Being A Real Man, Or Not

We Americans spent about $23 billion on Mother’s Day gifts this year. For Father’s Day, the total was expected to be $15.3 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Why is that? Why do we think moms are worth $7.7 billion more?

Could it be that women deserve more, strictly in terms of being parents?

More and more, males are shunning the role of father, even when they’ve engaged in the biological act of fatherhood.

In 1974, married couples headed 84 percent of U.S. families with children. By 2015, the most recent year for which I could find a number, the percentage was down to 65.5 percent.

The number of children cared for by only one adult has skyrocketed. Most of the time, that adult is a woman.

In 1974, 14.6 percent of families with children were headed by single mothers. By 2015 it was 26.4 percent.

Back in 1974, a minuscule 1.4 percent of single-parent households were headed by fathers. At least some progress was made there; by 2015, 8.1 percent of families with children included dads only.

Still, the numbers — as well as what most of us know from daily lives in our communities — indicate genuine fatherhood may be becoming a lost art. Have we forgotten real men take being dads seriously?

Now, before you insist that my numbers are wrong, I’ll admit there are varying estimates of the percentages listed above. All of them, without exception, indicate women are much more likely than men to take responsibility for their children.

Often, men don’t even try. Nearly 40 percent of live births in the United States are to unmarried mothers. Some may not have wed their babies’ fathers but still share households and parenting — but the bulk of those births are to women who didn’t see dad after they announced, “I’m pregnant.”

Just how many babies does that near-40 percent of live births represent? Nearly 1.6 million a year. That’s nearly the equivalent the entire population of West Virginia.

Again: What on earth is wrong with men? And why is the problem getting worse, as it is, dramatically?

A certain class of people will blame it on the economy. Hey, times were bad for several years, they say. Who can blame a guy without a job for walking away from fatherhood?

I know plenty of good dads on very low incomes who would never have thought of abandoning their children or skipping town before they were born.

At one time, that just wasn’t what real men did.

That mind set has been eroding for years. It didn’t start with the Great Recession. Recall that the rate of live births to unwed mothers is nearly 40 percent now. It was within a few tenths of a percent of that in 2007, before the recession began. Don’t blame the economy.

Clearly, for one reason or another, more men these days have decided they don’t want to be tied down in any way to their children. They don’t want to spend money on them — or spend time with them.

So they don’t.

Today, tens of millions of good men will be thanked and perhaps given gifts on Father’s Day. Bless them all, every one.

As for the rest, well, anything but blessings on them.

Myer can be reached at:


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