The Disempowered Father

Like many women, I have children to two different men.
And I have dated and been in relationships with men who have children with previous partners.
It seems to be the modern pattern, and the older we get, the more you can pretty much guarantee that blended families are going to be part of any dating scenario, with all the potential pittfalls and challenges that brings.
One of the pittfalls is that, in Australia, the men get screwed in the scenarios.
Its one of the few areas in our misogynistic society that seems to be totally rigged towards the mothers.
Yes, I hear many you out there crying out about deadbeat Dads who don't pay child support or spend any time with their children.
But there is a whole side to the story.
And a whole group of caring loyal men who really love their kids and want to be part of their lives.

I've seen it happen to two of my partners now, as well as to other close male friends. All of these guys are basically decent, caring human beings.
And Ive watched and listened to them become more and more distraught and even suicidal as they attempted to get through the nightmare of having to fight for the right to be parents to their own kids. And Ive seen them lose.
And in the breakup in each case, the women decided they wanted complete custody of the kids and used whatever means they could find to screw their ex partners over in the process.
They took them to the cleaners financially, claimed and one occupancy and ownership of the family home, and basically felt totally entitled to do this as "After all THEY were THE MOTHER which meant they and they alone knew what was best for their children.
I have now had 2 men crying in my arms through courtcases and painful access visits. I have watched decent caring men be accused of everything from emotional to physical abuse by their exes, in a blatant play for sole custody, power and even access to full single parent benefits.
And it's horrified me.
Of course there is always a story behind it. The ruins of a relationship where neither felt they were being heard, appreciated and cared for. And yes, it is often really hard for the women. Our Men aren't taught how to communicate, how to show feelings, how to listen to their partners...and yes, they often also don't know how to connect to their children in the same way that women do. Our society doesn't teach men to be good partners or fathers. They are taught to be tough, cool, and self reliant. And the newly empowered women want more than they know how to give.
However.... we women play a part in this. I experienced myself how easy it is to let a father be pushed to the sidelines with a new baby. As a mother you learn how to respond to their cries, how to hold them and comfort them, and as they grow older, since it usually makes most sense for the mother to do the bulk of the child rearing while the father goes off to work, we become the hub of the household. And it is SOOOO easy to judge the men for not knowing how to do things...to cook properly, to clean, and yes, how to interact with the kids the way we do.
And we push them aside and take over, belittle their attempts to play rough with the kids and mistrust their abilities to look after them on their own. Effectively disempowering them within their own homes.

And even if the men manage to work around this, overcome their own lack of taught parenting skills and find the soft sides within themselves, maybe even make the challenging choice to be stay at home Dads, or at least take on half of the childrearing, cooking and cleaning...often it will still be an imbalanced scenario, with the women will still feel the need to cling to their image of themselves as the "proper parent", the "Mother who knows best" and has the final say on all child related decisions and the men taking the easy path of leaving it up to her and being "second leutenant" rather than joint leader as one friend put it to me. In our patriarchal society, one of the few realms where women still feel acknowledged and empowered, is as mothers. And while we may want and crave equality, it is hard for many women who feel they have little power in other areas of their lives, to actually make space for their partners and share this roll.
When the relationship goes sour, the power imbalance comes back to bite them in the bum. With the full back up of a completely biased court system that almost invariably rules in favour of the mother being the prime custodian. The only cases where this doesnt happen, is if the mother is a provably dangerous and incompetent drug addict with visible mental health problems.
And the men are left with a huge financial loss through hiring lawyers, costly and emotionally draining court battles, and in the end, limited access to the kids, even more limited ability to have a say in the childrens day to day lives, financial hardship, the loss of their house and home, and ongoing child support costs to support a woman they have grown to hate and resent living in what used to be their home.

The cost to these men in huge. It also completely destroys their capability to trust women and form new bonds with other partners.
But beyond that, the effect that it has on the children is really awful. Instead of learning to respect men, they get to see the example of their parents fighting with each other, and fathers being kicked out and becoming either weird "weekend Dads" living in small cheap appartments trying desperately to entertain their kids in this strange place, too afraid to enforce any real rules or sense of normal family life, because they have so little time and space to offer the kids, they feel the need to make it "special" to keep a place in their childrens lives...

We are raising new generations of fatherless children. It is becoming the new norm for kids to grow up with one mother, and a satelite father around the edges.

Comments

Popular Posts