by Erik Shupe
As soon as I was done writing my first editorial, I began to start thinking about my next. Actually, to be honest, before I started writing my first editorial I was already thinking about my second. I’ve been planning on addressing a question I have been frequently asked since buying the Messenger. People seem to be pretty interested as to whether or not I am as conservative as John. I’ve been asked that by people who are admittedly conservative and admittedly liberal (trust me there are more of you in Ottawa County than you think). I’m sure both groups are hoping for a different answer from me. But I am not going to answer that question quite yet.
Instead I want to talk about a growing problem in our country, one that threatens the very foundation of our society. As I was doing research for my article on Father’s Day I was shocked by the growing epidemic of fatherless homes. In 1960 11% of children grew up without a father in the home. Today that number sits at 33%. Among African Americans it is an astounding 54%. After digging into this issue, I am convinced that there are about as many experts as there are theories attempting to explain this crisis. I am sure there are multiple factors that are perpetuating this trend, but the factor I am most sympathetic to is the monetization of happiness. We are all living in Madonna’s material world. As a father of four daughters I worry about it every day. I wish I had a dollar for every time one of my daughters has come home and said “I want what such and such has”. With four girls who each have what seems like an endless line of friends, someone is bound to have something that someone else wants. Our rebuttal to our daughters is that we really don’t care what anyone else has, wants, or does. We are only concerned with what we think you should have and what you do. To my kids credit I really do think they get it, and have begun to demonstrate a healthier perspective on money and what our expectations are in regard to it. I do feel for them because they are bombarded, as we all are, by a society that seems to believe that the “more we have the happier we will be.” That ends up putting a lot of pressure on parents who accept this notion of happiness, and want their kids to grow up to be happy well-adjusted adults.
In response, parents have increased pressure to provide more for their children. The growing reality is that both mom and dad are putting in 40 hour work weeks because they believe they have to, not because they necessarily want to. Indeed there are many that feel the need to work a 40 hour week, but can’t due to a lack of jobs or reduced hours. The result is that parents are stretched to their limits. Traditional roles are redefined, and parents struggle to find the time to actually parent their children while working to get “ahead”.
I’m not casting stones. I’m speaking from experience, and I am certain others share this same reality. My wife and I both work full time jobs. We are busy and our kids are busy. The only one in our house who isn’t busy is our dog, Dodge. To be honest, we’re just as susceptible to this trap as anyone else. We are all a target. Parenting is tough enough without the constant commercial bombardment telling us that we need more, more, more. More stuff to make us happy. More money to buy the stuff that makes us happy. More work to make the money that buys the stuff that makes us happy.
In the end, it leads to less time with the very people we want to buy all of this “stuff” for. This tends to make us unhappy, which leads to higher rates of divorce. This often leads to broken men and homes, which leads to children with uninvolved dads.
This is just my opinion, and admittedly there is more to this problem than just the pursuit of material possessions. I certainly don’t have a bunch of answers. The best I can come up with is that I can positively affect the family God blessed me with. That as a father no matter how many times I fail, I need to keep on trying and never stop trying. I learned that lesson, among others, from my dad. He’s a good man (not a perfect man) that regardless of finances or circumstances always worked hard at being an involved dad. He was always there and we always knew he loved us (thanks dad). In the end, that may be the best place to begin if we want to put an end to this very concerning trend. One dad at a time committed to sticking it out and making their best effort to be involved in the lives of their children.