago about two mothers of 24 weekers, a nineteen year old and twenty-six year old, and how I enjoyed working with them. We hadn't seen much, though, of the fathers of their babies, and recently I found out why: they're in jail. One is in for a drug related offense, and we don't know what the other one is in for, but it's probably something serious, because he was originally threatened with a sentence of twelve years to life, but managed to plea bargain it down to a lesser time.

It's not unusual for us to see the fathers of our babies in the first few hours or days after the baby is born, but as the hospital stay extends, we often see them less and less, although the mothers keep coming. That could be because the dads are working, or maybe staying with the other kids while mom visits, but often it's probably because in our society the father can simply get away with being absent, at least more easily than the mothers can. I suspect that lots of books and Ph.D. theses have been written about the reasons for absent fathers.

It shouldn't surprise me that incarceration is one of the reasons for a dad's absence. A few years ago I read the discouraging statistic that it was more likely for a young black male in our city to go to prison than to college.

I have a similar dichotomy of feelings towards the fathers of our babies as I do towards the mothers. On the one hand, I am frustrated with the way they sow their seed and then don't take responsibility for their offspring. But I also feel sorry for them, because they grow up in an environment that seems to encourage failure as much as success. They are both the product of and contribute to the seemingly endless cycle of young single parenthood, poor education, lousy jobs, and poverty that permeate too many of our urban neighborhoods.

P.S. Seen on the T-shirt of a woman in our hospital: "I don't make mistakes....I date them."

P.P.S. Grand Rounds is up at the Medical Blog Network, and Pediatric Grand Rounds is up at Anxiety, Addiction, and Depression.


Blogger Kristina said...

I've written several times of late in my blog on my observations about how men are raised in this society. I have two sons and I see how because they have penises, and because they are white, that they are assumed (men, in general) to be lazy, chauvanistic, sports freaks, workaholics, child molesters, date rapists, passion-less about their marriages, adulterers and abandoners of their children.

If we raise men to believe they are these things, why are we shocked when they become them? I am trying to teach my men the sanctity, and *necessity* of manhood, the importance of it. I want them to know that they are the counterbalance to women, that we are out of whack without each other. I want them to know that fatherhood is the most important thing they can do, far more important than how much money they bring in or how big their bank accounts might be, and that providing for your family is not so much about money as it is time.

Something must be done to protect manhood from being marginalized, and fatherhood from being trivialized.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Ex Utero said...

Fatherhood is a mentored skill. You can be mentored by a mother or an uncle or a grandparent and still become a good father, but it's probably a little harder and those people deserve even more credit for having gotten you there (Loraine comes to mind). Yes it does take resources and the basic necessities and assurances of life must be there, but without effective mentorship, a boy's chances of understanding the value and desirability of becoming a father (as opposed to a sperm donor) are not good. I would suggest that mass media (sports versus soap operas, commercialism etc) is a problem for both of the sexes.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Flea said...

I agree with Kristina and Phil. The problem is really our problem. If we don't like the way boys are turning out, we can always raise them differently. Ms. Flea and I have two.

We don't want them to be rich or brilliant, we want them to be menschen (sorry for the Yiddish).



10:51 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Thanks, all. I pretty much agree, it is important to teach fatherhood to boys and have good examples for them. Kristina, your second and third paragraphs are tremendous, but do you really think that white boys are assumed to be lazy, chauvanistic, and all those other things?

9:59 PM  

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