The Advertising Council is about to launch an advertising campaign for the Department of Health and Human Services. The punch line: “Take Time to Be a Dad.” The campaign is targeted at minorities; it is assumed that white males know how to spend time with their kids. Among the truths that the campaign wants to stress, the fact that the smallest moments between a dad and his kid make a difference, and “I don’t need to be a hero to be a dad.” I feel much better already.
Nicely-marketed paternalism stinks as much as the nineteenth centuryish, holy Joe do-gooder one. The government has its priorities on fatherhood wrong. If the Department of Health and Human Services really cares about fathers being fathers, the first thing it has to do is to preserve their rights. In New York State for instance, that entails changing the family laws of the state. The government should spend whatever it takes to change the mentalities in family court. Most judges, support magistrates and law guardians have one view on fatherhood: “Pay stupid.” Time with kids is for mum.