Where are the dads?

Take the January issue of Washington Family magazine, which features a photo of a mother and daughter getting ready to ski (down Capitol Hill, perhaps?), and highlights three stories, all aimed at mothers.

What’s missing, from the cover and the magazine as a whole, is fathers. Sure, there are a couple of ads with dads standing in the background. But there are no stories aimed at men, and nary a hint that dads might be interested in, well, fathering.

This isn’t unusual. (Perhaps it’s because dads are already missing from about 40 percent of all households with children.) In pop culture, both TV shows (The Simpsons) and the ads that run during TV shows (Huggies) show fathers as bumbling idiots. Procter and Gamble’s Olympic ad campaign shows plenty of mothers helping their children become athletes, but not a single dad pitching in. Mainstream news outlets tell us male traits are “obsolete.”

No way.

This may come as a shock to some, but men and women are different. Each sex brings particular skills, strengths and weaknesses to a marriage. Fathers can model the “manly firmness” the Founders extolled in the Declaration of Independence, for example. As in any activity, specialization within a marriage helps maintain balance.

Fathers play a key role in keeping children active as well. Sport leagues across the country would suffer without the participation of engaged fathers. We coach, referee and manage sports for both boys and girls, teaching them important lessons about how to play, how to win and, often, how to lose. We’re probably more likely, with all due respect to P&G, to help our kids learn to ice skate and to ice their injuries.

Social science shows that married fathers tend to earn more than single men and that they report being happier. As for the children of married fathers, Heritage research shows that, “On average, children in intact families fare better in school, exhibit fewer behavioral problems, and are more likely to form healthy romantic relationships as adults.”

The traditional family, with a man and woman raising their children together, remains the norm in the U.S., with about 60 percent of children living with married parents. In Washington, and everywhere across the fruited plane, we need to encourage more of it, for the sake of mothers and children, but for fathers as well.

Dads: Let’s man up.