Father’s Day reminds us that fathers are not an optional part of a child’s life. They bring something important to a child’s life that a mother cannot, just as a mother brings something to a child’s life a father cannot. Children benefit from having role models, influences, and parents from each gender so they can begin to understand what it means to be a man or a woman and how the genders can work together.
What it Means to Be a Father
Fathers help children learn what it means to be a man—an essential lesson for both boys and girls. While the father might be out of the home much of the day, he is setting an example of the importance of providing for his family. When he is at home, a Mormon father is expected to help his wife, whose job didn’t come with a quitting time. Mormon men will be found helping with homework, changing diapers, doing dishes, and playing with children. In Mormon families, family life is a partnership in which each parent helps the other with his or her responsibilities.
It’s common for women to receive training in how to become mothers, but less common for men to receive training in the art of being fathers. However, Mormon men are taught in their Sunday classes at church the importance of fatherhood and how to be a good husband and father.
One thing that really impacts a family is how long they plan to be a family. For too many people, family is something you have until you get tired of being married or even of being a parent. Mormons not only believe you should stay married for the rest of your life (except in cases of abuse, infidelity, or neglect), but forever. This focus on forever makes a big difference in how Mormons view the challenges of life. Mormon fathers know that however challenging a portion of life might be, it is only a small portion of their eternal lives. They know if they can hold on, they will someday have a perfect eternity with those they love most of all.
Many years ago, I trained to be a peer counselor for parents of children with special needs. We learned that at that time 98 percent of marriages in which one child had a serious disability ended in divorce. There were several reasons, but sadly, the most common reason was the father giving up on the challenges and walking away from both his marriage and his children. Today, the statistics are only a little better.
However, I know several Mormon men whose children have special needs. Not only are they right there in the home, they are loving participants in their children’s needs, helping with therapy, doctor’s appointments, and special care. Without question, it is hard work caring for these children, but these fathers are focused on something greater than today. They are aiming for eternity, when they will be able to live with God forever and to have their families with them. After all, who wants to be single and lonely in Heaven? If Heaven is where you will be perfectly happy, then you will want to be part of your family there, just as you never really enjoy an earthly experience unless your family shared it with you.
Knowing about eternity makes Mormon men different. It helps them to recognize their responsibilities and encourages them to stay through the challenges, working them out with an eye on forever.