An Invitation to Fathers

Below is a letter to fathers from Chuck Esser, the International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work. At the end of the letter are a few questions for fathers from Chuck and Marya Axner, the International Liberation Reference Person for Parents. Dads, we would love to hear from you.

In the past month, many mothers have written to the RC e-mail discussion lists about the oppression of mothers and its centrality in the oppression of women. It is inspiring to see mothers speaking out in so many different ways and putting the work they do as mothers in the center of the liberation of women, and all of us.

Fathers have been much less organized in looking at parents’ oppression and its connections to men’s oppression, sexism, and male domination. Can we begin to share our experiences and thinking as fathers?

Becoming a father was fantastic for me. Having a person who accepted all I could give and wanted me so openly contradicted and gave me a chance to challenge all the recordings1 of being alone and expendable that men’s oppression had heaped on me.

I also noticed how recordings about sexism and being a man were affecting me, and how sexism and male domination were affecting my family. I felt that it was my duty to be the provider. I felt like the work I did to make money was more important than the work my partner was doing as a mother. I felt like I needed to know what to do, and like I knew nothing. I felt like I was becoming second in my partner’s affections when I had been first before. I felt valued for what I did, not for who I was. I often felt like I was doing more than my share of the work of parenting when my partner was actually doing more. I felt pulled to try to fix things and make my partner happy, rather than having attention to really listen to how sexism and male domination were affecting her and having confidence she would figure out what needed to happen.

Having RC, and people like Patty Wipfler2 and Tim Jackins encouraging us parents to remember our importance by having more sessions than we felt were possible, were life savers.

Before becoming a parent, I had been lucky to have a lot of contact with young people. Being a pre-school teacher and having a large extended family had pushed me to discharge on young people’s oppression. Because of that, I could welcome our children fully, not hold back on loving them, and communicate with them as amazing individual people rather than as generic babies. Still, I was shocked by how much less attention I had than what I wanted, and by the amount of work to be done. Even after setting up relatively good support for our family, my partner and I had more work than the two of us could do and remain as connected and thinking as we wanted to be. Because we understood that this was not our failing but the result of a system that did not value the work of parenting and that functioned to isolate us from each other, we decided not to blame each other for at least the first ten years of our parenting together.

It was great to have a partner who shared the same RC assumptions about our goodness and our ability to keep perspective on the intensified hurdles parenting presented. We were often able to stay close, appreciate each other, and fight the effects of oppression as allies. I look forward to fathers and mothers working closely together.

Suggested questions for fathers:

What’s been great about being a dad, and how has it contradicted men’s oppression?

What about men’s oppression makes it difficult to be a dad?

Chuck Esser
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Marya Axner
Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of parents

1 Distress recordings
2 Patty Wipfler is the former International Reference Person for Parents

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00