THANK you” was the response of a 54-year-old who was among the Filipino fathers greeted “Happy Father’s Day” by their family yesterday.
To his spouse, the man whose work keeps him away from his family was more specific in his gratitude: “I would never have been a father without you.”
There’s more than biological fact or sentiment behind this view. “Father hunger,” “father deficit,” and “fatherlessness” refer to a “crisis of fatherless children.”
Studies by the National Center for Children in Poverty in 1999 and the United Nations Children’s Fund in 2006 show that children and their biological and primary caregivers in both developing and developed nations are made vulnerable by poverty, which is described as a condition exposing one to various forms of deprivation.
Deprivation is not only a denial of basic goods and services. “Poverty has more to do with social relationships and diminished ability to participate in society or a porous protective buffer against calamities, which increases vulnerability,” wrote S. Maxwell of the Overseas Development Institute in 1999.
Children without fathers were once limited to the offspring of single mothers or those who were abandoned by their biological fathers. In contemporary society, the term embraces a range of situations where the lack of paternal presence is caused by separation, annulment or divorce, domestic neglect, lesbian relationships, absenteeism, war, dislocations, and overseas work.
Modern lifestyles also create “non-residential fathers.” Some women avoid marriage or long-term monogamy, preferring to adopt or raise one’s biological child independent of the sperm donor. During premarital pregnancy, the father, often a student and without work, is prevented from living in with his partner to prevent another pregnancy.
Beyond transmitting genes, parents as primary caregivers ensure children’s survival and social adjustment, including their wellness, mental growth, and emotional stability.
The third Sunday of June—observed internationally as Father’s Day, which, in the Philippines, is celebrated with Mother’s Day on the first Monday of December, according to Proclamation No. 58, signed by President Joseph Estrada in 1998—is a reminder to promote a wider appreciation of the significance of fatherhood in their children’s lives, as well as creating the support system to allow more men to become present and better nurturers of their children.
On June 18, SunStar Cebu’s “Time off for fathers” quoted the findings of the International Labor Organization in 2014: “The need for increased involvement of fathers in parenting is also driven by the often neglected urge to recognize men’s right to parenthood, together with their responsibility to share unpaid care and household work.”
Traditionally regarded as breadwinners, the contemporary fathers featured by Rona T. Fernandez in the same issue of SunStar Cebu balance these demands with their own self-imposed standards of being a “hands-on dad.”
Hands-on fathers also empower women to become good mothers, equal partners, and self-actualized individuals.
The desire of fathers to be more than the parent to run to for allowance and material favors also requires better support from the state and employers. A week-long paternity leave in the Philippines is paid for by employers.
Support must come from partners and families, too. The Inquirer’s June 18 article, “Finding the time for fatherhood,” includes insights a McCann Worldgroup Philippines study in 2016 culled from 110 fathers, mostly in Metro Manila.
While 56.36 percent of the polled fathers saw their role as providers for their children, 58.18 percent of them were asked by their children about “questions on day-to-day things like current events;” 46.46 percent were queried about assignments/homework; and 31.82 percent on personal problems.
That’s more than affirmation for the most important man in children’s lives.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 19, 2017.
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