This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Warning: You’re in for a sexist ride in this editorial. Sorry, guys.
As doting and devoted as many fathers are, this is Mother’s Day.
To be clear, we’re talking motherhood in the broad sense of the word. Women who don’t have children of their own tend to find nephews and nieces, strays and neighborhood kids, to take under their capacious wings. Mother is as mother does.
If maternity is idealized, it’s because there’s quite a kernel of truth in the ideal.
There’s something fanatical and primal in a mother’s love. If the house is on fire, she’s going to wrestle the firefighters to go after her trapped child. If a bear gets between mom and her cub, watch out, bear.
For their children, mothers make career sacrifices that wouldn’t occur to most men. They shouldn’t have to – the corporate world should be more mother-friendly than it is – but they do.
They lead most of the nation’s PTAs. They do most of the volunteering in schools. Even when dad is a superb father, mom tends to do most of the heavy lifting in caring for the children. That’s no aspersion on fathers who may be spending more time bringing money into the home, but it’s an emotional fact.
The disparity between some men and most women leaps out when fathers and mothers split.
Many “boyfriends” turn out to be mere sperm donors who vanish when a child comes along. Pregnancy? That’s her problem.
The statistics on custody after divorce tell a story. According to a 2011 Census report, roughly 82 percent of custodial parents were mothers; 18 percent were fathers.
This doesn’t mean the fathers were necessarily bad dads. But courts – and the divorcing parents themselves – usually keep children with their moms. The bond is often deeper, if for no other reason than mom has spent the most time with their offspring.
Almost a third of noncustodial fathers are absentee dads, according to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center. That’s the share who told researchers they saw their children less than once a month. A quarter said they hadn’t seen their children at all in the previous year.
In some cases, the separation may be forced by an angry ex. Too often, it’s just a lack of interest.
The bottom line isn’t that men make bad parents. Most rise to the responsibilities of fatherhood. Still, if the overwhelming majority of mothers weren’t ferociously attached to their children, many kids would have no one.
As far as the human race is concerned, every day should be Mother’s Day.