According to the United States Census bureau, there are around 2.5 million children in the United States alone being raised by single fathers. This number has doubled and tripled several times over the past few decades. However, even today in an age of sexual and gender equality, there are many people that believe if a daughter is involved in a custody dispute the mother should automatically get custody. Because after all, the general consensus seems to think that dads are incapable of raising daughters on their own. And this general consensus is ALL wrong! Dads ARE capable of raising daughters on their own if the situation arises.
The truth is that when it comes to raising children, most of the issues at hand are gender neutral. But why is that we automatically assume that because a mother is around, that she will make a better choice when it comes to raising girls. Yet, most people don’t have the same idealisms stuck to the theory when it comes to fathers and sons? It seems like a vastly overused and outdated double standard. Just like a teenager daughter will enter puberty and have to endure changes and struggles, as well as learn new things so will a teenage son. Is a mother not equipped to deal with voice changes, the emergence of pubic hair or shaving simply because she is female? Would that alone be reason enough to award custody to a father or seek custody from a single mother? Absolutely not, right?
So why the double standard? Raising daughters really is no different than raising a son. Sure, a man may have to get a small handbook to help teach them about the female menstrual cycle but isn’t all of this stuff that can be learnt? And often, society is so impressed with a single dad who is raising a daughter on his own, that many people (and many women) will leap to help make it work, offering advice and assistance when needed in the areas of female expertise.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of a single father raising a daughter on his own is that he has to learn how to connect with her on a female level that she will understand. Science proves to us that the female and male brains work differently. It can be challenging for a man to understand what his daughter is thinking. But no more difficult than it would be for a mother to relate to her son on a ‘manly’ basis. And when love is involved, as it is always is when it concerns our children, parents of any gender child can learn whatever they need to stay in touch and ‘connect’ with their child. Just because a parent is not the same sex as his or her child, does not mean that he can provide a loving, nurturing and safe environment for the child to grow up in.
The National Fatherhood Initiative has some good advice for men who are raising daughters on their own. First, they empower dads to learn about the development of girls. This concerns both their physical and psychological development. They also instruct dads to not be afraid to discipline their daughters. Many fathers feel guilty that there is not a mother involved, and become fearful of disciplining their daughter. Another great idea to help dads is to help them feel comfortable to reach out for support. There is likely a wealth of women who will be more than happy to assist a man in the sometimes scary, uncharted territories that he may sail into with his daughter. Another great group for both single mothers and fathers is the group, Parents Without Partners, which can help bring people together who are in the same situation as one another.
In the end, there is nothing wrong with a male raising his daughter. Maybe, just maybe it is time to let go of the ideals from the Stone Age, that label men as uncaring and inconsiderate creatures who can barely take care of themselves let alone a female child. Maybe, we as a society, should learn to support men raising their daughters and actually be enthusiastic and supportive that the child has a loving and willing parent, who has the desire to ensure his daughter is raised rather than immediately judge or criticize him for trying to go it alone.
There are many things that a daughter growing up with just her father will learn that other girls. Time and time again, research has shown us that the most successful indication of a child’s future success is the involvement of attentive and loving parents.
The authors of The Good Men Project, Marcus Williams and Joanna Schroeder offer the following bits of advice for men raising daughters alone.
- Tell your daughter she is pretty, but focus on other things more!
- Teach her that handymen don’t have to be men.
- Let her play in the mud.
- Remember that she will shape her identity as a woman from YOU and your words. Speak softly.
- Don’t be shy when talking about ‘touchy issues‘ such as genitals or menstruation. If it’s natural to you it will be to her as well.
- Indulge her imagination.
- Express emotion outwardly around her.
- Teach her about relationships.
- Read her books with male and female heroes.
- Empower her. Just because YOU are afraid of her growing up, doesn’t mean SHE should be.
- Avoid gender roles completely.
- Don’t be afraid to do ‘girly’ things.
- Communicate! Every day!
In the end, a man today can do just as good a job raising a daughter as a woman. Sure, they may go about it differently but no one has ever said there is only way to raise a child.