In Gratitude for Present Fathers

fathershand

by mraynes

My life is almost entirely female oriented.  Everyday I hold a baby girl to my breast and let the wonder of the woman body nurture her early existence.  I go to work and negotiate the personalities and emotions of the women I work with.  I listen to the nightmares of female victim after female victim and wonder, why?  Between my responsibilities as mother and counselor, I think.  I think about female oppression and suffering.  I think about the dysfunction of a society that values women more for the way they look than the way they act.  I think about God and women…Whether God is a woman and whether God loves women.  I am consumed by my own womaness and the female experience around me.  And yet I realize that this is a privileged consumption.

I think of that cliched phrase at times, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”  I don’t know if that is true but I do know that behind this woman are great men and wonderful fathers.  I so often complain about patriarchy and violent, misogynistic men that I wonder if the real men in my life know how grateful I am for them and how important I think they are.

My own father taught me how to see shades of grey.  He taught me that there are no hierarchies between children of God, we are all equal and we all deserve compassion.  It is from my father that I learned how to praise God through poetry and music.  He dragged me to art museums, historical monuments and operas, all in the hope that I would expand my mind.  And when I did, he got out of the way and let me experience the journey.  Perhaps the most important lesson my father taught me was how to persevere through the reality and injustice of life and find happiness in spite of it.

Maybe it is un-feminist of me to say, but I would be nothing without my husband.  He is the one who makes my issues with life and God bearable.  He provides the safety for me to question and reach for the things that I want.  It is my husband who nurtures our family.  Every morning he wakes at 5:30 with our baby so that I can sleep an extra hour or two.  It is he who cleans the house, changes the diapers, wipes little noses, kisses boo-boos, plays the baby games.  For all of his work he is rewarded with two children who love mommy best.  His is a thankless job.  But I thank him for it because I know that as our children get older, he will give them the strength to dream without limit.  He will teach them how to work hard and reach the goals they have set.  My children are the lucky ones, they have a father who is present and will provide them with every opportunity.  It is men like my husband and father who are slowly changing the world because they know that what makes them a real man is living a life of respect, compassion and equality.  

Somewhere in our society we convinced ourselves that men really aren’t necessary and that fathers bear little more responsibility than providing a genetic deposit.  I see the effect of neglectful and abusive fathers every day; their children walk around with a hole left in their soul by their fathers’ absence.  There is no social program or therapist that can heal that loss.  And unfortunately, we women share much of the blame in allowing this to happen.  Yes, women have been oppressed and minimized throughout history.  Yes, women were told that the home was their sphere.  But that shouldn’t keep women today from demanding that the fathers of their children step up

Despite the two holidays devoted to parents, the sad truth is we undervalue the roles of fathers and mothers. While mothers are most often taken for granted and overlooked, society simply lets fathers off the hook. So let us celebrate the fathers who fulfill their role with relish and joy, who nurture and mentor and love their children as they deserve.

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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11 Responses

  1. Carol says:

    An inspiring post. Although I have been a crusader against sexual and physical abuse for many years, I celebrate those fathers and husbands–like mine–who serve their families with love and kindness.

    I’m not sure that women share the blame when fathers are absent. No amount of cajouling or begging can inspire a neglectful or abusive father to step up and be present if he chooses to check out of his family’s life. Often this behavior drives them further away.

    I’m so grateful that my husband and father value and celebrate my womanhood and that they respect and honor people of all races, social classes, and religions. I hope I have passed these values on to my daughters and sons.

    Praise God for good fathers everywhere and for young men who aspire to be good fathers. And may God comfort and bless those children and wives who lack that blessing. May He fill their hearts with the perfect love of their Father, who understands our pains and waits to bind up the broken-hearted.

  2. Kelly Ann says:

    Wow, this is beautiful. I love the picture.

    In focusing on the female, it is easy to forget the importance of the male. Really life involves the two! Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective.

    I hope I am as lucky to find a similar match.

  3. annegb says:

    I would like to know more about your job. This is a wonderful post and tribute. My dad was such a vicious person I don”t think I’ll ever be whole in this life.

  4. Jessawhy says:

    Mraynes,
    Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful post.
    You really are blessed to have these wonderful men in your life.
    You and Mr. Mraynes really have a wonderful family and I’m so glad I get to learn from your example.

  5. Emily U says:

    I like what you said about good men slowly changing the world. I really believe that is happening because some of the overt sexism that was around a generation or two ago is slowly disappearing, in my opinion. And I think attitudes are changing so that even institutional sexism has a real chance of going away in my lifetime.

    On the other hand, there are fewer and fewer families with both a mom and a dad at home, so it seems like society is losing ground in that way. I also agree that women contribute to the problem of absentee fathers in the sense that they don’t make marriage a prerequisite for having children. This is such a sticky issue because it can start to sound like a transaction (sex traded for marriage) and obviously marriage shouldn’t be like that. But if people more fully recognized the importance of having a child’s father around they might not be so amenable to the idea of becoming a single mother.

  6. John says:

    “Somewhere in our society we convinced ourselves that men really aren’t necessary and that fathers bear little more responsibility than providing a genetic deposit. ”

    “But that shouldn’t keep women today from demanding that the fathers of their children step up. ”

    That last sentence puts your right back in with rest of the women that hate men and blame everything on them.

  7. mraynes says:

    Thanks for all the comments.

    Carol, I hope too that God provides comfort to the women and children who are victims of useless men. I agree, there are some men that, no matter what, will never do the right thing. I am not suggesting that their failure is all the fault of women but we do have a duty to demand better of the men in our lives and not tolerate neglect or abuse. When I say that women share in the blame it is because we have let men feel like they weren’t needed or capable of parenting and we have enabled bad behavior. This is a complex issue and to absolve women of any of the blame, I think is naive. Thank you for your comment and thank you for advocating on the behalf of women and children who have been abused, they need all the support we can give them.

    Kelly Ann, thanks for your comment. I agree, it can be easy to overlook men when we feel so strongly as and about women. I am grateful that I have a husband who helps me see this other side. Ironically, it was my intense focus on women that allowed me to find such a wonderful man. I hope that technique will work for you as well :)!

    Anne, it’s nice to see you over this way. I work as a counselor to domestic violence victims and I get a first hand look at the horrors women and children go through at the hands of abusive men. I am so sorry that you had one of those fathers, I know there can never be complete healing in this life but I hope God provides something in the next. Thank you for your kind comment.

    Thanks, Jessawhy. I feel so lucky to have you as a friend.

    Emily, thanks for your comment. I totally agree that the world is changing and there is certainly less sexism. But you’re right, family dynamics are different today that add their own complexities. In my dream world, society will start to acknoweledge and appreciate how vital both mothers and fathers are.

  8. CatherineWO says:

    Thank you for this post. My dad has been gone for several years, but your post brought to mind the good man that he was. He was a man without guile, who, unusual for his generation, truly saw women as equals. He and my mother were business partners as well as marriage partners, giving me a view of female/male relationships that was very different from that of many of my contemporaries. Though that view often makes me impatient with other men, I am glad to have had it instilled in me at an early age.
    At the same time that I am thankful for the father I had, I ache for those who had no fathers, or worse, abusive ones. Life is so unfair.

  9. Caroline says:

    I loved every word of this, mraynes.

  10. EmilyCC says:

    Beautiful post, mraynes. I’m often guilty of not expressing my gratitude to the good men in my life.

  11. Kiri Close says:

    Beautiful post.

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