There is a variety of literature and support available against the attitudes towards teenage mothers yet very rarely can the same be said for teenage fathers. Although many teenage fathers are accepting their parenting responsibilities, the Canadian public has yet to show them support and respect. Without help, there is very little keeping fathers from breaking under the pressures of parenthood.Through all the difficulties and pressures, fathers still desire to participate in their child’s lives. The negative attitudes, costs and stressors they face, may be greater then that of an average father. They may even contribute to the negative stereotypes teenage fathers receive. Yet the need for further support and literature is proven through research and personal testimony from Steve, my husband and teenage father at 17.
Canadian AttitudesWhile most Canadians would view teenage fathers as irresponsible, many prove to handle the struggles of supporting and parenting their children. Society dictates the standard for citizen’s norms. Teenage fathers have already proven they care about their babies (Robinson; Barret 85) but struggle against the previous reputation of being a problem group (Thornberry; Stouthamer-Loeber; Dyke 93).
The moment the girl gets pregnant the attention focuses in on her and the child, leaving the father to cope alone. With no help, he is expected to handle the stress of maturing into fatherhood.”Well they obviously are gunna think that, ‘oh he’s a bad kid y’know having sex; he’s too young.
‘ and there’s always most teenage dads aren’t there to take care of their kids but for those who are there they aren’t given enough credit where credit would be due. Of course, I don’t agree with how other people think about teenage fathers but what can I do about it, I can’t really do much.” (Steve ’06)Against society’s judgments, teenage fathers are fighting a silent battle they feel they cannot win (Trapani 97). Without support and respect, the relationship the father has with the mother and child will not survive (Dulac 94). Teenage fathers require society’s respect and support to overcome and face the struggles of parenthood.StrugglesTeenage fathers are burdened with greater obstacles then the average father that many are unwilling to handle. Steve works hard to support both his wife and child. At 17 when most kids would be partying and planning graduation night, he was worrying about keeping a roof over his family’s head and food in the cupboards.
As he put it, “[I]f I didn’t have Sara I’d probably still be working in the kitchen not thinking of my future just working fulltime to see how much money I can make to get by, not really planning the future for myself.”Steve holds Sara on his shoulders much like a symbolic burden. Parenting is a huge responsibility that many teenage fathers are taking on. When planning for children the first thing on the list is normally financial stability. Without this, the costs of raising a child become reality. Steve shares,” As a teen, being a father means you have to grow up and you have to do it fast.” Being able to balance school and work is hard for fathers and many often find it easier to drop out (Lindsay 01).
For the teenage fathers who do not run away through all the struggles, support should be given.Government/Community SupportSupport programs for teenage fathers are uncommon or under advertised and this forces fathers to have to look harder or give up. When asked what programs were available to him Steve responded, “Fresh out of the hospital you’re just told about stuff about the moms and babies but men have to look at the libraries for support or help, stuff like that.
” In another picture on my right, Steve is holding Sara as she takes her first few steps.In life, teenage fathers are still taking their first few steps into adulthood. Without support to hold them up, there is very little to keep them from falling. It is surprising that in Victoria there are no programs advertised specifically for teenage fathers.
Mothers have prenatal, postnatal, etc; where is the support for the fathers? For the few teenage boys who are struggling to be parents, the community and government show little to no support. Aid needs to be available for those who lack the determination, so that the temptation to run from their responsibilities is no longer an issue.DeterminationThrough everything, the most important thing to the father is their child.
Fathers truly care about playing a part in their child’s lives (Robinson; Barret 85) yet face many struggles to do so.”The difficulties of teenage fathers are aggravated by prevailing attitudes toward them that are much more negative when compared with the support given to teen mothers. Lack of knowledge and experience and the absence of role models for young fathers are among the factors that lead to the breakdown of teenage marriages and of links between father and child.” (Dulac 94)Aside from all this, it boils down to the fathers’ perseverance. Can they truly handle the responsibilities of fatherhood? As Steve says, “You have to care for another life other than your own.” As Steve holds Sara in a picture, we see that the rewards are so much greater then the struggles. For the fathers who stick around, the greatest reward is the child’s love in return (Steve ’06).
ConclusionTeenage fathers require Canadian societies support and respect to handle the challenges of parenting. Without help, the challenge of juggling school and work becomes difficult. The long held stereotypes of teenage fathers being “dead beat dads” are influenced greatly by the government and communities’ lack of support and care. Steve’s interview only reinforces the idea that although many teenage fathers are accepting their parenting responsibilities, the Canadian public has yet to show them support and respect.”[Teenage Fatherhood] means you have a lot more responsibilities then just going to work or school everyday I mean you gotta care for someone you have to care for another life other then your own. There are a lot of kids out there who wouldn’t know how to deal with it, I didn’t know how to deal with it but you just gotta adapt and I’ve grown up a lot more in the past year then ever.”As Canadians, they are part of society and therefore it is society’s responsibility to help teenage fathers and lift the stereotypes through support and education. By educating not only the fathers but also the public, the attitudes towards teenage fathers stand a better chance of changing for the good.
As Wilhelm Bulsch famously said, “Becoming a father isn’t difficult, but it’s very difficult to be a father.”