Started by neonsamurai, Jun 21, 2007, 01:19 AM
June 19, 2007Need a child-friendly dad? Then get divorcedSarah Tucker I am a single mum, divorced, with one son. Every other weekend I have two days to myself (useful for catching up with stuff) because Tom is with his father. This, along with alternate Christmases and Easters and several weeks in the summer, is part of the arrangement I have with my exhusband. He never misses an appointment, is rarely late and, when he can, accompanies Tom to rugby and karate. Now take my friend Hannah, who is married with two children. Her husband is always travelling, always late for supper, has never taken the kids to weekend football in his life, and the one time that he was asked to leave work early because one of the children was sick he sulked for a month. Tom's dad may never be there to tuck him into bed in our home, but Hannah's children rarely see their father either. There is surely something awry when divorced mothers get more support and active involvement from the fathers of their children than the married ones.I'm not advocating the break-up of families, yet separation, and the realisation by (usually) fathers that the only way they will sustain a relationship with their children is by turning up on time and looking after them alone, certainly has its upsides. There are noteworthy exceptions to the reluctant dad, with the father being as proactive as the mother in parental duties -- collecting and delivering to school, taking and collecting from clubs, attending to sick children, preparing meals, bath and bedtimes -- but they are noteworthy because they are rare. I've probably got it better than most married mothers, because not only do I get every other weekend off, but my exhusband pays the maintenance, and I never have to listen to what a tough day he's had at the office. I have the bulk of the responsibility, but I'm aware of it and happy to do it, and it seems that I don't have another (grown-up) child to look after in the same way that Hannah or any of my married friends have.In most of the families I know, fathers are still predominantly the absent parent, regardless of income, class or faith. Even if the wife has a high-paying job, the husband doesn't share the domestic tasks; it's more likely to be the nanny, au pair or grandmother. It seems that too many dads are still cherry-picking the best bits of their offspring's childhood -- the trips to the park, football matches -- conveniently using work commitments as a way out of evening parental duties. They spend more time at the office than they need to because it is less exhausting than going home to put children to bed. Until they get divorced. Then, if they are to take their parental duties seriously, they must get organised. That means leaving work on time if it is their turn to have the children; it means arranging holidays months in advance. It might even entail asking one's employer for some flexibility. Women are also complicit. They might even encourage the single-mother syndrome, setting fortress-like boundaries around the kitchen and childcare, becoming control freaks in their attitude to duties that they see as their responsibility, and being only too happy to exclude men from their domain. We are all also guilty of copying, however unconsciously, the patterns of our own upbringing when fewer mothers went out to work. A friend, Helen, is married with three children. She does not complain, but her experience is all too typical. "I've given up trying to get my husband to help more with the children," she says. "If I do take a step back at any time, he finds a way to delegate the responsibility. When I went on a break with two friends last weekend all the dads took our kids to their parents' and the grannies looked after them for the two days while the men played golf and watched football. When we returned and said they had wasted an opportunity they argued that it was healthy for children to spend time with their grandparents." So what's the answer? It can't surely be to encourage women to boot their partners out, thus putting them in a position where they are forced to look after their children? Fathers must be made to feel important, that their presence is vital for the child's well-being. It's too easy for them to fall back into the comfortable role of the father who is either a remote disciplinarian or the parent with whom the children have fun, leaving the mother to handle the day-to-day stuff. It's ashame as, given the chance, fathers learn as much from their children as their children do from them, and parenting is one of the greatest life lessons that we will ever be granted. Perhaps it's just a matter of priorities. I have found parenting the most rewarding thing I've done, especially now that I can share it evenly with my child's committed father. *The Playground Mafia by Sarah Tucker, Arrow Books, £6.99
There are noteworthy exceptions to the reluctant dad, with the father being as proactive as the mother in parental duties -- collecting and delivering to school, taking and collecting from clubs, attending to sick children, preparing meals, bath and bedtimes -- but they are noteworthy because they are rare. I've probably got it better than most married mothers, because not only do I get every other weekend off, but my exhusband pays the maintenance, and I never have to listen to what a tough day he's had at the office. I have the bulk of the responsibility, but I'm aware of it and happy to do it, and it seems that I don't have another (grown-up) child to look after in the same way that Hannah or any of my married friends have.
separation, and the realisation by (usually) fathers that the only way they will sustain a relationship with their children is by turning up on time and looking after them alone, certainly has its upsides.
In terms of western child-care, I wonder if there is a paralell with dog-ownership. Some dog owners are completely irresponsible; they don't train their animal to behave, they don't discipline it nor do they provide tasks it should do to keep its mind occupied. They pay for their selfish negligence with an animal that requires near-constant attention, which is, of course, exhausting. But it isn't because dog ownership is innately exhausting, it's because it's easy to get lazy and revolve the relationship with the dog around your own needs rather then its.
I think there's a very good paralell between parenting and dog ownership Typhonblue...I dont see much difference...Garbage in/ garbage out
Top tips for divorced dads1 Be committed to being a great divorced dad. If necessary, and if the children are old enough, make and sign a divorced dad contract with them laying out your mutual responsibilities. This way, they will feel secure about what to expect in what will be a big change for everyone. 2 Identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on the weaknesses. 3 Put your children first all the time. Make sure they know the divorce was not their fault and that you are a team. 4 Make the time you spend with your children quality time, and establish routines and household rules. 5 No matter what, try to respect your ex-wife even if she does not respect you. Your children will appreciate it, because she is still their mother. The sooner you both learn mutual respect, the faster you'll recover from the divorce and the better it will be for the children. 6 Never be frightened of "failing" or asking for help. There are hundreds of thousands of divorced dads out there all feeling the same as you. Parenting is something we all learn as we go along. 7 Expect the unexpected. 8 Look after yourself. 9 Be aware that divorce affects people differently. The woman you married is now not the woman you are divorcing, so do not rise to the bait if she tries to cause problems postdivorce and never argue with her in front of the children. Nor must you deliberately upset her. Keep it civil and simple. 10 Love your children and be there for them. Top tips on making a new home for your children1 Within your budget, buy or rent a property with space to give the children a sense of belonging and security. 2 Negotiate with your ex to split the children's toys, furniture and other items so some of their favourites are at Mum's house and some at Dad's house. 3 Young children (under the age of 5) need and like consistency so if possible keep consistency with the family home - for example, buy the same night light that Mum has taken to their new home for them. 4 Give older children a budget to decorate their room, or to buy new toiletries to stay at your house. Within reason, let them help to create their new second home. 5 Your children's involvement is crucial, so ensure that you ask for their input. They should know this is their other home. 6 Allow them to leave things at your house. It is their way of saying: "I am your child and I belong here too." 7 Ensure that your house is child-safe. 8 Don't let a sense of guilt lead you to spoil the children with material possessions. 9 Regularly use a checklist for items you need to replace or add as the children grow. 10 Respect older children's privacy. 11 Ensure that your home is decorated in a way that makes the children feel that they belong. 12 Keep a photo of your ex in an album so the children can see it if they wish to. Can Mum see my room?No matter what age, children will be proud of special things and this includes their rooms. When your children start living between two homes they may ask if their mum can see their room or something else in your home. This is a question that needs to be handled carefully. You may wish to protect your privacy if it has been a particularly acrimonious split. However, if you get on with your ex and you can be sure that if she visits the house she won't criticise, then consider letting her visit to grant the child's request. If there is still acrimony between you and your ex-wife consider taking some photographs of your child in their room that they can show their mum and friends. This shows your child that you have a level of flexibility and put their needs first. But make sure that your ex understands that the photos have been taken for the child's benefit or she might mistake the gesture as you showing off. If your ex asks to see your home and the children's room and you are having difficulties with her, it might be best not to allow her in. Tell her that you will respect her privacy and that she must respect yours. The reason for this is that she is likely to find fault with your home. If it comes up in legal letters, offer a third party to view the property, which will protect your privacy. If it is in the court orders that she can inspect your home, you could and should request a reciprocal arrangement. Discuss this with your lawyer and again consider a third-party presence.