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Sunday's Babies

Wednesday August 30, 2006

Sunday's Babies

By Lindsay Mitchell

Each year Statistics New Zealand releases "Facts about Fathers" to coincide with Father's Day. It tells us how many fathers will receive the "ultimate present" of a baby for Father's Day. In 2004 it was 170. This year it will be 135.

Well now. That's odd. There hasn't been a dramatic drop in birth registrations. By my calculations, based on births in the most recent September quarter (to allow for any seasonal variation), the number of fathers (in the absence of immaculate conceptions) would be 155.

But there will not be 155 fathers holding a newborn baby in their arms this Sunday. Maybe this year Statistics NZ has factored in reality.

Every year around 8-9,000 babies will be born to unpartnered mothers who, within days, will register them at the nearest WINZ office. These little bundles will be presents for the taxpayer - not their dads. Twenty three will arrive on Sunday.

The only present their dads will receive is the first demand for child support from the IRD. Either the boss will deduct the payment, based not on what it costs to support a baby but how much he is good for, or WINZ will deduct a minimum $13 from their dole or other benefit.

Unless, depending on how you look at it, he gets lucky and the mother refuses to put his name on the child's birth certificate thereby letting him off the financial hook. That is likely to happen to at least two of Sunday's babies.

As Sunday's babies grow some of their dads will scarper, some of their mother's will give him the heave ho. A lawyer who works on child support assessments was recently heard remarking that for every deadbeat dad she dealt with there was a manipulative, maniacal mother. The generic blame for relationship breakdown cannot be fixed with either sex.
By age three nearly half of Sunday's babies will have spent time some or all of their time on welfare. Some will have no dads in their life, some only part-time dads and some will have new 'dads'.

Hardly the picture of stability. How did we get to this sad state of affairs? The answer is simple. We normalised child-bearing and child- rearing without dads.

Feminist thinking marginalised men. Only men are fathers (I think). One gets so confused with the many permutations families now take.

In the late seventies I recall reading Marilyn French's feminist novel "The Women's Room." Half way through I made a deliberate decision to stop. It was ruining my relationship with my partner. I was finding fault where previously I hadn't. The ideas were powerful but destructive.

Looking back it's difficult to recollect just how many feminists there were. Perhaps that's irrelevant because it wasn't their number that mattered. It was their obsession, their drive and their influence. Not all feminists disliked men - just the most effective ones.

They purposefully set out to 'liberate' women from men. The biggest obstacle to this goal was women wanted children and needed men to father and support them. Until the seventies only an emergency benefit was available for single parents. It was a discretionary benefit. That had to change.

Did men start abandoning women (creating the need for state support) or did the creation of state support allow women to start abandoning men? I suspect it's a bit of both, with new liberal and feminist ideas driving the trend.

Whatever went down, women convinced lawmakers to establish a cash entitlement for abandoned mothers (and fathers). This also became the entitlement and 'right' to create fatherless families. Today almost one in three families will be headed by a lone women.
These families tend to be clustered in low socio-economic areas where young fathers are the most marginalised. They are redundant. This in turn feeds social disconnectedness which, at the extreme, leads to crime.

Over 5,000 fathers will spend Father's Day in prison.

On Sunday over 100,000 non-custodial fathers will be paying child support. Over ten thousand will be not be named on their child's birth certificate. Another 10,000 will be on the DPB.

Thousands will be engaged in bitter custody battles.

For many dads Father's Day will not be a celebration. Some will forget the day has any relevance to them. But for many it will be a day when they particularly feel the loss of their child or children, when they assess their future prospects of finding a new partner or supporting a new family (if they aren't too afraid to take that risk), or when they wonder who or where their own fathers are.

Feminism brought positive gains for women and men but it has also wrought a terrible cost on families. The lives of too many of Sunday's babies will not be enriched by having a dad to hold, protect, nurture or guide them.


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