Sunday, February 06, 2005

Missing fathers

Are fathers necessary to a family, or are they merely optional? Gradually we are sliding toward the latter view. When governments choose to allow single women and lesbians access to IVF they are effectively accepting the deliberate creation of fatherless families.

In other words, we no longer show sympathy to childless single women by urging them to find a husband. Instead, we are increasingly accepting the idea that they should deliberately bring a child into the world without a father.

Yet it's not hard to find evidence that children need fathers. In recent months, several Australian celebrities have spoken out about the deep importance to them of having a father.

For instance, in yesterday's Age newspaper, there was an interview with leading Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill. I've always had some admiration for Alannah Hill as she has completely rejected the androgynous, grungy trends in fashion, preferring instead to design almost ultra-feminine clothes for women, replete with flowers and frills. Her fashion ethos is unashamedly heterosexual. She says,

I spend most days designing the most romantic clothes so that girls when they wear them will evoke some gush of love from the opposite sex.

Alannah Hill's greatest sadness is a feeling of neglect by her father. She says of this that,

I would have loved a strong family upbringing but it wasn't to be. It's something I have worked out somewhere inside of me, but the emptiness and wanting will never leave. I did feel very abandoned by my dad. I was the fourth of five children and he ignored me. I will always have a sadness inside me. I struggle with it a lot ...

Then there is the case of Virginia Trioli, who is a well-known journalist and broadcaster here in Melbourne. She has written of the loss four years ago of her father that,

I find his death more difficult to deal with as the years go on, not less so, which is bewildering - and I find talking about him even harder. It reduces me to a hollow shell ... He loved to dance - we used to dance together in the lounge room to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, music I love to this day. I gave a reading at his funeral and did a terrible job - I was a complete mess.

Finally there is the case of Marcus Graham, a popular Australian actor. Interviewed late last year in the Herald Sun, he described how,

Dad left when I was about two ... My mum sent me to a psychologist when I was five. I spent about a month every Saturday putting blocks into holes. I remember being miserable and heavily shut down. At the end of this psychological reading, they said, "He needs to see his dad." I thought that was obvious.

So here are three prominent Australians describing for us the depth of loss they have experienced through the absence of a father. This ought to be a reminder to us that humans are made, emotionally and psychologically, for a well-functioning heterosexual family life, in which children have a close relationship with both a mother and a father.

Fathers are much more than a useful, but optional, addition to family life.

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