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Fatherhood and fulfillment

By Daniel Donahoo - posted Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Recently, I read that pregnancy and car crashes are the same - they always happen to other people. I didn’t make my decision to have children until my girlfriend was pregnant any easier. But the reason many young men end their relationships after the crash is because society does not prepare them for it.

Young men don’t hang around long enough to even find out if they can develop an equal and loving partnership with their girlfriend and their new child. For men to turn around and try and lay the blame on women for their refusal to commit to relationships is symptomatic of the problems with the gender debates. This isn’t a battle. Men and women need to work these things out together.

Young men flee from the love of pregnant girlfriends and the joy of a lifelong commitment to a new family unit because the single lifestyle is sold to us as more appealing. In recent weeks parenthood has been touted as being boring, expensive and limiting parents’ personal desires.


The “freedom” of singledom is lauded as providing the edge in economic advantage. It is plastered across men's and women’s magazines. The messages are clear. Single people are more beautiful and happier; every weekend needs to be one big dance party; you are the most important person in the world. The rise of individualism has left us with a generation of young people meeting their own needs and desires before anyone else’s.

A new family, a committed relationship and the challenge and exuberance of parenthood is far less desirable. Young men don’t want an equal say in a relationship because there is very little in society convincing them that they want a relationship to begin with. Society is wrong to deliver this message. Young men are being hoodwinked by marketeers into looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Parenting delivers a happiness and life experience that a single, consumer driven life cannot.

My first son was three in January, and his little brother is 16-months-old. I couldn’t have made a better decision. In many ways, we were fortunate. Our family supported our decision. They concealed their fears and tried to ignore society’s dismal prediction. As new experiences and expectations were shared, relationships with our own parents grew and flourished. The responsibility that the newfound circumstances imposed upon us helped us reduce debt and opened up employment opportunities.

Basically, I grew up. Something many young men see as a very scary prospect indeed. I know, because I did.

It has been called the Peter Pan syndrome after the boy who didn’t want to grow up. It is a problem that further isolates young men. It fuels self-obsession. By telling young men they don’t want to grow up you cement the idea that they shouldn’t and don’t have to.

The solution is two-fold. Young men need to realise they can contribute more to society than they currently are. And society must stop stereotyping young men and start entrusting them with responsibility. We need someone to sell the positive images of young men back to them.


While some young men may still be at home and wasting their life away on an X-box, there are also others pursing worthwhile careers and committing to families and relationships. These young men need to be held up as role models.

The focus of my life has turned from selfish to selfless. I now have fewer choices and so I consider them much more carefully; fully aware that every action I take impacts on many people - most often our children. It’s a perspective that you don’t see when your sole concern is yourself. But even if you are single, your choices are impacting on many other people.

Young men can no longer keep moaning that feminism has left them without a role. There is a role there, but instead of searching for happiness in a string of lust-driven relationships and trying to consume their way to happiness, young men need to commit to relationships.

Our society needs to start selling the positives of being a father and a husband. Young men need to start to override the mantra from those older men who have been selling us the single life as their relationships end in divorce. Young men have the ability to forge a new approach to their relationship with women and children.

Young women are looking for it and young men need to come to the commitment party. Don’t listen to the jaded and cynical voices of baby-boomers that have been there and done that. The next generation can always improve on what has been before.

So, let’s start selling commitment and telling young men that there is happiness in a relationship with children. You don’t have to wait until you are 30 to start thinking about it. What are you really longing for?

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First published in The Age March 1, 2005.

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About the Author

Journalist and columist with The Age, Sushi Das says he is ‘one of today’s young rebels’. Author and ethicist Leslie Cannold has referred to him as one of her ‘gorgeous men’.

Daniel Donahoo is fellow with OzProspect, a non-partisan, public policy think tank. He writes regularly for Australia's daily papers and consults on child and family issues. A father to two boys. Daniel's first book is called Idolising Children and explores our society’s obsession with childhood and youth. Updates on Daniel's work can be found at

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