Growing up in a single-parent home has affected my life in extraordinary ways. I am among a generation of Americans who learned to live life without the presence and guidance of a father in the home. Fatherlessness has become so prevalent in our society, we rarely bat an eyelid at its mention. After all, who can’t name a laundry list of people affected by it? About half of my own close friends growing up were similarly raised by their mothers. But no matter how common fatherlessness has become, the impact of this social ill is one and the same.
19.7 million American children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home (US Census Burea 2017). According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children in father-absent homes measured against children in two-parent homes have twice the risk of infant mortality, twice the risk of obesity, and are twice as likely to drop out of high school. They are four times more likely to live in poverty and seven times more likely to become become pregnant as a teen. They are more likely to experience neglect and abuse. They are more likely to abuse drugs and exhibit behavioral problems. And they commit crimes and go to jail at much higher rates than their peers. It is a well-known that America’s prisons are lined with the ranks of the fatherless.
The numbers don’t lie. But they also don’t tell the whole story. And they certainly don’t have the final say.
I Will Not Be Defined By Statistics
Like many people who grew up in a single-parent home, there were a number of role models who made a meaningful difference in my life. I’m talking about teachers, uncles, grandparents, and church elders. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor in high school who was a young adult pastor at a local church. He took me to restaurants, gave me advice, and attended my soccer games. His presence in my life for a season was a breath of fresh air and I am appreciative for what he did.
Today I have a mentor who I dialogue with regularly. I am always eager to get his advice and bounce ideas off him. In reality, he is a type of father figure. I believe no matter how old you get, it is important to have someone in your life on a more advanced level. It’s one thing to learn from peers or to figure something out for yourself. But it’s that much easier with the help of someone who’s been there and done that and can speak from a place of experience.
Our Father Who Art In Heaven
What about those who didn’t have meaningful father figures growing up? Or those like myself who had unresolved issues even with some outside help?
Full disclosure, I am a Christian. Faith in God is an anchor in my life. If you’re not spiritual, bear with me because there just may be something you can take away from this paragraph. In the Bible, God revealed himself to mankind as a Father. And he promised to bridge the gap where earthly fathers failed.
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.Psalm 68:5
The title of this section—Our Father who art in heaven—is the opening words of the Lord’s prayer. God wants human beings to address him as Father. It is a role he cherishes. And it is a role that operated in the trinity before time. Like every other spiritual blessing, the presence of God as Father is available to those who seek it.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.James 1:17
Be The One To Break The Cycle
The truth is everyone has unresolved issues from their upbringing, even those raised by their biological parents. Most parents do the best they can, but at the end of the day they are flawed human beings. All people face the challenge of modeling the good examples set by their parents and improving upon the bad ones. Whenever someone provides a better upbringing for their children than the one they experienced, they are doing the best thing anyone can do to make the world a better place.
Adults who were raised in single-parent homes have a unique responsibility to reverse the cycle of fatherlessness that wreaks havoc in the world. If you’re like me, you don’t lack the motivation. I won’t let my kids see what I saw and feel what I felt because I am stronger than the last generation that failed. And I am confident that I have enough love in my being to make my vision of being a good father a reality.
The time is now to forgive. . The time is now to stop making excuses. . The time is now to move forward knowing that brighter days lie ahead. .