Anne was invited by Governor Pete Wilson to speak at his specially-convened Focus on Fathers Summit, in June of 1995.
This is the text of her speech.
Governor Wilson, esteemed members of the panel, and members of the audience:
My name is Anne Mitchell. I am a divorced custodial mother, and a family law attorney specializing in the area of non-custodial parents’ concerns. I am also the founder and director of the Fathers’ Rights & Equality Exchange. It is both an honor and a privilege to be part of this very exciting, and very necessary, Summit. Governor Wilson is to be commended for both his foresight, and his concern, in recognizing and addressing the problem of father absence in our state, and in our nation. Once again California can be said to be on the cutting edge of seeking that which is most important for our children.
Many of my colleagues will be speaking to the problems faced by children who are suffering from an absence of their father in their lives. These concerns are genuine, and of great import, and indeed are one of the primary reasons that we are gathered here today.
However, I am going to take this opportunity to talk to you about the effects which this epidemic of father absence has visited upon the parents themselves, both single mothers and single fathers.
A recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office has determined that childless women between the ages of 27 and 33 now earn 98 cents to each dollar earned by men. These women have finally achieved near-economic-parity with men in the workplace.
Why is it that the same cannot be said of women with children? Women in today’s society are as surely coopted into being primary caretakers as they were during the dawn of the women’s rights movement. The difference is that today’s woman is being told that not only are women the only sex capable of really nurturing and caring for children, but that single parenthood is alright, and acceptable, and maybe even “better” for the children. The conclusion which results from this line of reasoning can only be, and usually is, that fathers are not necessary to their children, and are, in fact, quite dispensable.
Of course, this leaves a single mother with the full responsibility of caring for the children, and either doing so while trying to pursue a career, or abandoning the hopes of a career and economic equality, leaving her instead to rely on either the father’s subsidy, or the government dole. This is certainly no recipe for independence, self-sufficiency, and financial security.
Furthermore, our government spends millions of dollars trying to enforce child support orders for these single mothers, even though it is well known that the low cost alternative is to bring fathers back into their children’s lives: fathers who are allowed to stay involved in their children’s lives pay a majority of child support in full, and on time.
And yet, for every single mother who has been told that it is alright, perhaps even desirable, to raise the children in a father-absent manner, there is a father who has been told “Go away. You have nothing to contribute to your children; they don’t need you.”
Many a father whom I have counselled had come to believe that they truly had nothing to contribute to the lives of their children, and that, loving their children, and wanting to do the right thing, the best thing they could do was to go away so as to end any conflict or confusion in their children’s lives. Single fathers love and cherish their children no less than single mothers do; and they will do whatever they come to believe is best for their children. They have concerns for their children’s happiness and wellbeing, and they are real, and they are paramount.
So entrenched is this mother-care ideal, that in our own family courts in California, when the mother and father agree to joint custody, the courts will still push the responsibility for primary care of children onto the mother’s shoulders alone more than 30% of the time. Even when the mother requests that the father have custody, with the father’s agreement, the courts still award custody to the mother in nearly 13% of cases. Thus, even in those cases where the mother says “I want the father to be involved, I want to be able to share the responsibility of childcare with him,” the court will relegate the mother to the nursery, while banishing a loving father, who is willing to share in the parenting and responsibility for his children, as an outcast.
Is it any wonder that so many women are struggling under the weight of single motherhood, when so many fathers have been either forced or convinced to relinquish their parental roles? The fact is that fathers have a great deal to offer to their children, including contributions to their sense of security, how they fit into the world around them, and their self esteem. Yet how can we expect these fathers to provide these valuable and vital contributions to their children’s wellbeing when at every turn they are told, and indeed often restrained, to stay away from their children? When they are admonished that they serve no purpose to their children other than for their financial potential. And how can we not expect them to adopt this message, to internalize it, to believe it, and to eventually go away?
So long as both mothers and fathers are continually told that mothers are the embodiment of all parental nurturing, and that fathers are useless except as cash contributors, we can but expect that father absent households will continue to be a growing trend, with all of the attendant implications: the vast majority of youth crime is committed by children of father absent homes; teenaged girls from father absent homes become more promiscuous, and are more than 100% percent more likely to give birth to their own father-absent babies.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution – an answer to these ills which are plaguing society:
Bring back dads!*
[*At this point in her speech, Governor Wilson applauded, and the whole audience rose to their feet and applauded.]
By repatriating fathers into their children’s lives we will not only help to alleviate the burdens facing both single mothers and single fathers, but, more importantly, we will correct the psychic and emotional deficit which father absence has exacted upon our children.