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.