Life Style

Fatherhood according to the philosopher Martin Steffens

What place for the father in 2022? Questioned, redefined and even contested, the place of the father continues to evolve. While the central figure of paterfamilias faded in the last century, the father has not disappeared. As Martin Steffens points out in his new book, To be a father is (2), if “the art of the father is formulated in suspension points and question marks, his power is no less real”.

From the model of a strict father, we have moved on to that of an invested father. Whereas in 2005, 40% of children rarely or never saw their father(3), paternity leave was extended on 1er July 2021 to 28 days. An attempt to involve this parent more from birth, while only seven out of ten dads allowed themselves to take this parenthesis with their baby. Through around fifty mini-chapters, Martin Steffens thus explores the contours of fatherhood.

A constant questioning

For him, “to be a father is”above all ensuring a presence that translates into daily actions. “A father is first and foremost someone who has not left. » The author then retraces, all in poetry, his paternal vocation: between services rendered, smiles exchanged and worries experienced. Reflection that the philosophy teacher in Strasbourg transcribed in slam mode: “To be a father is to be pierced, persevering, persecuted, pierced up to date…”

Full of self-mockery, Martin Steffens evokes his questions and his continual questioning, proof of his desire to be attentive and involved in his role as a parent. “All the fathers are off the mark. More or less. But there is a way of being, with stubbornness and benevolence, which will touch the child. Because if no father is perfect, each father can at least be present. » Fatherhood, he says, is moreover less a know-how than a know-not-to-do, which must be accepted.

(1) True love, Ed. Salvator, 144 pages, €16

(2) Ed. Salvador, 139 pages, €9.90

(3) Thistle, O.; Daguet, F.; Lives, E. 2008. “Single Parent Families. Difficulties in working and finding housing”, Insee première, n° 1195, June,


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