Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21st. How are you planning to celebrate the very special man in you and your baby’s life?
Perhaps you are thinking,
“My baby’s father isn’t in our lives!”
I hear you. I am no longer with my children’s father, yet he is an important part of their lives-and mine as we are co-parenting them. But if you have remarried, or there is a “father figure” in your child’s life who has stepped up and stepped in and is fulfilling the role and duties of father, I invite you to celebrate that man this Sunday (and everyday!!)
I know that this website is Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, and the whole focus is to provide you with the tools and support that you need to have a fantastic pregnancy and a healthy baby. But I would be remiss, and some may even go so far as to say that my actions would be unethical, if I didn’t highlight the important role of fathers-biologic and otherwise-in the lives of birthing women and their babies.
So let’s start with mamas. Fathers/partners provide emotional support throughout the pregnancy. Yeah, sometimes they just don’t get us, but hey, there are times when we don’t get us either! Those who are present are taken on the rollercoaster ride that is pregnancy; full of ups, downs, mood swings, close calls and the joys of labor, delivery and-the baby! As overwhelming as childbearing is for us, imaging how colossal it must be for men? They have to watch the woman that they love (hopefully) grow, change, be uncomfortable (often times sick!!), be on bed rest, endure the endless tests and treatments and then the grand finale-labor and delivery (or a c-section, major surgery) and be able to do very little to make the situation better for her. For many guys, this is this side of insanity! Guys inherently want to fix things and when it comes to childbearing, after insemination, there really isn’t much for them to do but watch and wait. And yes, for some men, this is too much and they leave. So kudos to those who stay, stick it out and hang in when the going is tough and are a solid rock for their women to lean on and rest upon.
The influence of a father, a daddy (a man who provides more than mere sperm donation!) in the lives of children is priceless. According to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse,
“When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.”
In 2006, Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD co-authored a manual on fatherhood through the US Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration for Children and Families, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and the Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect called, “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” In this publication Rosenberg and Wilcox note that children raised by loving, married parents learn how a man is to treat a woman in the context of a healthy relationship. They also note that even when the parents aren’t married and don’t live together, children who see their fathers speaking to and treating their mothers with respect and courtesy learn that men are supposed to treat women with respect and courtesy (boys) and they learn that behavior that is not respectful and courteous is not acceptable (girls). In summary, Rosenberg and Wilcox found the following characteristics in children who had active fathers in their lives (regardless of the parental relationships)
- Children with involved, caring fathers have better education outcomes that start in preschool and continue throughout their school careers.
- Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.
- Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. As such, children whose fathers engage in rough housing are more likely to learn to cope with aggressive behaviors and learn its okay to strike out and explore without being anxious.
- Children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior.
- Boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems
- Girls had stronger self esteem.
- Children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.
What this study also found and what was also confirmed by a study done by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is that lower income fathers are no less involved in their children’s lives than higher earning dads. In fact, many lower income fathers are more “hands on” with their children, especially those who didn’t live with their children all the time; caring for their children on weekends and for other extended periods of time and providing all the care and nurturing that mothers provide in addition to financial support.
I think that fathers are the unsung heroes of families. Yes, we mamas do much to keep that family moving and shaking, but a good dad really holds the family together. So this Sunday, do a little something special for the dads in you and your children’s lives. And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!!
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children”. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Written By Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD.
20 Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to Be an Active Father Prepared by Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., Child Development Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, October 2000.
Seldom do I revert to childish gloating, but occasionally I just have to go there. Such is the case as I am gleefully reading the report put out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention utilizing data from the National Center for Health Statistics which shows that Black fathers are just as engaged-if not more so-in the rearing and support of their children than fathers of other races.
Excuse me while I take a moment to gloat.
“Ha! Told yaaaaaaa!!”
“Na na na na na, you were wrong!!!!!”
Now you may be wondering why I am so over the moon about this research? Well, there are several reasons.
1. I am sick to death of hearing how black men are no good, they “hit it and quit it” and don’t take responsibility for the children that they help create.
2. I am sick and tired of hearing that all the ills of the world are because of black men.
3. I am thoroughly done with the portrayal of black men-black people actually-as uncivilized and bringing down the status of US culture globally.
4. And I am beyond through with this nation feeling that it is okay to kill a black male simply because he is present in time and space!
Now you all may be wondering, “What in God’s name does any of this have to do with high risk pregnancy and bed rest??” Well, it has everything to do with it. As I have often reported, African American women and infants have the worst birth outcomes of any other race or ethnicity in the US, with 2-4 times the morbidity and mortality of women and infants of other races and ethnicities. An African American infant is more than twice as likely to die before its first birthday than infants of other races and ethnicities and this is due primarily to preterm birth!!!
Are you following me yet?
Let me continue. Ever since I can remember and at least for my adult professional life “the party line” regarding the black family has been,
“It’s the breakdown of the black family, and the absence of black fathers in particular, that is the cause of the high maternal and infant morbidity and mortality that exists amongst African Americans.”
As an African American, and now as a divorced single mama, I knew that isn’t at all the case but had no way of substantiating what I knew to be true. Now there is concrete data obtained by one of the most reputable scientific bodies in the United States that has shown what many of us African Americans already knew. Yes, many more African American children are born to and/or raised by “single” mothers, but what this study has shown is that while the parents of a child may not be married, they may in fact be together (co-habitating) and even if they are not living together, African American fathers are intricately involved in the rearing of and support (and here I do mean financially) of their children, in many cases more than White or Latino fathers.
So again you may be asking, “What does this have to do with preterm labor and infant mortality?” Stay with me.
There is a lot going on in the United States as regards race and quite frankly none of it is good. We have all seen and heard the news reports of police shooting unarmed African American men, racial profiling of both African American men and women, disparities in discipline for African American School Children and so on and so on and so on. These are daily facts of life, daily stressors for African American women, and daily stressors for the infants they are carrying. Additionally, poverty for all families is reaching heights not seen since the great depression and other times in our history. The unemployment rate is still teetering on the high side and looms highest amongst African American men. More depressing is the fact that people of any race with higher educations are now just as likely as those with little to no education to endure a prolonged time of unemployment, and those numbers are again higher for African American men. This amounts to markedly elevated stress for African American men and African American women, their partners. Stress, as well as poverty, is not good for anyone, but particularly not good for pregnant African American women and the infants that they are carrying. We know that stress is an independent risk factor for preterm labor, prematurity and low birth weight all areas in which African Americans have the highest rates. So I think that it is safe to say that poverty, unemployment and racism are far strong predictors and stressors on maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in African Americans than “absentee dads”.
Now I know that many of you are going to come right back at me and say, “But what about black on black violence? What about the crime rates in predominantly black neighborhoods? And we know that many African American men abandon their family responsibilities.” Agreed. But the data from this study, which was broad and the study well constructed, shows that despite all these negative influences, African American men continue to be hands on fathers, and at greater rates than white or Latino fathers.
I wholeheartedly admit that there is much that needs to be done within my culture to heal it. But let’s not look astray too much to lay blame. Much of what we see in these urban, depressed areas is poverty; boarded up buildings, non-existent stores and services, poorer schools and no revenue coming into these areas. Add to that no jobs, no way for people in these areas to support themselves and their families, no money, leads to crime and yes, homicides. Is it okay? No. Is it an excuse? Of course not. But let’s consider the fact that if people in these areas had jobs, income and ways in which to support and sustain their families, then, according to data from the CDC again, crime rates would in fact go down and quality of life would go up.
But I myself have veered a bit off topic. The bottom line is this-even in depressed economic times, even in economically depressed communities, even when jobless, even with the threats to their lives black men are taking care of their children. Contrary to the sensationalized news reports and the stereotypic depictions on television and in movies, black men are taking care of their children-their families. The question now becomes, how can we as a culture, as a nation give them a hand so that this can continue? What are we as a nation, as a culture doing to reduce poverty, increase jobs, increase opportunities for education so that not just black men, but all men, can have the means to raise and support their children?
Finally, we have to ask the question, “Have we too narrowly defined “family”? We know from this work that there are men and women living together and raising their children but not married, or married and helping to raise their spouse’s children. Aren’t they still a family? What about blended families? Large extended families? This is all data that is yet to be analyzed-or even obtained. We know that African Americans being of the African diaspora are a “tribal” people. Migration and dispersion-both voluntary and involuntary-has also played a role in the depressed socioeconomic status of African Americans resulting in decreased community support for families. How are we as African Americans going to re-establish our communities and our families going forward?
There are many unanswered questions and I am sure that many more studies will come about, but what we do know is this: African American men are supporting their children and its time to toss out the stereotypes of them as “absentee fathers” and do what we can to support their efforts and the efforts of all men who want to be active parents to their children.
Jo Jones, Ph.D., and William D. Mosher, Ph.D., “Father’s Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006–2010”. National Health Statistics Report, Number 71, December 20, 2013
The Causes of Infant Mortality-The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
African-American Women and Their Babies at a Higher Risk for Pregnancy and Birth Complications–The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Black Unemployment Rate 2015: In Better Economy, African-Americans See Minimal Gains–International Business Times.
Murry, V. M., Brown, P. A., Brody, G. H., Cutrona, C. E. and Simons, R. L. (2001), “Racial Discrimination as a Moderator of the Links Among Stress, Maternal Psychological Functioning, and Family Relationships.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 63: 915–926. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00915. x
The Absent Black Father Myth Debunked-by CDC–The Daily Kos