FATHERS ARE IMPORTANT. This fact has become increasingly apparent to me as I work on my next memoir and reflect deeply on my life.
In my case, the loss of my father’s presence to divorce at an early age greatly influenced me: my beliefs about people, relationships with boys and men, a (perhaps deeper) need for love and acceptance, sense of self, and the way I navigate through a male-dominated world.
Studies have repeatedly shown that children do better with two parents — as long as the relationship between those parents is low conflict. Obviously, in situations where the parents fight, or there is abuse, children do not do as well. Knowing this, I wondered what the current statistics are for two-parent families and reached out to my good friend, Google.
According to a *2016 government census report, the majority of children under eighteen (69%) live with two parents. I found this encouraging, as I was under the impression the opposite was true. Yet 23%, nearly a quarter of our children, live in single-parent families (mostly mothers). The government census didn’t include families with same-sex parents, or divorced families of same-sex parents, and I couldn’t find any studies that did, which seems strange to me in this age of fluid family structures.
Contemplating all of this, and with Father’s Day approaching, I think this would be a good time to examine what fathers mean to us and our lives. And with fluid genders and family structures in mind, I want to ask questions that look more at father-as-role than father-as-person.
I’ve created two sets of questions — one set for fathers, who have the added layer of writing about themselves in this role, and one set for everyone, father or not.
Journaling prompts for fathers:
- In your mind, what is your basic role as father?
- What can you provide for children that is different than that provided by mothers, grandparents, and other family members?
- Are there stereotypes about fathers you think are incorrect? If so, what are they and why do you think they’re wrong?
- Was your father a force and presence in your life? If so, how did his presence affect the way you parent? If not, how do you think his lack of presence affected the way you parent?
- If you knew your father, how would you describe his character?
- How would you want your children to describe your character?
- What are the best and worst aspects of being a father?
- As a father, what are your greatest hopes and fears for your children?
- How can you best help your children develop as healthy and successful individuals?
Journaling prompts about fathers: (these are similar to those for fathers, just phrased differently as appropriate):
- In your mind, what is the basic role of a father?
- What can they provide that is different than that provided by mothers, grandparents, and other family members?
- Are there stereotypes about fathers that you think are incorrect? If so, what are they and why do you think they’re wrong?
- Was your father a force and presence in your life? If so, how did his presence affect your life? If not, how do you think his lack of presence affected you as you grew up?
- If you knew your father, how would you describe his character? If you did not know him, what do you know of his character based on what others have said?
- What are your best and worst memories of your father?
- How did your father (or lack of father) contribute to your development as a person?
- If you could be the father in your family, how do you imagine you would parent your children?
Before you write — a bit of gentle advice:
Writing about our parents (and ourselves as parents) can cause deep and sometimes difficult emotions and thoughts to surface. Be gentle with yourself as you address these writing prompts. Look for the self-discovery and the potential for positive change that may occur from your writing.
A question you can always ask: What can I learn about myself and my family through journaling, and how might that knowledge or understanding help heal or improve my current experience?