Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

Synopsis

Across the political spectrum, unwed fatherhood is denounced as one of the leading social problems of today. Doing the Best I Can is a strikingly rich, paradigm-shifting look at fatherhood among inner-city men often dismissed as "deadbeat dads." Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson examine how couples in challenging straits come together and get pregnant so quickly--without planning. The authors chronicle the high hopes for forging lasting family bonds that pregnancy inspires, and pinpoint the fatal flaws that often lead to the relationship's demise. They offer keen insight into a radical redefinition of family life where the father-child bond is central and parental ties are peripheral.

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.

Excerpt

“It is unmarried fathers who are missing in record numbers, who impregnate women and selfishly flee,” raged conservative former U.S. secretary of education William Bennett in his 2001 book, The Broken Hearth. “And it is these absent men, above all, who deserve our censure and disesteem. Abandoning alike those who they have taken as sexual partners, and whose lives they have created, they strike at the heart of the marital ideal, traduce generations yet to come, and disgrace their very manhood.” “No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child,” Bill Cosby declared in 2004 at the NAACP’s gala commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Brown versus Board of Education, as he publicly indicted unwed fathers for merely “inserting the sperm cell” while blithely eschewing the responsibilities of fatherhood. Then, in 2007, two days before Father’s Day, presidential candidate Barack Obama admonished the congregants of Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, saying, “There are a lot of men out there who need to stop acting like boys, who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception, who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.”

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