Lone Ranger = Bad Idea

Several observations throughout the study provided insight into the high importance that our moms placed on their partners' involvement in parenting and decision-making. These are discussed in greater detail in other sections of this analysis, but they are worth summarizing here.

First, moms need dad' support when it comes to identifying and implementing new parenting strategies or tactics. One of the moms in our study, Barbara, is a voracious consumer of Christian parenting resources. She watches religious television for several hours each morning while working around the house, she looks up articles online, she listens to Christian radio (both music and talk), and she participates in mom-centric small groups. When we asked her which resources she has found most helpful to her parenting, she responded, "Whatever Keith will get into." To Barbara, the quality of the resource was secondary to her husband's willingness to digest and use it.

Second, mom feels particularly vulnerable and stressed when there is a significant disagreement between herself and her husband. In their journal, several of our moms recounted disagreements with their husbands as their biggest challenge of the day. In Diane’s case, the disagreement happened in front of their daughter, which was particularly unsettling for her. Her aspiration for that day was they she and her husband could present a more united front to their children.

Our single moms provided extreme examples of the consequences of parental disagreement. Two of our singe moms shared custody with their ex-husbands, and in each case the dad used a more lenient set of standards for the children when they were with him. Both of these moms indicated that this discrepancy was one of the primary challenges of single parenthood.  Our third single mom, Alfie, did not share custody—in fact, her children’s fathers were a non-factor in their lives. While this circumstance created its own set of challenges, Alfie had a significant advantage over the other two moms in terms of instilling her values and standards in her children.

While it is true that for a family ministry like Focus, Mom is the gatekeeper to the home, we should not underestimate the importance of getting Dad "on board" with the guidance and resources we are offering to Mom. Failure to do so may significantly dampen our relationship with that family. As strange as it sounds, the WWII D-Day landings offer a compelling object-lesson: the American armies needed only to establish a beachhead on D-Day to meet their strategic goals. The British armies, however, needed to establish a beachhead, and then advance eight miles inland and capture the city of Caen while they still had the element of surprise. On D-Day they secured the beach, but failed to capture Caen (which was a major transportation hub); as a result the invasion was bogged down for an additional six weeks, and little other progress could be made until that city was taken. We often think of Mom as our strategic objective in reaching the family, when often she is a necessary but insufficient target for true family change.

© 2010 Focus on the Family.