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Who Needs Dads Anyway?

A hundred years ago, feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman envisioned a world in which parthenogenic women spontaneously reproduced, living in an all-female society of perfect peace and freedom and joy, free from want and war.

She might have been onto something. The Atlantic Monthly just published an article asking if we really need fathers at all.

There’s a mountain of science showing problems for kids who grow up without their dads. Fatherless children are more likely than their peers to suffer problems ranging from attachment issues to asthma. They do worse in school, use more drugs, commit more crimes.

Problem is, most of that science is junk.

These studies compare kids growing up with single mothers to kids growing up in a home with a mom and a dad. It’s an apples to oranges comparison that doesn’t sort out the loss of Dad’s income from the loss of Dad’s parenting influence, or even work out whether this is simply a phenomenon of two parents being better than one.

Looking at studies that compare single moms to single dads gives a very different picture:

Drawing on reliable comparative studies, you could say this: single moms tend to be more involved, set more rules, communicate better, and feel closer to their children than single dads. They have less difficulty monitoring their children’s whereabouts, friendships, and school progress. Their children do better on standardized tests and have higher grades, and teenagers of single moms are actually less likely to engage in delinquent behavior or substance abuse than those of single dads. Go, Murphy Brown.

Studies of lesbian parenting also reveal that lesbian moms do better than het couples at raising kids, on average.

So do we really need those diaper-bag toting dads to take on half the parenting while we earn half the money? Maybe mother really does know best when it comes to the babies?

Maybe. But speaking only for myself, I’m grateful that my kids’ dad is an involved, responsible parent. I’d go mad trying to be “on” with the kids all the time. We did it that way, for years, and I went a little mad. Now we both work, we both do housework, we both care for our children and we’re both a lot happier.

I’m also not convinced that I’m a better parent than he is. He’s home on his lunch break cooking lunch for our kids while I work. If it were left to me, I’d probably have given them microwaved leftovers from the dinner he cooked last night.

What about your household? Is Dad necessary, or can Mom handle things just fine without his “help”?

Photo: Ewan and Donabel

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