As a nurse who's worked with growing families in Labor and Delivery and now, as a maternity nurse in public health, I've seen families of all types. I've briefly done other types of nursing, but have always felt the most fulfilled working with pregnant women and introducing new babies into the world! It's always such a fun and exciting thing to share in the addition of a new family member. And the funny thing is, even if the circumstances are less than ideal, people usually adapt so well because...well, who doesn't love a baby?
Sadly, an all-too-common occurrence in today's family is that of the absentee father. There is no shortage of speculation, statistics, or opinions on the subject of men who "love 'em and leave 'em." In fact, this is so normal and commonplace now, that young women just view their situation with apparent ambivalence--it's "just the way it is." These women have had to learn more toughness and self-reliance than they were ever supposed to.
As a product of a divorced home myself (also with an extravagant family history of divorce), I grew up hearing that I needed to know how to be independent and how to take care of myself "just in case" I ended up divorced, or likewise without a man in my life. With all the "know how to take care of yourself" talk going on, I, like many of the clients I see on a daily basis, never got the "here's how to be a tender, loving mother" or "let me tell you how to be a godly, respectful wife" speech.
Because of this drive to teach ourselves and our daughters independence "just in case," and also as a result of living in a society that deems men and women absolute "equals" in all things, men have been sometimes rendered irrelevant or unnecessary by women. We have become afraid of being left vulnerable in their absence, so as a defense mechanism we've overcompensated by saying "I don't need you at all." We feel like we need to know how to be the provider, the mom, the dad, the nurturer--all of it, wrapped into one person.
In truth however, God's design for families includes a mother AND a father. Fathers don't get nearly the attention and accolades as mothers but they are by no means any less important. In fact, men are given a mandate to be the spiritual head of their household (1Cor 11:3), leaders (1Thess 2:11-12), providers (1Tim 5:8), disciplinarians (Eph 6:4)--and those are some pretty significant responsibilities!
And in case we need evidence of a dad's influence on our kids, there was a Swiss study completed a few years ago stating that 44% of children whose father's attend church regularly (mom does not attend church at all) will also attend church regularly compared to 2% of children whose mothers attend church regularly without the father. Another study has shown that if the father is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 93% probability that everyone in the household will follow. We can't overlook the importance of the strong presence of a man who is sold out for Christ and the impact that will have on his family.
I conducted an impromptu interview with our kids who are 7 and 5 and asked them what's so special about their dad. I got answers like "He cooks my food," "He does stuff with my school," "He works to make money for us" and "He builds stuff with me." As a man whose primary love language is acts of service, my husband shows his kids love by consistently doing things with and for them. They've never known any different, so they don't even realize just how blessed they are to have him. But, they do seem to instinctually know how important he is to them because when I asked them "if your dad didn't do any of those nice things for you, would you still love him?" of course, they both answered yes.
Dads, don't underestimate your influence on your kids. They need you! Your boys need you to teach them how to be men and your girls need you to teach them how to be treated by men.
Ladies, I know that sometimes the lack of a father in your kids' lives is not your choice, but let's not overlook and minimize the positive effect that a present, loving, and attentive father will have on his children.
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