Here is an obvious fact that is unfortunately, becoming less obvious to people all the time: Mothers and fathers are different.

Just think about that.

You exist because of the very fact that a particular woman, your mother, made a very unique and essential contribution to your creation in intimately close cooperation with a particular man, your father, who also made an essential and wholly unique contribution to your creation. If this fact is confusing to you, there is help here.

None of us would not exist if fathers and mothers were essentially the same and gender is merely a social construct.

But mothers and fathers bring other very different and essential things, not only to the creation of new human beings, but to their healthy development and character development. This is called parenting and it is a gender specific endeavor that is vital to a humanity and social well-being.

And mothers and fathers do this this because moms and dads are different in how they see their child in relation to the larger world.

  • Fathers see their children in relation to the large world, thus helping them safely prepare for the reality and harshness of the real world.
  • Mothers see the world in relation to their child, being ever driven to protect him or her from the dangers of the world.

Both views are necessary and provide essential experiences as children grow into adulthood. Mom’s way builds security and safety while dad’s builds problem-solving confidence and abilities. Children need both.

Think about helping your child stay safe from general life dangers, like lightning strikes.

While neither mother or father want their child out in potentially deadly weather, mom and dad both tend to take different approaches in protecting their children. Mother’s way is really quite simple and very safe: “Don’t do it, stay inside!”

Dads can tend to be different. His is more chance taking. Don’t go out if the threat is imminent, but if you are out and the weather turns nasty, dad is more likely than mom to explain to his children how to safely make do in dangerous situations. Get indoors or under major shelter. Go to low ground. Don’t stand near tall, isolated tree, poles or in water. Seek shelter under smaller groups of trees or bigger bushes.

His parenting builds confidence and built-in protection and can save lives.

Single- and same-sex parented families do not provide this essential distinction. This truth was interestingly, yet unwittingly, demonstrated in a profile of a lesbian family some years ago in USA Today. It was a profile meant to celebrate the ever-blossoming forms of the so-called “modern family.”

The article featured a lesbian couple, their male sperm donor and his gay partner.  They all consider themselves a family where “love is love.”  They had a three-year-old boy and were expecting another son.

The article observed occasional head-butting between the biological father and mother on how to raise the child, explaining that the biological father thinks the women can tend to “pamper Alec too much.”  He explained, “When he falls down, she wants to rush over and make sure he is OK. I know he will be fine.”

This type of natural fathering instinct – not immediately help the child – builds confidence because father’s way allows the child to put in the work to figure problems out by him or herself, while dad stands by with needed advice.

Mom’s way is to assist immediately and fully, keeping the child from getting frustrated. Her approach is good, but also denies the boy or girl the opportunity to persevere and problem-solve for themselves. One way builds immediate security. The other way builds eventual confidence. Children need both. This is precisely what was being inadvertently demonstrated by USA Today in this featured family.

So what did this sperm-donor father do in the midst of this mother/father difference conflict?

Sadly, he said he defers to the women because they are the legal parents. He admitted he’s just a “sperm-donor.” But of course, he is more. He is that child’s actual father. And the child misses out on an essential life-long fathering benefit because two women reduced the child’s real father to a one-time momentary act.

This is a tragedy.

Both mother and father matter beyond procreation in rich and diverse ways. The most universal human truth is that, ideally, every person you will ever meet exists because a male and female created them through their loving cooperation. And every person you meet was created as either male or female. There is no third option.

And in the ideal, we have all benefited from the sex-distinct day-in/day-out parenting practices and habits of our own mother or father. A rich array of academic research over the decades demonstrates this time and again.

But nearly every form of the “modern family” denies its children daily access to his or her own mother and father simply because the adults involved have their own sexual or domestic desires. This is true for single-parents by choice, expressive divorce, unmarried cohabitation (due to greater relational instability), donor insemination, same-sex parenting, and multi-parenting groupings like polyamory.

Each of these deny children what they need most to thrive: Secure and regular access to their own married mother and father.

No other form of family that we have experimented with over the last sixty years has come close to providing the benefits for society at large that the natural family rooted in life-long marriage between mothers and fathers raising their own children together provides.

This is why it is not just empty moralism or traditionalism to advocate for this natural family form. It is to recognize three universal and profoundly well-established truths about what it means to be human:

  1. To be human is to be male or female.
  2. Male and female are essential for creating the next generation of humanity.
  3. Male and female are essential for parenting and maturing the next generation of humanity into healthy well-adjusted adulthood, so they can continue this process in coming generations.

This is why mothers and fathers are the most important quality in human experience.

God even told us as much on the first page of scripture. For His first command to the first couple was to become a mother and father: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”


Image from Shutterstock.