They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve always known this to be true in my life. Being away from my family for 18 months to serve a full-time mission for the Church reminded me of how much I love my family. I learned to love them even more while being away for such a long period of time. One of my most memorable moments was when I was coming down the escalator in the Salt Lake City airport searching for my family among many strangers. Once I saw their beaming faces I ran toward them. The first person I hugged was my dad. I was so overcome with emotion that I began to cry. I had not been in his arms for 548 days.
My dad is the one who always gave me the advice that I needed to hear in my life. He called me “baby girl,” and he still does because I am the youngest girl in my family. He is kind and loving towards others. He has been the perfect example and mentor that I needed throughout my childhood and adult life. Throughout my mission, I received an email from him every week without fail and he always told me what I needed to hear. All of these experiences have made me reflect on what life would be like without this great man in my life.
Fatherhood: Need? Want? Or Both?
Twenty-four million – 40% – of children in the U.S. live in a fatherless home. Those are twenty-four million children that do not get to embrace their father every day, let alone every week. Twenty-four million children do not have someone to look up to, someone to call them “baby girl,” “sweetie,” or other endearments. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”
Responsible fathers are essential in the lives of their children because they guide them in the right direction.
Without caring fathers, children would not feel the protection they deserve during their childhood. Fathers should direct and lead the family in day-to-day tasks to help each family member grow individually as well as together. Elder Christofferson mentioned the following:
“The Lord expects fathers to help shape their children, and children want and need a model.”
It is not just the fact that fathers are necessary for a family; children actually WANT to have fathers in their lives. Who wouldn’t want someone to look up to that cares for them so deeply?
Elder L. Tom Perry once said:
“Satan, in his carefully devised plan to destroy the family, seeks to diminish the role of fathers. Increased youth violence, youth crime, greater poverty and economic insecurity, and the failure of increasing numbers of children in our schools offer clear evidence of lack of a positive influence of fathers in the homes. A family needs a father to anchor it.”
Fathers need to be in the lives of their children to be a positive influence on them as Elder Perry states. All of the problems listed above potentially increase when children do not have fathers. It is sad and horrifying that just from one missing parent, a child can be influenced so strongly.
The Roles Women Have in Fatherhood
So what can we do now as Mormon women to promote the importance of fatherhood? I would like to share two points, I believe, can help this great cause.
- Show support. As sisters, wives, daughters, aunts, and mothers we need to demonstrate our love and encouragement for fatherhood to the men in our lives. As we do so they will realize how essential they are in the lives of their families or how essential they can be when they have families of their own one day.
- Many of us probably have friends who believe fatherhood can be put on the back burner; that it is not essential when raising a family, however, it truly is important. To express the significance of this simple yet vital principle we can post inspiring quotes or thoughts on our social media pages. We can also encourage our friends to recognize the importance of fatherhood through normal, daily conversations.
As we apply these two principles in our lives we will be changing the lives of those we love, neighbors and friends in our community, and society as a whole.
A High Five from a Father
So, does absence make the heart grow fonder? Unfortunately, for fatherless children, it does not. Instead, they are found missing a father figure in their lives that they may or may not have met. Children are born with an innate desire to have both a mother AND a father. Being distanced from a man that they have never had in their life is discomforting. The time spent away from my dad for 18 months was hard; I cannot imagine what it would be like for kids who lack the presence of a father throughout their childhood. Surely, they long for a dad to lift them up when they are down, give them a high five when they succeed, and protect them in times of need.
Hannah Ogles was raised in Athens, Ohio, and is one of seven children. She is a current student at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing a degree in Marriage and Family Studies. Upon graduation in April 2017, she plans on receiving a master’s degree in School Counseling. Hannah enjoys singing and spending time with her family and friends (especially when ice cream is involved).
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