June 20, 2010

A New Generation of Fathers.

A Shout-Out to the New Dads.

I know very few peers who were raised by both parents. I have very many peers whose fathers were at best absent, and at worst abusive. Though really, abandonment leaves scars nearly as readily as any other kind of abuse does.

Most of us lived through our parent’s divorces as kids. Divorce is as prevalent as it was when I was a child, but there is a new pattern emerging in this generation.

Now we have a new generation of fathers; this is the New Dad.

In my generation, Generation X, the ending of the first marriage (called a “starter marriage” by a friend), feels almost like a rite of passage into true adulthood.

But this generation is writing a new story about what happens after divorce. The New Dads grew up in houses mostly absent of any stable father figure. These men are doing their part in authoring this new ending-as-beginning; they’re sticking around. Even more impressively, they’re working with their baby-mommas to make it possible to co-parent with as much peace and agreement as possible.

This isn’t always an easy task. After all, divorces happen for a reason. Couples grow apart.

Divorce is a more acceptable option for our generation than it was for our parents’ generation. Staunch “family values” types would likely cite this as a proof of a cultural failing.

I prefer to look at the positive side, and say that perhaps because divorce has become more culturally prevalent, and overtime more socially acceptable, it’s become a less destructive option.

As a generation born in the midst of the divorce boom, we learned at least two things thoroughly; divorce is often the right choice (it certainly was in the case of my mom and dad), and divorce is potentially much harder on the kids than it is on the adults involved.

Out of this awareness, we’ve learned 1., that there’s no shame in calling it quits before a functional relationship with the ex is out of the question, and 2., the needs of the kids should always out weigh any pettiness on the part of the adults.

And the New Dad is a product of the divorce boom as well – by merit of the fact that this man was most likely raised primarily (if not exclusively) by his mother. While this is not in all ways a good thing, there are positives that are present.

While the absence of a father figure in a man’s life can lead to confusion about what it means to be a dad, there are a few elements working in the positive, and producing some really beautiful fathering by the men of generations X and Y.

By and large, men raised by their mamas have a lot of respect for the work their moms did to keep them happy, healthy, and taken care of growing up. And, using the absence of their fathers (or in worse cases, the abuse) as an example of how NOT to parent, these New Dads are making new choices.

The New Dad is nurturing, involved, sensitive and engaged with his children. After a separation, this New Dad works hard to create a healthy co-parenting relationship with his ex. In the best case, this manifests as a sense of extended family. In less ideal circumstances, it comes down to putting aside disagreements with the ex in order to create the most positive co-parenting relationship possible.

In the absence of a positive father figure, it’s almost as if the New Dad is starting over with a clean slate. And with that slate in front of him, the New Dad is taking out the sidewalk chalk and sitting down with his kids to draw a brand new image of what being a father means.

Here’s a shout out to all the New Dads; Happy Father’s Day, and THANKS FOR BEING YOU!

For more about kids of divorce, read this cool piece at NPR!


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