In response to last week’s article on deadbeat fathers, I received an insightful e-mail from a young single mother.

She recognizes that parenting is a trial and error process and what stood out most for me from her e-mail were the following sentiments: “It starts from consciously deciding to have children. There are signs that people display that will let you know whether they are ready for children. How they discipline themselves, how they interact with others at all ages, if they know how to be playful or serious, how committed they are to their family, do they keep their word, are they respectful?”

With the increase in households without an active father, our youth are going astray. Many of us who had a father in the home clearly remember that when his presence was in the house, there were some things that would not be tolerated. The father was the head of the household.  Even if the child asked mom for permission to do something or to go somewhere, she would say, “Go ask your father”. What he said was law.

If punishment was to be meted out it was coming from the father and it was something we tried to avoid. So we did what we had to do. We carried ourselves with pride because we were representing the family. In the house, we did our chores.

And mom’s words, “Just you wait until your father gets home” were enough to keep us mentally paralyzed while awaiting his return.   Fathers set standards for their sons by showing them how to master life’s obstacles and how to enjoy his accomplishments. They show their sons, through the way they treat their wives, how to treat a woman. While for daughters, what she saw in daddy was no less that what she would select in a partner.

The father was the leader; he modelled manly behaviour in the way he dressed, spoke and conducted himself in public.    

Given all that the father provides, his absence can have a big impact. This is not to say, of course, that mothers forced into running households by themselves can’t do the job effectively, but there are many missing components without the father’s presence. It leads to disrespect and violence.

Fathers must be held accountable for the abandonment of their offspring — and stopped from creating more. There are far too many young people who are deeply damaged by the abandonment and further, those who have grown up to become damaged adults.  The outcome is clear: hurt people hurt people!

• Shawnette Somner is an educator and mother. Email: