Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taking the Child Out of Child Support

This is a post by Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President.

As the nation’s leading fatherhood organization, we often receive promotional materials for books about fatherhood. It’s great to see more people writing about fatherhood, sharing inspirational stories from their own experiences, and adding to the cultural conversation about this important issue.

We recently received a postcard for a book titled, Boy, Drop That Child Support: How to Keep Your Baby Mama from Draining Your Pockets Dry written by family law attorney Cathy Middleton. The book claims to teach men legal strategies to protect their paychecks from “greedy baby mamas who want to use your money to support their lifestyle instead of their children.”

In one statement, Ms. Middleton has managed to misrepresent the vast majority of moms and dads, and has sent a destructive message about what children need from their parents.

A couple of things kind of irked me about this. First of all, Ms. Middleton seems to think that financial provision is the only responsibility of a father, and one that should be shirked and minimized. What about a father’s responsibility to nurture his children, care for their emotional needs, and be a role model to them? Children don’t get those things from child support checks.

Ms. Middleton also seems to think that moms are selfish people who live lavishly while depriving their children of necessities. What mother spends money on designer clothing and spa treatments when her children have no food or clothes? What dad sits around trying to think of ways to make sure his children don’t have access to his money to provide for their needs? Besides, supporting her “lifestyle” is supporting the children.

Ms. Middleton has written another book called Girl, Get That Child Support: The Baby Mama's Guide to Tracking Down a Deadbeat, Finding His Cash and Making Him Pay Every Dollar He Owes You. The book’s synopsis compares single moms’ situations to someone who gets stuck with the bill at a 5-star restaurant, “only this bill likes to eat, grow bigger every day and stick around for at least eighteen years.” Is that all children are? A big financial burden?

Our society has become increasingly child-centric in recent years, maybe too much. But Ms. Middleton missed that bandwagon. She’s taken the child out of “child support” and in the process, she makes both dads and moms look greedy, selfish, and focused on nothing but getting and keeping as much money as they can.

Maybe she has one thing right; boys drop child support. Men provide for their children. And the most important provision isn’t their money; it’s their time and love.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For Father's of Older Children--No Time for an "Achy Breaky" Heart

For the last week or so, folks have been “buzzing” about this video of Miley Cyrus taking a “hit” of salvia from a bong. No doubt, images like this are disturbing to many, especially the millions of parents whose children have regularly supported Miley and her squeaky clean alter-ego, Hannah Montana. Ironically, Miley’s Disney show is called “Hannah Montana Forever," but it certainly appears as if, now that Miley is an 18 year-old “adult,” she is intent of getting out of Montana as fast a possible.

Of note, there is one special parent that is quite disappointed with Miley's recent behavior, her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. Check out what he tweeted after he first saw the video:

“ Sorry guys. I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time. I’m so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.”

Now, as a father of adult children, my heart really goes out to Billy Ray. But, I want to encourage him—and all dads of older children—to stay engaged. Indeed, this is no time for him to get paralyzed by an “achy breaky” heart and two-step out of Miley’s life. She needs him now more than ever and he must not succumb to the catcalls from the peanut galley of pop culture that wrongly counsel dads to “lean out” of an adult child’s life at the very moment that they must “lean in.”

Let’s face it. The very same folks that are encouraging Miley to draw deep from the bong and tell them what she is feeling will have little use for her when she can no longer get them into the “A-list” parties. These kinds of “friends” are much like parasites. They have no use for the dead. Indeed, as Billy Ray knows well. Fame is fleeting. Paternity is not…

That said; let me give a few more reasons why Billy Ray needs to do whatever he can to help his daughter before it’s too late. First, there are the sad sagas of Britney Spears (Enough said) and Lindsay Lohan (More than enough said).

Second, there is Noah Cyrus, Billy Ray’s 10 years-old daughter, who idolizes her big sister and clearly hopes to follow in Miley’s star-studded footsteps. A few weeks ago, I came across this video on YouTube where Noah is begging Miley to perform her version of singer Akon’s hit “Smack That.” Just in case you can't fully understand what Noah is saying, here are the lyrics:

“Smack that, all on the floor. Smack that, give me some more. Smack that, ’til you get sore. Smack that, oh ooh.”

(By the way, if you are confused about what “that” is, you can click here to see Akon’s video. It clears things up nicely.)

True, there are "things" that are beyond Billy Ray’s, and every father’s, control and influence. But, his children are not one of them. Enough said.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guest Post: The Joy of Fatherhood

This is a guest post from Jeff Allanach, a newspaper editor in Maryland. Jeff is a married father of two children, and writes about fatherhood in his weekly column. You can follow Jeff on his Facebook page, Adventures in Fatherhood.

Nearly 10 years have passed since a fuzzy image on a computer screen foretold a season of sleepless nights, bulky diaper bags, skinned knees and tea parties with teddy bears.

For a guy who dreaded the thought of becoming a dad before I met my wife, that first image of my daughter was second in beauty only to the woman who was carrying her.

I knew it meant closing the chapter of the book we had been writing up to that point, but only insomuch as a cold winter sheds the dead leaves to make way for the new growth the following spring. A new season of our life was approaching, and I could not have been happier.

I was ready to embrace fatherhood and all the firsts it would bring. The first tooth, the first “dada,” the first step, the first run, and, of course, the first fall.

Not all guys are as fortunate. Some become fathers before they are ready. Others believe they are ready, but doubt themselves when it’s the bottom on the ninth, the bases are loaded, and they can’t decide whether to hurl a fast ball or lob a changeup.

But the National Fatherhood Initiative can be your pitching coach, the organization that provides guidance to help you make the best decisions you can when crunch time comes. It also celebrates all that is good about being a father, and underlines the importance of the role.

No greater joy exists than hearing your children yell, “Daddy!” at the top of their lungs while they run into your arms when you pick them up from school, as though you hadn’t seen them in years even though you kissed them goodbye that morning. It’s the sound of a rainbow and the hug of an angel rolled into one.

The National Fatherhood Initiative encourages fathers to hear those rainbows and feel those angel hugs, and celebrates all the joys that come with being there for your children.

Editor's Note: You can help NFI provide more children with "angel hugs" this holiday season by supporting our work with a tax-deductible donation. Click here to give.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Where's her daddy?

Kristy Choby, NFI's Research and Development Specialist, shares an observation from her wise-beyond-her-years daughter.

My little girl, Julia, is two-and-a-half years old and every time she sees someone that looks sad or alone -- whether in a book, on the street, or in a movie (and sometimes if she thinks I'm sad) -- she asks or states one of the following: "Where is her daddy?" "They need their daddy." This doesn't just happen once in a while, but almost every time she notices sadness or loneliness.

For instance, if she sees a woman walking alone on the street, a child crying in the store, or a cartoon character lost in the woods, she comments that they need their daddy. Each time she says it, I either smile thinking of how wonderful her dad is, how involved he is, and how he is there for his children when they are sad and lonely. Or I start to cry thinking about the reality that so many of those that she points to don't have their dad to run to when they are sad and lonely.

I am very thankful to work for an organization that is committed to helping more children have an involved, responsible, and committed father in their lives. We all need our daddies!

Julia and her daddy

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What’s in a name? Everything.

This past weekend, disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s oldest son, Mark, took his life in a dramatic fashion. He hung himself with a dog’s leash from a ceiling pipe in his living room, while his toddler son slept in a nearby bedroom. No doubt, Mark Madoff had been deeply troubled for some time since he turned his father over to law enforcement almost two years ago from the day of his death. Indeed, his dreadful end was yet another poignant example of how the sins of a father can impact his children and his grandchildren as well.

Ironically, a few weeks ago, I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about the problems that Mark encountered trying to find work in the financial services industry. Despite decades of experience and his considerable connections, no Wall Street firm would touch him. There is a proverb in the Bible that says, “A good name is more desirable than riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold.” Unfortunately, Mark was a “Madoff” and, in the minds of many, his name was now worthless, useful only as an expletive or the punchline of a late night comedian’s joke.

I think that there is an important lesson from the Madoff’s family tragedy that all dads should heed and consider daily, especially when they are tempted to behave immorally. The very first and most valuable gift that any father will ever give to a child is his name. But, his name only has worth to his child if it reflects of a life that is lived with integrity and good character. Remember, good character is more easily kept than restored. So too is a good name…

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dwayne Wade: More than a Championship

With the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat are favored by many to win the NBA Championship this year. Wade is ranked as one of the top 5 basketball players, was contracted with the Heat for $14 million, and has over 750,000 Twitter followers. He certainly has a lot of pressure and high expectations riding on him. However, off the court Wade has much more on his shoulders -- the future of two little boys.

Wade has two sons and is in the middle of an extremely public and messy divorce. More important than any championship or million dollar salary, Wade has a responsibility to teach his boys about being good dads, good men, and about treating the most important woman in their lives with respect.

When asked about divorce, 76% of children think it should be harder to obtain. It comes as no surprise when you look at the impact of divorce on children. Financial status aside, children who are the product of divorce are three times more likely to divorce themselves in their adult lives. Additionally, children of divorce suffer from increased emotional and behavioral problems.

Dwayne Wade’s $14 million salary will not be a solution for the future of his sons. More importantly, he has to model what an involved, responsible, and committed father looks like, and he has to treat his sons’ mother with respect, regardless of what they may think of each other. How both mothers and fathers model their parenting and relationships before, during, and after divorce is what their children will learn and pass on themselves.

Parents owe it to their children to treat each other with respect and to cooperate in the best interests of their children. With that task ahead of him, Dwayne Wade has something more important than an NBA championship to focus on.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Who Needs Marriage?

From Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President.

magazine’s recent cover article titled "Marriage: What's It Good For?" poses an interesting question. In an age when marriage has become much less important for both men and women to have companionship, security, professional success, respect, sex, or to conceive children, then who needs it?

The article, citing a new Time/Pew Research Center poll, reported that 39% of people think that marriage is becoming obsolete. That seems a little contradictory to their strong opinions about the importance of marriage to parenting.

  • 69% said it’s bad for society that more single women are having children without a male partner. (Only 4% said it was good.)
  • 43% said it’s bad that more unmarried couples are raising children (compared to 10% who thought this trend was good.)
  • 77% think it’s easier for married people to raise a family than single people.
People also think that the link between marriage and parenting is important for them personally.
  • 90% of men think that being a good mother is an important quality for a good wife; 93% of women think that being a good father is an important part of being a good husband.
  • 74% of men think that a good wife should put family before anything else; 82% of women think that a good husband should prioritize family first.
This is encouraging news, but forget, for a moment, about what the adults think is good for society or good for them personally. Let’s talk about what’s good for the ones who are affected most by the presence or absence of marriage – children.

Research clearly shows that children who live with married parents fare better, on average, than children in other family structures on measures of child well-being – academically, financially, emotionally, physically, and socially. Why? The data on the impact of father involvement on the well-being of children holds part of the answer. The number one way to guarantee that a father will be consistently present in his children’s lives is for him to be married to their mother.

Jennifer Braceras’s response in the Boston Herald to Time’s question “What is marriage good for?” tells us that “we have forgotten that marriage is not just about adult happiness, but also about the responsibilities of parenthood and preparing future generations to thrive and succeed.”

Roland C. Warren, president of National Fatherhood Initiative, answers a similar question, "Are fathers necessary?", by saying “ask the kids.”

Before dismissing marriage as obsolete, we need to ask who needs it most. The answer: children. Children’s profound need for the daily, long-term presence of their own mothers and fathers in their lives will never become obsolete.