Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thoughts on Fatherhood from Doctor Who and Pope Francis

Mother's Day is just around the corner, which is great! Motherhood is beautiful, awesome, and I applaud all moms out there for what they do (including the ever-inspirational single moms!). I have some thoughts on motherhood that I want to blog about sometime, but I need to develop it all a bit more. In the meantime, I'd like to briefly discuss fatherhood. Just last week, Huffington Post advertised a "Dads Don't Babysit" shirt, so I'd be willing to bet that others are thinking about this topic, too. 

Fatherhood is a big deal. I think that sometimes, in our zeal to proclaim the awesomeness of motherhood, we can downplay the importance of fatherhood. We turn parenting into a "her vs. him" competition where we try to determine who is "more important" or "necessary" in a child's life. We really shouldn't do this, though. Both parents are important, and both a mother and a father bring unique gifts to family life and parenting. I recently finished reading Pope Francis' document, Amoris Laetitia, and it includes a couple of awesome points on fatherhood! But first, let's look at Doctor Who. 

In the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Daughter," fatherhood is a theme throughout the course of the story. I guess that's kind of obvious, based on the title. Within the first couple minutes of the show, the 10th Doctor becomes a parent in a rather unorthodox way: his arm is forcibly pushed into a machine as he is "processed," and the sample taken from him is used to instantaneously create a human being. As the Doctor explains, "Progeneration, reproduction from a single organism. It means one parent is biological mother and father." 

Even with that textbook definition which points him as the father of this young woman (named Jenny) the Doctor resists the idea of being a dad. He never signed up for it, asked for it, and he certainly did not choose to be used for progeneration! "They stole a tissue sample at gunpoint and processed it. It's not what I'd call natural parenting." Donna thinks this is rubbish, but the Doctor is insistent: "Can I extrapolate a relationship from a biological accident?"
Fun fact: Georgia Moffet, who plays
the Doctor's daughter, is now married to
David Tennant-the man who was the Doctor
in this episode. So cute!!! 

We come to learn that the sight of Jenny brings painful memories back to the Doctor-memories of the Timelords who have died, of his family. "When I look at her now I can see them. The hole they left, all the pain that filled it. I just don't know if I can face that every day." The Doctor's hesitance is understandable; he never asked to be Jenny's father, and he has good reasons for not wanting to live with a continual reminder of the pain that he's been through. Still, all of the excuses he can come up with don't change the fact that he's her father. Donna (the Doctor's companion in this season) continually tries to hammer that into his Timelord brain: "She's your daughter!" 

The Doctor may never have chosen to be Jenny's father, but that didn't change the fact that he was her father. I often think about this in terms of couples who face an unexpected pregnancy. They may not have specifically desired or chosen to become parents, but that does not change the fact that they are parents. And this parenthood-even if initially unsought or undesired-comes with a responsibility. There is a responsibility for the mother, which is especially obvious as she carries the child in her womb, but there is also a responsibility for the father to lovingly support his son or daughter.

[As a sidenote, a handful of months ago, I was talking with an acquaintance of mine who is a single dad. He does not get to see his daughter often, but asking him about her and seeing the ways in which he sacrifices for her from afar was really touching.]

In Amoris Laetitia, (which I highly recommend reading) Pope Francis discusses the value of fathers as well: 

"God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be “close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And to be close to his children as they grow – when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father who is always present. When I say ‘present’, I do not mean ‘controlling’. Fathers who are too controlling overshadow their children, they don’t let them develop”. Some fathers feel they are useless or unnecessary, but the fact is that “children need to find a father waiting for them when they return home with their problems. They may try hard not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it”. It is not good for children to lack a father and to grow up before they are ready." ~Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia #177

There's plenty of science that talks about the importance of good fathers, too. Not just being the breadwinner, family mechanic, or disciplinarian, but being an active, loving, joyful presence in the lives of his wife and children. Hopefully, we can all help create a culture that respects and values both motherhood and fatherhood! 


  1. This is really beautiful. Our culture so demeans fatherhood and treats men like idiots. It's shocking and ridiculous. I love the words of Pope Francis. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to forward this to my wonderful husband :)

    1. Ann-Marie, I'm so glad you liked this! Pope Francis is awesome, and I was over-the-moon excited to read his shout-out to fathers in Amoris Laetitia. I was also sooo excited to read a couple things from HuffPost about it! Good signs of hope in the world!