Madonna, the “queen of pop,” has also celebrated herself as a “pop” — tweeting a “Happy Father’s Day” to herself on Sunday. The twice-divorced single mother is raising six children — two biological and four adopted. Rather than celebrating either of her biological children’s fathers, she celebrated herself as a “MomDad,” suggesting that she fulfills both parenting roles.
“Do I look like a Dad here?” Madonna tweeted, with a picture of herself as a cat with cat ears and whiskers. “Wishing myself a Happy Father’s Day! #MomDad #Mambo.”
— Madonna (@Madonna) June 17, 2018
This tweet may seem innocent enough, but it is quite subversive for a single mother to claim Father’s Day as her own.
This tweet seems to echo the idea that fathers are optional, and that single mothers can do just fine raising children on their own. Among millennials over half of births (51 percent) were to unwed mothers, according to the Pew Research Center. While a majority of millennials (63 percent) still consider single motherhood bad for society, fewer of them than their parents say so. Fully 44 percent of millennials said that marriage is becoming obsolete, and only 53 percent said that children “need both a father and a mother to grow up happily.”
A great deal of social science research backs up the importance of fathers, however. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 44 percent of children in mother-only families were living in poverty, compared to only 12 percent of children in families with a married couple. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Health found that children living in female-headed households with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 percent — over four times the rate of married families.
A 2001 Department of Education study showed that students with highly involved fathers (or stepfathers) were 43 percent more likely to receive A’s in school. Students living without fathers present were twice as likely to repeat a grade as students with a father in the home. One study even found that when fathers read recreationally, their sons read more and scored higher.
Children without fathers are also much more likely to become criminals. Young people who never had a father in the household experience the highest odds of serving time in jail. The Department of Justice surveyed 7,000 inmates in 2012, finding that 39 percent of them grew up in a mother-only household. A similar study of 14,000 female inmates found that more than half grew up without a father.
Other studies found that children with fathers are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, are less likely to become sexually active (and get pregnant) as teenagers, are more likely to have a larger vocabulary, and are more likely to take healthy risks and become more independent.
The Grant Study, the longest longitudinal study ever done on the lives of men, found that loving fathers gave their sons an enhanced capacity to play, more enjoyment of vacations, greater likelihood of using humor to cope with adverse circumstances, better adjustment to life after retirement, and less anxiety and stress in young adulthood. Men who experienced poor fathering were more likely to have poor marriages, and those with a poor relationship with their fathers were more likely to call themselves pessimists.
Fathers are immensely important — and in a Christian context they have great spiritual importance as bearing the image of God the Father.
None of this is to say that Madonna’s adoption of kids as a single mother is a bad thing. She adopted all her non-biological children from Malawi, and she has almost certainly given them an immensely better life than they would have had in their home country.
Mothers are tremendously important, and it is very healthy to celebrate their importance on Mother’s Day. But Father’s Day is about fathers, and single mothers should not co-opt it.
Madonna did not just wish herself a Happy Father’s Day. To her credit, she also thanked her father, Silvio Ciccone.
“This Man Tho……….Silvio Ciccone!! Happy Father’s Day to you and all the Dads who really show up! You know who you are #present!” Madonna, whose full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone, tweeted in a follow-up message with a picture of her father.
— Madonna (@Madonna) June 17, 2018
This may have been a dig at Guy Ritchie, Madonna’s former husband (2000-2008), whom she divorced in 2008 citing “irreconcilable differences.” The divorced couple originally shared custody of her son Rocco Ritchie, but Rocco decided to continue living in England with his father, and Madonna wanted him to travel with her. After multiple deliberations, Madonna withdrew her application for custody.
The pop star also has a biological daughter, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, whom she had with Carlos Leon, a longtime boyfriend (1995-1997) whom she never married and with whom she broke up on amiable terms.
Single mothers face an exceedingly difficult task and deserve support and encouragement, but fathers perform an essential role in their children’s lives. Celebrities and single mothers like Madonna should allow fathers their own day, rather than claiming Father’s Day for their own. In doing so, they neglect the role dads play in their children’s development.