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But don’t remind Rosie O’Donnell, Calista Flockhart, Jodie Foster, Melissa Etheridge or Diane Blood. They had no husbands on the horizon but yearned to exercise those mommy muscles. So, they skipped the fathering factor to go it alone.
No nexus exists between them and women forced into single motherhood due to unforeseeable events such as divorce, death or desertion. None chose to go solo; misfortune thrust it on them.
Creators of father-free families, on the other hand, do so foolishly.
Rosie and Calista adopted. Jodie found a willing contributor and birthed Charles. Melissa and her former lover, Julie Cypher, used a turkey baster and sperm served up by singer/songwriter David Crosby to produce Bailey, then Beckett.
Last week, British widow Diane Blood announced that she is pregnant, thanks to sperm harvested from her husband’s body before life-support systems were shut off in 1995. He died of meningitis. Liam, born in 1998, and the baby due in July, resulted from artificial insemination.
At this rate, except for the pleasure of a sexual romp, why bother with men?
Calculated single motherhood suggests Pop is optional – a handy drone for impregnation but for little else. We women are all the planet needs to successfully launch the next generation.
Obtuse attitudes promulgate this myth. The National Organization for Women said in a 1999 legislative update, “There is very little in the way of scientific evidence that supports the assertions about the consequences of ‘fatherlessness’ and about the need for father involvement … in fact, the evidence is heavily weighted in the opposite direction.”
“The decline of fatherhood is a major force behind crime, premature sexuality, out-of-wedlock births, deteriorating educational achievement, substance abuse, and women and children in poverty,” says Rutgers University sociology professor David Popenoe, author of “Life Without Father.”
“Wait ’til your father gets home!” has soared through history for good reason.
“In my opinion, men carry a presence by design that commands a certain respect on an authoritative level,” says Steven Caldwell, whose column “Dad Zone” appears in newspapers throughout Arkansas.
Kids also learn self-control while simply roughhousing with Dad. “These are mini practice sessions on self-regulation. If a kid gets out of hand, Dad stops it.” says Wade Horn, assistant director of the Administration for Children and Families.
Fatherless boys seldom learn these limits. Dr. Popenoe notes that 60 percent of America’s rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates are fatherless.
Another paternal plus: Children with biological fathers at home are safer. “Predators don’t have easy access, and a biological father is very rarely the perpetrator of abuse. Usually it’s a live-in boyfriend, stepfather or male acquaintance,” says Jeff Rosenberg, spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative.
The National Center on Child Abuse in Washington, D.C., finds that children of single parents are at 120 percent greater risk of sexual or physical abuse than their peers who live with both biological parents.
Fatherless girls suffer a unique vulnerability. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that they more often get pregnant as teen-agers than those in two-parent homes.
“Earlier sexual activity is common as they search for a male figure to love them. Girls with biological fathers already have that esteem and are not as vulnerable to predatory males,” says Popenoe.
The DHHS provides yet more data to dissuade women contemplating single motherhood. Their children are at severely increased risk of substance abuse, are five times more likely to live in poverty and are twice as likely to drop out of school.
“One father is more than a hundred school masters,” wrote poet George Herbert. But many youngsters are denied this half of the human equation, so where do we go from here?
“This is my challenge to adult men. Look for opportunities to interact with fatherless children,” says Dr. Horn. “They do very well with positive role models.”
When principled men draw alongside, these children – fatherless by fashion or default – are not doomed to become negative statistics. Instead, they are given a future and a hope.