Authors Ross D. Parke and Armin A. Brott have in Throwaway Dads a thought provoking work that I consider to be a call to action to fathers everywhere to debunk the negative myths and stereotypes of fathers as disinterested, selfish and lazy and to reinforce and promote the positives of fatherhood.
Understanding and Exploding the Myths
In Throwaway Dads, Parke and Brott explain the deep-seated and yet grossly unfair myths about fathers that seem rampant in popular society.
They explore the media images of fathers and how they have changed from the wisdom of Ward Cleaver and the love and strength of Cliff Huxtable to the bumbling and irresponsible Homer Simpson. They look at the real statistics of parental abuse and indifference and show that there is no natural predisposition to irresponsibility in fathers. And most importantly, they contradict the all-too-common myth that children do just as well without fathers as they do with them. The book gives ample evidence that fathers are not inferior to mothers as caregivers and that having a committed father is one of the keys to children's intellectual and emotional success in life.
Offering Some of the Reasons for False Beliefs
Brott and Parke also offer some interesting and provocative reasons for why they think these myths are prevalent in society. They take on conventional wisdom about fathers that had its early foundations in the work of sociologist like Margaret Mead who claimed that fathers are a biological necessity but a social accident.
They speak of the impact of the feminist movement which, with admittedly noble aims at the time, effectively diminished the stature of men in parental roles. Brott and Parke also point to the role of corporations and employers in erecting barriers to responsible fatherhood and suggest ways for employers to be more parent-friendly in their policies. And they suggest that the current anti-male bias in family law proceedings does irreperable harm to children by distancing them from their fathers.
A More Balanced Alterative
Refreshingly, in their effort to support the role of fathers, Parke and Brott do not attempt to whitewash over the failures of many fathers to be responsible and committed. They bear equal fervor against "bad dads" as they do against the societal myths that put all fathers into such a category. In fact, the authors suggest strongly that men need in general to be better dads--more committed and more responsible. Their recommendation is for a more balanced view--recognizing that neither all fathers nor all mothers are perfect and that both parents are entitled to fair treatment through legal and social processes.
The Answer to Throwaway Fatherhood
Finally, rather than just pontificating on the plight of modern fatherhood, Parke and Brott conclude with recommendations for addressing the Throwaway Dad mentality. They turn to fathers with meaningful suggestions on becoming better dads: things like being more active in parenting; being proud of your fatherhood; being a partner with their mother, not a helper; being more available on weekends; and showing respect for your partner.
They also include advice for women in helping fathers be more involved in their children's lives: ideas like seeing things from the dad's perspective, praising their partners and treating the father like a partner and not just a helper.
Government and society can also do more to promote responsible fatherhood according to Parke and Brott. Their recomendations include the need for effective parenting education in public schools, funding fatherhood initiatives, overhauling welfare programs to encourage father involvement, upholding divorced fathers' visitation rights and implementing father-friendly employment practices.