What Kelly Clarkson can teach us about fathers and marriage

Along with millions of viewers, I was moved to tears by Kelly Clarkson’s emotionally raw performance of her song, “Piece by Piece,” on American Idol on February 25. The following day, the song, which was originally released in November 2015, jumped to number one on iTunes, and just last week, Clarkson released a new Idol version.

“I definitely didn’t know how it would affect me like it does when I sing it live,” Clarkson, who is expecting her second child with husband, Brandon Blackstock, recently told Ryan Seacrest. “It’s awesome, but it’s kind of sad that so many relate to this song.”

With one out of every three children today growing up in father-absent homes, it is sad but not surprising that a song about father abandonment would resonate so strongly.

The song was inspired by Clarkson’s estranged father, who split after her parents’ bitter divorce when she was a little girl, and by her husband’s relationship with their daughter. In an interview with the Associated Press, Clarkson shared that having her daughter helped her “understand the depth of the loss” of her father’s absence. “I didn’t really . . . grasp what that was until falling in love with my husband and seeing him be a father and what that actually is when it’s done well,” she said.

Father-absence hurts. “Piece by Piece” could be considered a sequel to Clarkson’s previous hit about her parents’ divorce, “Because of You,” because it highlights a common consequence of family breakdown, father-absence.

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Alysse ElHage is a freelance writer, and Associate Director of Research at North Carolina Family Policy Council. Follow her on Twitter @AlysseElHage.