sperm donor

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A lot has happened since I last blogged. Well, one major thing has happened. Trump. Singular, but the magnitude of it means that a lot has happened.  I’m not writing about Trump though. There are a possibly a million think pieces already and I have plenty of thoughts but not any that I feel would shed any new light on the alternate universe we’ve found ourself in in which someone who only feels they need to be briefed on intelligence once a week because they think they’re ‘smart’, can be a viable candidate to run a superpower. I digress.

On Twitter (which  generates meaningful conversation more often than you’d think), I saw a back and forth about fatherhood. It started off as a series of tweets by a man about masculinity and black men needing to responsibility in order to build stronger families. Another man quickly responded, asking what the definition of family was,  suggesting that it was possible to have a family without a man, and that him not having a father didn’t prevent him from achieving in life and therefore “the broken family narrative is invalid”.

I could have ignored this as a one off – one young man with possibly unresolved emotions from having an absent father or who perhaps had a great family life despite his absence seeking to make sense of his situation by framing his father as an optional extra in his life. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’m hearing this idea that men aren’t ‘nececssary’ for a family.

Now, it’s quite obvious that there are many families that operate and possibly even thrive outside of the traditional Mum, dad. 2.4 kids template. As far back in humanity’s existence as you can imagine, families have been far more complex than the template. Whether it be children growing up with Grandparents, an Aunty,  5 cousins or a family friend-become-guardian. While this has always been the case, what’s new is the push from certain sectors of society for a radical shift in how we think about what contsitutes necessary or perhaps optimal family structure.

I listened to a podcast last year and I was slightly shocked when one of the women angrily stated that “she didn’t need a black man to have a family anyway”. She claimed that she had other options including adoption and sperm donation that meant that having to deal with black men (and I gathered, in her mind – any accompanying misogyny) was uncessary. I emphasise being only slightly shocked because some strands of feminism in particular, seem to be extremely comfortable with promoting this idea. Now granted, men can be stressful, generally ashy and a complete waste of breath. There have been times post-argument or rejection, where the idea of reproducing asexually has sounded infinitely more appealing than wading through the circle of fire that is the male ego. Despite this, in the cold light of day I’m under no illusion that a present and active male figure is anything less than optimal if I want to have a thriving and happy family.

Not only  is the idea that men are optional to a family structure  insulting to men, it’s harmful to women,  indeed, perhaps even to feminism and goes against all the evidence we have so far – both academic and anecdotal.

In a world where we’re increasingly being told by various factions that gender is a wholly social construct with no clear biological markers as well as scientific advances in artifical insemination, it’s unsurprising that people can lead themselves to believe or want to believe that men aren’t necessary for families.

Whiel I agree that we have made some essential progress in not treating women who are single parents like social pariahs or failures, on the other hand, in response to societies negativity towards single mothers particularly black single mothers, we have almost begun to regress into a ridculous narrative where we not only have accepted it as the new normal but seem to be promoting it?

There is a need to continually pushback against the idea that a household in which there is no male figure is a perfectly normal and acepptable state for over 60% of our children to grow up in. This isn’t societal progress, it is (and I mean it as dramatically as it sounds) a state of emergency. Research into outcomes for children from single parent families  is complex and the evidence as to the vastness of the difference in outcomes varies, but one thing is fairly undeniable – your chances of having poor outcomes increases. Very often we argue that boys need men, but just as importantly, girls need men. I needed my Dad, and i still do. My Dad even by sheer virtue of joining his income with my Mum as well as the myriad otehr inputs, enabled me to fulfilll all the feminist ideals of being an interdependent (catch that?), educated woman with a a confidence that lies in my abilities regardless of my gender.

Someone will ask, “would you rather have children grow up in dysfunctional, violent or abusive two parent households?”. Clearly, the answer to this is no. I would much rather a child grow up in a loving single parent household and not be exposed to constant arguing or potential domestic violence. I salute the single mothers that are doing the best they can. I acknowledge that just because parents aren’t together, does not mean that the father isn’t active in the childs life. As I get older I’ve come to terms with the fact that I myself may not necessarily get married but I still definitely would consider adopting a child. However, no matter how active a father or  a mother is individually  a functioning two parent household will always be the ideal. That isn’t what we need to question.

The question we do  need to ask ourselves is what are we NOT teaching our young people about relationships, about masculinity, about femininity that is allowing a situation to occure where so many relationships are unable to last the distance? What ideas about what it means to be a man are we teaching boys that means they can’t have successful relationships with women and vice versa?

Instead of acquiescing to a tide of broken homes, we can start having these conversations amongst ourselves. In our friendship circles, families, churches and mosques we can do the work. We can do the work of seeing  a counsellor to sift through our individual or relationship issues (I know being able to suggest that comes froma place of relative financial privilege), we can dig into the resources we have of the wisdom of older generations, asking them what worked and what didn’t. We can choose to reject media that constantly portrays and glorifies dysfunctional relationships for cheap entertainment.

What we can’t do, is allow our children to accept this new normal. It’s not normal.

 

 

baby ivf

I can’t remember who exactly said it or when, but I’m sure it’s been said to more than once. I’ve been accused of being ‘sheltered’.

It’s not intended as a compliment obviously. It’s usually said with a bit of snark, or a lot of snark – or sometimes lovingly but patronisingly.

You haven’t been out partying, or had sex, or tried alcohol, or smoked a bit of weed or had someone attempt to sell you weed, or been invited to join a local gang. You weren’t allowed to stay out past midnight age 16. You weren’t allowed to have a boyfriend. Your parents monitored what you watched on television. You weren’t allowed a computer in your room. You weren’t allowed to hang around with certain people. Add on to the list.. View Post

parent sucks

A while back I started a series on the Ten Commandments. I got to number four, probably the easiest one for me to write about, and probably the most inoffensive to most non-believers – after all, what’s not to like about what superficially appears to be a command to have a day off?  I kind of forgot about that series amidst all my other random blog posts, and then last week I remembered that perhaps I had a good reason for being stuck. Commandment number five. That’s where I got stuck.

Number five is the one about honouring your father and mother.

And I could have written a very lovely, likely nauseating blog post as an ode to my (truthfully) very wonderful parents, but as soon as  I thought about it what came to mind was…but what if your parents suck?

I’ll admit, there is a part of me that is very sympathetic to the pro-choice movement. There are one or two women who make you think”Why didn’t you just have an abortion?”. That might appear exceptionally judgemental, callous or even evil to some of you, but hear me out:

Seeing a baby whose mother is addicted to heroin and has passed that on to them, or seeing women who know that they are entirely economically, emotionally or mentally unsuitable to parent or seeing women who physically or sexually abuse their children persuade me at times sometimes, it is crueller to give birth to life than to terminate it.  Of course, their children could, and I hope will, go on to make wonderful things out of their lives, but the odds are hugely stacked against them.

I get angry after I see these women. And I undulate between pity (because I understand that people do not generally behave in these ways simply because they are ‘bad people’ – there a multiple factors at play) and anger for the soon-to-be baby that has to live through the consequences of their behaviour.

Poor single mothers are an easy target for bad parenting though. There are multiple men and women who have stable jobs and appear to be functioning on the surface, but have hidden addictions, abusive personalities and a myriad of issues that make them just as ill equipped to parent, but they unfortunately fall under the radar of public services.

Some parents suck.

Some people should never be parents in their current state. Some parents are your abusers. Some parents are the person who caused you the deepest hurt. Some parents are invisible. Some parents left you before you could remember their face. Some parents crushed your dreams and didn’t give you enough peaceful nights to rebuild them. Some parents are selfish. Some parents told you they hated you.

All parents are imperfect.

How do you honour them? Do they deserve honour? What does it look like to honour a parent who sucks at parenting?

I always say we can’t make arguments from definitions, but sometimes definitions are useful. The Greek word for honour used in the New testament is timao, which means ‘to set the value of’. I think this is a useful way of understanding the context of the word honour. The heart of this commandment is the value we should place on the relationship (or non-relationship) we have with our parents. Whether good or bad, these relationships will likely have lasting impact on the course of our lives. We should approach these relationships with that knowledge and treat them accordingly.Not only that, but good parents are an invaluable resource and we should use the wisdom they inevitably will have.

I’m cautious about being too certain in my opinions on this, but there are a few thing I am certain of:

1) Jesus took abuse, especially of children, seriously.

He said that it was better to tie a massive rock around your neck and drown yourself at the bottom of the ocean than harm a child.

2) You’re obligated to forgive, you’re not obligated to remain in relationship with abusers.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Galatians 5:14. If you wouldn’t want someone you love to stay in that situation or relationship, don’t stay in it yourself.

3) Where it’s possible to reconcile, you should.

This is good advice whatever your faith … “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”. Romans 12:18. That means if the you’ve fallen out, but reconciling will not put you in a position where you are open to abuse/abusive behaviour then try to reconcile.

4) It’s loving to tell people when they’ve messed up and it gives them opportunities to change.

“Better is open criticism than hidden love”.  Proverbs 27:5

5) You’re entitled to be an adult and form your own opinions.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

It’s childish to accept your parents opinions and beliefs without questioning them – they can’t answer for you anymore.

5) They might not be bad parents, you might be screwing up.

Just a reminder – just because you’re angry with them, as long as they are not abusive,  your anger doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in the wrong.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts. Especially interested in those who have a different belief system – do you feel like you should forgive? Do you feel any obligation to respect your parents?