The purpose of modern fatherhood

Published June 19, 2021, 10:00 PM

by Krizette Laureta-Chu

It’s easy (or at least, easier) to define mothers: She is the woman who birthed you. Or, if that person by chance wasn’t around, the woman who raised you like her own. A newborn instantly seeks out her mother to suckle or seek warmth, in humans or in the animal kingdom. The bond begins the moment a newborn is brought close to her mother’s teat.

Fathers, on the other hand, have a more undefined role. Even in the animal world, rare is the species who sticks around to finish the job of rearing and protecting their offspring. Many, even among Homo Sapiens, are just sperm donors who up and leave when their contribution to procreation is done.

So, what, exactly, is a father? Should he be the financial provider of the family to be considered one? Many fathers are now stay-at-home dads, even in a macho culture like the Philippines, in part due to the exodus of mothers seeking work abroad. By 2006, Filipina overseas workers outnumbered men. As per Philippine Statistics Authority data in 2016, more than half of Filipinos (53 percent) who work abroad are women. At home, their husbands have taken on more traditional roles now unfulfilled by their wives.

Is a father someone who is constantly present in your life? But fathers who work abroad do not have the time nor the luxury to be around for their children. The oil boom in the Middle East in the 70s first saw the first batch of Filipino men leaving their families behind, a sorry sight that continues today, as today’s fathers now take to the seas. Pinoy seamen make up at least a fourth of merchant marine crews worldwide, many of whom have contracts that allow them rare visits to their families.

Fatherhood, in these times, has gotten more challenging to define. Statistics, however, cannot trump a simple, time-tested barometer: In your child’s eyes, who are you and what do you add to their lives?