Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Happy Father’s Day


Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in my audience.  Last year I wrote a column for the Waukesha Freeman on what Father’s Day is really all about.

Somehow the prohibition on buying household items for special occasions only works one way. If I bought my wife a new vacuum cleaner for say, Valentine’s Day, no matter how much we needed one, it would be terribly underappreciated.

However, Father’s Day is the occasion for the husband to receive all sorts of useful household items. There is a reason the various hardware stores look forward to Father’s Day. I suspect they must spend an extra hour polishing the socket wrenches to make them look shiny enough to catch the eyes of wives with children in tow looking for that special gift for dad.

Not that I complain about such a practice. After all, you should be under no illusion that I am in anyway a household handyman, so any tool that comes into my presence will inevitably inspire an “ooh” from me, followed by a “I wonder how this works.”

Sometimes the tool is even a less-than-subtle hint. “Chain saw?” I once asked my wife. “What would I need that for?”

“To cut down the pine tree branches reaching over the sidewalk, to trim the crabapple tree along the driveway, to clean up those junk trees in the corner of the lot, to get rid of that old brush pile … ”

Past Father’s Days also inspired questions from friends and colleagues, many of whom are still childless.

“So, are you planning anything exciting for Father’s Day?”

“Why, yes,” I wanted to reply. “I’ll be spending my day in a hammock enjoying the peace and quiet of my backyard, my favorite music on the radio, my favorite drink nearby, and my favorite book in hand.”

The illusion would be good for them and make them want to have children of their own.

Good news this year, the spending is up for Father’s Day, including lots of electronics. Bad news, ties are still popular, and moms still get more gifts.

Even more bad news, the number of dads who don’t even live with their children is climbing.

Pew’s survey and analysis of government data, released Wednesday, found that more than one in four fathers – or 27 percent – with children 18 or younger lived away from at least one of their kids. That number is more than double the share of fathers who lived apart from their children in 1960.

As traditional marriage wanes, so does fatherhood.

The Pew study, titled “A Tale of Two Fathers,” found sharp differences based on race and education. Black and Hispanic fathers were much more likely to have children out of wedlock, at 72 percent and 59 percent, respectively, compared with 37 percent for white men. Among fathers with at least a bachelor’s degree, only 13 percent had children outside marriage, compared with 51 percent of those with high school diplomas and 65 percent of those who didn’t finish high school.

Age, too, was a factor. Three-fourths of fathers who were 20 to 24 had children out of wedlock, compared with 36 percent for fathers 35 to 44.

The findings come as the latest census data show that marriages have fallen to a record low, pushing the share of U.S. households with married couples below 50 percent for the first time. Sociologists say younger people are increasingly choosing to live together but delay marriage as they struggle to find work and resist making long-term commitments.

Gretchen Livingston, a senior Pew researcher who co-authored the report, noted that fathers who live away from their children are not always absent from their kids’ lives. More than 20 percent of such dads said they saw their children several times a week, and even more – 41 percent – kept in touch regularly through phone calls or email.

Still, 27 percent of fathers who live away from their children reported that they didn’t see them at all in the past year, and almost one-third communicated by phone or email with their children less than once a month.

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