Is a Father In the Home Like a Rotary Phone: Outdated, Old-Fashioned, Old-School?

BY: - 5 Jun '13 | Best of BMWK

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by Joy Jones

“Daddy, what’s the biggest number of numbers?” I remember asking my father that question when I was five years old. I was recounting this episode recently to my friend, Gwen, explaining how my father kept me counting higher and higher.

Whenever I reached a number that seemed really big he would ask, ”Can you add one to that?” and because I always could, I kept going. “And that’s how I learned the concept of infinity,” I told Gwen.

“I always love it when you talk about your Dad,” she said in a wistful tone. Her longing surprised me because I thought she’d had a father in the home. However, her father had worked the evening shift so he was rarely home when she was home. Then he died when she was in junior high school.

And that sigh in her voice reminded me one more time, how very wonderful – and increasingly rare it is – to have a father.

June is not only the month for Father’s Day, it is the most popular month for weddings. This June marks the 60th wedding anniversary of my parents. In wedding day pictures, my mother looks ecstatic. My father looks petrified. Not long ago, I asked him what was he thinking at that time. “Wondering whether or not I was doing the right thing,” he replied.

“So why did you get married?” I asked.

“Because I wanted to have children.”

How times have changed. Love-marriage-baby carriage is no longer the automatic order of things. And even if you start off following the traditional path, there’s no guarantee that you’ll last beyond the proverbial seven-year-itch period. According to the US Census, a first marriage is likely to unravel with a separation in year seven, a divorce in year eight. It is well known that the divorce rate is slightly below 50%.

I have often had friends tell me point blank that they envy or even resent me for having a ‘real’ father. I believe that having a ‘real’ father is not just the result of a man who takes his responsibility to his children seriously although that’s a critical component. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a confluence of conditions to make a good father – things which now seem to be in short supply.

You’re probably thinking that a good role model is necessary. That certainly makes it better, but I’m not so sure it’s a requirement. My father’s father died when he was twelve yet I give my dad high marks on his parenting skills. One of the most conscientious and committed dads I know, ‘Bumpy’, is a man who did not meet his father until he was a teenager, and then only had conflicted and intermittent contact with his dad. With three marriages, Bumpy’s’ own track record hasn’t exactly been smooth and easy either, yet he is known as ‘Father Hen’ in his extended family because of his active and nurturing role in his sons’ lives. It’s easier when you have a good example, but it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to figure out that if your father didn’t do the right things, then doing the opposite of what he did might be a useful starting point.

Being a decent father is helped by having a wise wife, ideally the woman with whom you created the children. Being a good mother is not only how you treat your children. It’s also how you help shape your children’s view of their father. As I got older, I could see some of my parents’ shortcomings – not just as parents but as a husband and as a wife. If either had sought a divorce, I would have understood their reasons. But they did not bad-mouth one another to me or my siblings. In fact, my mother consistently undertook it to underscore to me the importance of my father’s contribution to the family. After I graduated from college, she would often say to me, “Don’t think just because you have a good job you don’t need a man to have a baby. You may not need the man, but the child needs a father.”

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12 WordPress comments on “Is a Father In the Home Like a Rotary Phone: Outdated, Old-Fashioned, Old-School?

  1. sam dula


    As a husband & father who’s raising a child with Autism, this article NAILED IT…big time encouraging to see the value it placed on having the father in the home.

    It reminds me of how EXTREMELY fortunate my wife and I have been to have the union of our parents as models. My parents have been married for 48 years, my wife’s parents, 41….that’s 89 combined years of wisdom to glean. The strength our fathers had to endure (African American men trying to lead their homes at a time when our country was so racially divided) is fuel for me to embrace and overcome the challenges we face today.

    Thanks again for the encouragement…

  2. Mary Thomas Newsom

    Wow, Joy! You never cease to amaze me with your ability to see things from so many different angles. This article is just another example of how versatile a writer you are.

    From one who had a father until the tender age of 12, I can tell you what a devastating effect it is for an adolescent and young adult female to not have an unbiased male perspective on a range of issues; especially male female relationships. I yearned to have a safe haven for having my questions and concerns addressed by a male with whom I could feel safe and could trust. Though I have extremely fond memories of Dad, I missed him then and still miss him now.

  3. Felicia H

    Excellent article!! I hear from wives daily about how their relationship or lack of a relationship with their dad is currently affecting their marriage.
    So glad to see something written for Father’s Day because fathers do matter. My dad ROCKS!!

  4. Anonymous

    “So why did you get married?” I asked.

    “Because I wanted to have children.”

    That’s sad. He didn’t say that he loved his soon to be wife. He had a need to impregnate someone, and decided she would do, that she’d be the one to have the babies. Nothing noble here, his wife was an egg donor incubator.

    1. mochazina


      “because I love her” might have been the response to “why did you marry HER?” it’s a valid and noble reason to marry in order to have kids, both then and now.

  5. Neghie

    We often say it, but don’t really realize the gravity of just how important fathers are ESPECIALLY for girls who eventually grow into women. So many women of color grow up without fathers and we wonder why so many of us go looking for love in the wrong places. We have issues with teenage pregnancy and suffer the most financially. It affects us our whole lives and in turn, we create the same situation for our children. Not enough men know the power they hold. If they did, maybe they’d take the responsibility more seriously. Though, someone has to teach them too. Excellent article.

  6. Andrew

    Great article to highlight the importance of having a father in the home and a driving force in kids lives. Most boys are missing out on the first man they get to pattern their life after and teach them how to be a man. Girls miss the first man that will love them unconditionally and show them what a man really is. Plus, the man is the leader and head of the household that provide things that a woman can’t provide. Unfortunately, too many women are brain washed into thinking they are doing a good job in raising these kids without a man but most are not. Little boys dropping out of school and going to jail, teenage pregnancy, little structure in the home or discipline, direction of the family, and etc. is at an all time high without the father. A father is not a want but a need in a families life. Without the father, families will become extinct.

  7. Anonymous

    Disagree completely. That is absolutely no reason to marry. The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. Marriage is a covenant before God to forsake all others. If the goal of marriage is to prioritize children, it’s wrong from day one. That said, yes when a married couple have children, the presence and influence of both parents is vital.

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