Being a father more than just a biological condition

Our head-long rush to canonize every unwed mother in America has produced a rather curious side effect: We've also begun glorifying the men responsible.

Or perhaps I should say the "males" who are "irresponsible."

Consider a recent article in a national sports magazine about a young, up-and-coming athlete who has already fathered five children by five women in three states.

To say the article treats the athlete sympathetically on this point would be a gross understatement. Indeed, the writer suggests that he is to be admired because he wants to "take care of his family" and "doesn't want his children to have to overcome a tough childhood."

Given the depressing statistics for children who grow up without fathers, it seems a bit late for him to be worrying about that.

And of course the athlete's mother - herself mostly single, with four children by different men - receives the usual nomination for sainthood.

She is, we're told, "wise and cunning," having "survived raising four kids alone without any money."

Let's be clear: Many great women, for no fault of their own, have had to raise their children alone and have done remarkably well. They deserve our respect and admiration. Others who conceived as a result of their own poor choices have taken responsibility for their actions and made the best of a bad situation. I admire them as well.

But when the term "single mother" carries the same cachet as "war hero" or "presidential candidate" (OK, maybe a little more than the latter), then our society is in deep trouble.

Unfortunately, the media continues to glamorize single motherhood - and by extension, absentee fatherhood - despite mounting evidence that children without fathers tend to be poorer, achieve less in school, commit more crimes, die younger and, worst of all, perpetuate the cycle by becoming single mothers or absentee fathers themselves.

But perhaps the most alarming result of all the "single mom" propaganda is that society appears finally to have accepted the definition of "father" that radical feminists have been trying to foist upon us for decades: namely "sperm donor."

This Father's Day, I'm grateful for a father who is more than that, who loves and is committed to my mother and has been a steady, consistent presence throughout my life.

I'm also grateful for the opportunity I've had to be part of my four children's lives - recognizing that, on a given day, some of them might feel a little less grateful for that.

I realize not all children are fortunate enough to grow up with fathers who are physically and emotionally present, but I'm not going to stop wishing that for every child. Nor will I join the chorus praising the irresponsible actions of selfish adults that lead to lives of poverty and hardship for so many of their children.

Or perhaps I should say their "biological offspring."

Rob Jenkins is an associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@