November 29, 2008

Are Fathers Really Necessary?

What do Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, President Elect Barack Obama, and cycling great Lance Armstrong have in common? They are all very successful men and they were all raised by single moms. Congratulations to their moms and all single moms. They are my sheroes, for their selfless commitment in the daunting challenge of raising their children alone. However, for one author (and a number of people I’ve heard from) the existence of very successful men raised by single moms raises the question if fathers are even necessary for turning boys into solid and capable men.

Peggy Drexler, author of a book called Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men, feels that while boys benefit from being around men, they flat out do not need fathers. What she claims in her book is that we shouldn't worry about fatherless boys because they will seek out the male influences they need in the world around them.

For the record, I do agree with Ms. Drexler that boys need good men in their lives, but I DO NOT AGREE with her premise that fathers are unnecessary. I think fathers are the most potent man-making force on the planet. I also feel that males raised without involved fathers, while fully capable of successful lives, live with a hole in their male psyche. I believe they have undefined masculine hungers that go unfulfilled in their lives. I believe they live with unanswered questions about their core masculinity, and a more feminized view of the world. I know because I am that kind of male.

One of the most interesting discussions I’ve come across on this complicated topic was in an article in The Washington Times by Roland Warren. It’s titled, “Despite Successes, Boys Need Fathers." We’d expect Mr. Warren to take an opposing stand in that he’s the President of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Without stealing Mr. Warren’s fire and spoiling the read for you, just one of the things I like about his thinking is that he feels, "Can single mothers do it?" is not the right question. From there he offers a variety of very helpful perspectives I think you’ll find very interesting.

What do you think, are fathers necessary in men’s lives? Leave a comment on this blog post.

PS: Just one of many conferences put on by people who firmly believe in Fatherhood is the Minnesota Fatherhood Summit. Their theme for this year's meeting is, Male Socialization: Building Fathers of the Future. If this concept calls to you, maybe you'll hold a meeting or start your own conference . . . that is how these initiatives get started, and just imagine the spin off man-making energy that will result!


  1. Anonymous8:09 PM

    Well without even looking at the book, it occurs to me that it says a lot that a title like this is considered non-controversial, but if you said it this way:
    (or girls without women?)
    you'd be... well, let's say... mighty unpopular in these United States


  2. Jesse8:52 PM


    Yes, boys(and girls) need "fathers" in their lives. Preferably healthy males. It's amazing that I never hear that a child doesn't need a mother! I think that the conditions of our society affect the author's view and everyone else. "It's o.k. for the male to leave, but god forbid the mother to" I know the hunger for what Robet Bly terms, an unseen, nourishment passed by men to boys through close proximity. I am there for my boy as my father wasn't. And I see many men taking the role of the present, healthy masculine DAD! Go Men!

  3. I'm sure there are countless stories about successful men who were raised by single moms. The three you mentioned are great examples. However, I can't imagine not having had my father around to teach me everything he did. As a young child, I was his shadow. Cancer took him in 2006 and I still miss him. I suspect I always will. He was one of my best friends and the most influential person in my life. He taught me up until he died. He even taught me how to die with grace and dignity.


  4. This whole idea is over the top for me.

    Now we are moving from the term "soccer mom" to "maverick mom", sounds more like a Republican commercial.

    The problem with the idea of this book is that it gives away the idea of fatherhood, and in it's place, it gives single mom's permission to be single mom's, so they can feel better about themselves.

    Now we can all forget about that silly old idea of a mother and father raising a child because we have "maverick mom's" to the rescue.

    I judge the success stories of men being raised by single mom's as "getting lucky". If single motherhood was so successful, we wouldn't have fatherless boys seeking out the male influences they need in the world around in street gangs.

    BTW- Does anyone really think that Barack Obama doesn't shrink in the presence of an angry Michelle Obama?

    Or put another way, does anyone think that a man can know himself, identify his shame, or rage, connect in a healthy way to his wild man, express healthy anger, or understand what an emotionally healthy male looks like, without a father's guidance?

    Once again we have women defining men, feminizing our culture, because men fail to define themselves.

    My 2Cents worth,

  5. Wow...Father's unnecessary? Just yesterday I listened to the Father's Day speech made by President Elect Barak Obama. What touched me most was how he described "a hole in his heart" as a result of his father's absence. Most of us who have grown up without our fathers know precisely the feeling he's talking about.

    True...I sought out and found many Mentors and Big Brothers....but there is really no substitute for your biological father. Who knows what my life would have been like if my father had really been a father to me. Would my grades have been better? Maybe I would have participated in sports just to see him cheering me on in the stands. Maybe I wouldn't have been so angry all the time. Maybe I would have had more respect for adult males in authority. Maybe I wouldn't have repeated the 10th grade or dropped out of High School. Maybe I would never have tried to smoke a cigarette, drink alcohol or smoke weed...just because all my friends were doing it. Who knows what my life would like if my father had not left my mother and 5 children when I was only 12 years old.

    Then again, maybe I would never have felt the necessity to start a mentoring program for boys who I know are feeling the same "hole in their heart" as Barak Obama felt...that I still feel sometimes even today.

    No...there is no substitute for a loving father, biological or otherwise...and until more father's realize how important they are in the lives of their children....The "Obama's" of the world will continue to be the exception and not the rule.

    Thank God for single mothers...but Daddy''s time for more of you to come back home.

    Mustafa F. Mahdi,
    The Rising Son, Inc. Young Men's Development Center


Your response to this blog post is appreciated and welcome.