Families and the ‘Father’s Desert’

There is a father’s desert in the UK: according to the latest ‘Fractured Families’ report from the Centre for Social Justice at least one million children are growing up in the UK without a father.

The MB50 community of older men has an important part to play in this sad story. Let’s pause to consider what this is.

The serious absence of Dads is a sad story primarily of course because children model on and learn from their parents as they are growing up. The lack of male role models is leaving a big gap in childrens’  life experiences, and this can lead to continuing impoverishment and bad outcomes in their adult lives. This can be both personally with low self-esteem and more mental health issues, and socially with the repetition of fractured families experiences from generation to generation.

The report further shows that the father’s desert is a rising trend, and that it is worst in communities which are under the most stress or most disadvantaged: the poor, the badly housed and the displaced come out  worst . It is also a bad bet to predict the government of whatever political persuasion are going to fix it: the parallel trends of the “cuts”, and less state resources and expenditure. Add to this the steady erosion of the principles of the welfare state, and what do you have? The desert is looking dryer all the time.


So it is time for the MB50 community to bring out the watering cans and hose pipes. In other words, let’s start small and not get lost and discouraged worrying about the big picture. Let’s also start with BEING, then DOING, and lastly THINKING – go to the water source first, and then work out where to spread it best!


‘Love is all you need’ – it really is the source of everything. Wouldn’t it be great for loving older men to show themselves, their love in their families and in the world: grandfathers, grey haireds and grizzle chops together! Families work through more than two generations and so does the world in general, and what older men have to offer far more than anything is our kindly presence. This isn’t a campaign, or a social programme. This is about smiling presence with younger men, talking with them, and undertaking small acts of loving kindness, and so on.


“My father didn’t tell me how to live;

he lived, and let me watch him do it.” 

Clarence Budington Kelland



All the above is well and good, you say, but is it all a little bit ‘Hippy’? So let’s get real. Lots of older men are themselves hurting, isolated from their families, and unsure about how to express themselves. Lots of older men are equally unsure how best to hang out with younger men – Do they want us to be with them at all, you may ask? The answer based on the experience of MB50 Groups is a resounding ‘yes’!  Trying out conversations across generations, modelling on how each of us do it differently, exploring where we are with our feelings in the process are some of the great things that can happen in group work. And then little by little put into practice in the rest of our lives!


The issue is happiness – beginning, middle and end. And let’s get even more real about this – it is social and political as well as about personal and family relationships (and everything else). In MB50 we welcome difference and diversity, and we are not a campaigning organisation. But as older men we are generally in favour of more equality than less, and more fairness and social justice than less – across generations, and across genders for that matter. So upholding these qualities in the context of happiness means speaking out and challenging entrenched positions and  views both at the local level in our own families, and in our communities – wherever we find it. The time to remain silent is over!


Useful links relating to this topic…


https://www.separateddads.co.uk/ – loads of useful information about the practicalities and emotions of being away from the kids

https://www.separateddads.co.uk/psychological-effect-separation-children.html – how do the kids feel??!

https://www.dad.info/fatherhood/being-dad/how-dads-affect-kids – Why is a Dad important!

https://www.separateddads.co.uk/SupportForSeparatedFathers.html – help and guidance for loads of stuff you might experience if separated from children.

https://www.fathermag.com/905/over40/ – insights to being an older father by three men