Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City
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Drawing on years of fieldwork, Doing the Best I Can shows how mammoth economic and cultural changes have transformed the meaning of fatherhood among the urban poor. Intimate interviews with more than 100 fathers make real the significant obstacles faced by low-income men at every step in the familial process: from the difficulties of romantic relationships, to decision-making dilemmas at conception, to the often celebratory moment of birth, and finally to the hardships that accompany the early years of the child's life, and beyond.
Ironically, despite men’s attempts to reject the old-fashioned package deal, it gets enacted nonetheless because of the critical role their relationship with the mother plays in ensuring they have access to their children. 16. Edin and Kefalas (2005) find that mothers use restraining orders with surprising frequency to keep fathers away. Sometimes this is because the father poses serious risks to her or the child. At other times, though, retaliation is the main motive. 17. One paper utilizing
nonwhites. Jack’s father, the Philadelphia police officer, and his mother, who worked for the school district, fled north along with other white civil servants from the southwest side, moving to the working-class enclave of Manayunk, with its tiny row homes perched precariously on steep streets reaching up to the bluffs above the Schuylkill River. Jack rebelled at the move and was kicked out of the prestigious Roman Catholic High in his freshman year for cutting class, exhibiting a belligerent
Bear had made the mistake of bringing an action figure—his prized toy—to the dinner table, and as punishment the man pushed Bear’s face into a plate of mashed potatoes. After years of being on the losing end of vicious beatings, Bear won this fight—Army training had left him physically fit—but lost the battle. In retaliation his stepfather kicked him out of the house, handing him a one-way bus ticket to North Carolina, where Bear’s father had kin, on the way out the door. But Bear didn’t board
chapter. He may also secure more rights to ongoing contact, for if the child values his visits the mother will have a harder time denying him access. The downside, of course, is that this practice diminishes men’s interest in whether the mother’s rent or utilities get paid. Clearly, though nearly all men say that “the dollar is paramount,” few feel the obligation to serve as the primary provider or—in truth—even to come up with 50 percent of what is needed to raise their child. The fundamental
intense meaning and identity in the everyday tasks of parenthood, and society has given them immense social honor for doing so.42 It is also true that one’s children are beguiling, fresh, and hopeful, at least in their younger years. By the time men become fathers—even if they are relatively young—many are already beginning to tire of the “rippin’ and runnin’,” perhaps because they began to engage in these misdeeds at such a tender age. Many acknowledge that when they extend into adulthood,