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D.L. Stewart: Fatherhood’s a matter of relative importance

If you happen to be a father — or are thinking of becoming one when you have nothing better to do — there’s a new must-read book on the market for you. The title is “Do Fathers Matter? What Science is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $26).

Whether or not fathers matter is an important question, although not necessarily as important as whether Johnny Manziel will be able to read zone defenses.

But, faced with impending fatherhood, some men probably have asked themselves at one time or another, “After this kid is born, should I stick around the house and see how it turns out or should I just keep hanging with my buddies at the golf course?”

It’s possible that men don’t really need to spend a lot of time worrying about whether they matter and probably should just spend more time working on their putting. Because, as they’re frequently portrayed in popular culture, fathers aren’t all that necessary. And, even if they were, they’re not very good at it, anyway.

As an online ad for Clorox explained last year, for instance, “Like dogs or other house pets, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.”

As examples of the judgments in which new dads are lacking, the ad cited six “mistakes new dads make.”

1. Forgetting to dress the baby in weather appropriate clothing.

2. Putting what clothing he remembers on backwards.

3. Using the TV as a baby sitter while he enjoys a beer.

4. Forgetting to clean the baby.

5. Letting the baby eat off the floor.

6. Taking the baby to casinos.

In defense of my gender, all of those are totally understandable mistakes, because , as men, we have way more important things on our mind than whether our unwashed baby is wearing the right clothes when we take it to the casino. And whether it’s wrong to let a baby eat off the floor is a matter of opinion. I always felt it was fine for my kids to eat food they found on the floor, as long as it didn’t include glutens.

Besides, if we display any parental competence whatsoever, women will start expecting us to become more involved with child raising while they go out and have careers; even though they’re probably lacking the judgment and motor skills to execute them well.

Still, if you’re a man who wants to know if fatherhood matters, or if it’s just another meaningless title with no actual function, I suggest you get the book.

You can read it while you’re using the TV as a baby sitter and enjoying your beer.

Contact this columnist at

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