Friday, September 19, 2008

Society and Single Father Families

The outlook of society governs much of our lives. On October 16, 2007, one national TV station included in the evening's world news some information about Dictionary Day. That report underlined the degree to which the thinking of society can change things that one once considered unchangeable.

The report looked at how the dictionary now chooses to accept two spellings for certain words. The dictionary has made this sudden change, because it has analyzed spellings on blogs and other public announcements. It found that in some cases close to 50% of the public used a spelling other than the former dictionary spelling

Why does this article about society and single father families begin with information about Dictionary Day? Because the spelling changes announced on Dictionary Day make clear the influence of norms in society. Unfortunately, a single father family falls far outside of the norms in our society.

According to an article in Teen Magazine, an article on "Alternative Families," 71.6% of children aged 18 and under lives with two parents. That figure includes both those children who live with both natural parents and those who live with one natural parent and one step parent.

Among children who live with a single parent, 24.2% live with their mother. Only 3.4% of children live with a single father. Single fathers might want to hide those statistics from their children, since children like to feel that they are part of the larger group. Children do not like to feel "different."

Sometimes parents can motivate a child to strive to be like everyone else. Some parents make it clear that they want their children to be "normal." What parents usually can not do is to formulate a precise definition of "normal."

In the summer of 1969, one worried mother asked her daughter's doctor if her daughter would be "normal." The doctor said, "What is normal. She will have a full and useful life."

A single father might want to concentrate on that phrase: "a full and useful life." A single father can certainly strive to give his children a full and useful life. If children feel a part of the family's full schedule, and if they work with other family members to contribute to society, then they will feel a part of society.

A single father must demonstrate to his family the value of contributing to society. When someone can contribute to society, few people are going to care about that person's family life. For the average individual, his or her place in society can not be determined by whether or not he or she lives within a family structure that mimics the family structure of a majority of other families.

Too often society has placed the entire burden of child rearing on parents. This has handed single parents a particular challenge. Some single fathers have chosen to rely heavily on their own parents. There is really no reason why all members of society can not contribute to the development of all children.

In my own home town, one candidate for the school board wants to reach out to adults who do not have children in the local schools. I have interviewed this candidate. I think that he has made a good point, a point that could show society how to better assist single fathers.

When a man's wife is gravely ill, friends and neighbors often lend a hand, making him dinner, or doing other tasks for him. What about the single father? Doesn't he too deserve some extra help? He does, and I hope that society soon takes that fact into consideration.

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