Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Role of Fathers?

While reading a newspaper article about single women who sort out fertility treatment (access to donor sperm) I started to think about the role that fathers play in the raising of the child and how that role is viewed in todays society.

It would appear for these women at least that the role of a father doesn't mean much at all. I was and I'm sure many other fathers (and perhaps even mothers) would be dismayed at the notion that a father is now redundant and we have no value to add to raising a child. I would argue that we have an equal role to play in raising a child. This is not from a providing masculinity or testosterone behaviour and imprinting perspective but just from purely a genetic connectedness standpoint. Every child should be raised by both genetic parents. While many other parents, single, divorced, same sex etc can and do make good parents, the fact remains and research data also shows that children raised by both genetic parents in a traditional non-conflicting marriage provides the best outcomes for the children.

So what role do fathers play? With many relationships I'm sure that what each person brings is unique and is different to the couple next door and the couple down the street. There can and never will be a specific set of criteria encompassing abilities or jobs to do. As a father and someone who is also donor conceived I'm not entirely sure as to what my role is or the role of the social fathers I had were. It seems to be an intangible factor that just by being with and raised by your flesh and blood (both) produces better outcomes, and I'm sure it is a better outcome for the father too. That is the joy of being a major part of your own child's life. There is the theory that a biological father would put more effort into looking after their own gene pool than would a social or step-father type arrangement. While there is certainly some element of truth to the selfish gene theory I can't help but think that there is something more to it than just that. Particularly from the emotional state of the child, to which there would appear to be a comforting reassurance from seeing themselves in their father not just in looks but behaviour and interests that are just not there in a non-biological father relationship. And while there appears to be no set role for a father except to just be there and love and care for their child, qualities which social fathers can also possess, the fact remains that in the best interests of the child it is of paramount importance that this is done by their biological father.

It would appear for some women at least (those that wish to embark on single parenthood) that men are merely sperm manufacturing plants. They are deliberately denying this child a relationship with their biological father that will adversely affect the child's wellbeing. The biological urge to procreate seems to override any concerns these would be mothers have for the emotional and physical health of their child which is a baffling scenario. Whether they are ignorant of or just ignore this fact is irrelevant.

The rights of the most vulnerable party, in this case the child, should always override those of the parents. In the instance of children, they have an inalienable right to know their biological father and mother. Yet many would be parents would like to believe they have a right to "have" children. I would strongly argue that no one has a right to have children. We are not some pet that you can bring home from a pet-shop and then "own". No one should use children to fulfill their own desires at the expense of the child. To be able to have children in your life is a privilege. Unfortunately it is not one that everyone can enjoy.

I have something intangible that I provide my children that no other man or woman can or will be able to provide. It is something that was also denied to me.
The role of a biological father cannot be replaced.