Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Clarification of Sorts Re: Father's Rights

In reading a couple of my comments and talking to people in my real life about this issue, I feel like I should clarify a few things. Yes, I know that not all father's are deadbeats; I know one really awesome single father who got custody of both of his kids, the house, and most of the couple's possessions because his wife was caught cheating on him with a high school student. He was also paid child support and alimony for a period of years, and was a great dad. I also know one other single dad whose situation was similar-though I cannot comment on his parenting as I know him only through my job, I do know that he won, so to speak.

But men like this are few and far between, which both statistics and my personal experience bear witness to. Of every single parent I know, which are too many to count, all but those two I mentioned above are women. And every one of those women I know have ex-partners who, after the divorce or breakup, conveniently forgot that they had children or any kind of responsibility to them. Every single mother that I know has to deal with the constant struggle for money due to the fact that they are raising one or more children with no help from their ex. Every one of them has had to deal with the emotional trauma done to children whose fathers who have either abandoned them or are only there for the fun things-Disneyland Dads are better than nothing, but they are not what children need and want in their lives. In addition, each one of us has to deal with the deadbeat dad laws that are really quite similar to restraining orders-not worth the paper they are written on. It's a Catch-22; sure, we can take our exes to court to get a judgement against them for non-payment of child support- a judgement against them which we know they aren't going to pay. Often, we cannot even do that because we don't know where they are, and in addition, where are we going to get the money to hire an attorney?

Discrimination is alive and well in this nation, which we all know. But here we are not talking about race or religion or sexual orientation, we are talking about discrimination against both our gender and our ability to be a parent to our children. When we hear something about single fathers, we automatically think, "Oh, the poor guy, what a great job he is doing raising his kids on his own," yet we single mothers have to hear things like, "Oh, you're a single parent. That explains a lot about why your son got into a fight today." We single moms have been blamed for much of the downfall of the economy because statistically speaking, we are the ones on welfare, we are the drain on society, we single and unwed mothers are raising kids who end up in prison because we can't do a good enough job. It doesn't seem like many people stop to think about why that is. Surely it can't be because we don't get hired for the jobs for which we are qualified because of our status as single moms; surely it has nothing to do with the fact that we make 40% of what men with equal education and experience do, or 60% what married-with or without children-women do with the same qualifications. So not only is our worth as parents questioned daily on a personal level, but our ability to perform work for which we have trained or gone to school is also questioned. Whether this is right or not is a moot point-this is the reality of the world in which we live, period.

I had a friend who died almost three years ago, leaving behind a husband and four kids. Regardless of the fact that he is a widow instead of a divorced man, he is a single parent. However, not only has he kept his job, but he has never experienced the problems that most single moms have to deal with. Instead of having the people he was close to abandoning him when things got tough, they brought dinner every night for at least a year for he and his children. He was able to hire a nanny until the twins were old enough to go to an all day pre-school/daycare. He still has people to this day who will drop everything and come running to his aid if ever he should need them. So tell me this: why is divorce any different? Why is it that we women are suddenly left with absolutely no resources, no support network, no sympathy, and no recourse? Believe me, I would far rather experience death than divorce; at least with a death, people surround you with love and support instead of closing the door and standing 50 feet back because it might be catching. They bring casseroles and loving arms to hold you when you cry; they offer to take your kids when they are sick because they know you can't lose your job. Also, with death, at least the kids have closure of a sort. Is it less damaging to have a child grow up knowing that mommy or daddy HAD to leave rather than have them wonder, every single day of their lives, where their other parent is, why they chose to leave, and what they did to make them not love them anymore? Please don't get me wrong when I say this-I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for this man raising his children without their mother, and as one of her closest friends, I am so grateful that he has the love and support he needs to make it through. I just wish that we women who have been left so totally to our own devices had a similar amount of support and caring-not just from people, but from our nation as a whole. I wish that people looked at me and saw all of the amazing things I do on a daily basis; I wish that the choices I make-every one of them based on what is in the best interests of my children-would be seen as wise and loving. I would love, just once in my life, have a teacher say, "You are doing such a great job; what can I do to HELP you," instead of assuming that a failing grade is somehow my fault.

I am not opposed in a moral or ethical sense to the idea that fathers have rights; I know there are some instances where the mother truly is a piece of shit and doesn't do the things the court has ordered her to do. But the fact that Mr. David Stone has his own law firm and obviously makes a very decent living at defending these so-called injured men almost makes me laugh-because all it does is prove that I am right; we moms don't have the option of hiring a fancy-schmancy attorney to fight for our rights, we don't have the ability to stand up and say, "This is not right," because we simply don't have the time, the resources, or frankly, the energy to do so. We are too busy raising our kids alone.

5 comments:

April said...

There is more of a stigma attached to being a single mom than a single dad. Because there are more single moms, our culture assumes that the single dad must've had a really bad wife. I wonder how many single dads get asked, "wouldn't it have been better for your children if you stayed together?"

The Immoral Matriarch said...

You know that they can get free lawyers thanks to this 'dad's rights' movement?

THAT is something I can't stand. It should be available to everyone - when I was facing custody suits [twice] no body wanted to cut me a f'in' break.

FreedomFirst said...

This whole issue just reminds me of how confusing my husband can be. I always appreciate his presence in the boys' lives, and when things are tough between us I always comfort myself with the thought that at least he is a good father to our kids. But he also has another son, now 7 years old, whom he never sees - at least to my knowledge. I think he pays child support, but that's not enough. It infuriates me that he doesn't spend time with his other son; and it's hard to reconcile when I try to tell myself that at least he's a good father.

Smirking Cat said...

I am a stepmom and have watched my significant other fight with everything he has to be able to be more than a "Disney dad" every other weekend. There are definitely 2 sides to this issue, and the discrimination fathers face is as real as any discrimination single mothers face. When a father wants to be an active dad, he pays for other men's irresponsibility by not being taken seriously, by being brushed off and dismissed, by not even being considered a "real" parent. He had to fight simply to be able to speak with the children's teachers! Every situation is different, I'm sure, but when a father truly wants to be the father everyone criticizes other men for not being, they are slapped in the face, which only denies the children from their relationship with him.

April said...

To Smirking Cat -

I can appreciate your frustration, and I know of 2 fathers who have also been shafted.

As frustrating as that may be, however, your husband's discrimination is far from equal. Your husband would not be denied a job as a "part-time" single parent, as many single mothers have been, and quite legally.

Personally, I'm afraid to leave my job because I am very lucky to work in a family-friendly environment that allows me to spend the time with my kids that I feel is necessary. We suffer financially because of that.

I also know of women who have had to file bankruptcy because of bills their deadbeats left behind.

This is not to take away from the emotional suffering that you mentioned, but just to provide your with some understanding of what discrimination can mean for single, full-time mothers.