Don’t Give up Dad!
5 challenges to men facing divorce
Father’s were once young boys who were told that making a mistake looks bad – better do something you know you can succeed at than let others see you are weak. Piggy backing this belief, father’s grew up with the story that mother’s are better parents than father’s.
They were once young men who were told that they must become rich and be able to provide for a family despite the cost to their dreams and livelihood. Somewhere along the way we worked so hard, and forgot we are an equal part of the parenting dyad. We forgot that our dreams allow our children to build their own.
Father’s were children who, when their parent’s divorced, were often told they were better off with their mom.
They were once adults, who were told to give up on their dreams for the sake of their family and relationships.
Father’s were men who were always given more options to give up, rather than succeed.
The twentieth century drove fathers from parenting, from their dreams, and further from themselves than they have ever been. We’ve given up on them, and taught them to give up in return.
Memories sledge me in the gut.
My biological mother took me from my father before I was one, and hid with me in the mountains. My father was forced to decide whether he would give up on me, or not.
I am a father of three beautiful boys. The first two, identical twins, were born without my knowledge (I got a phone call in the week after they were born by a third party). My partner at the time told me if I had anything to do with the children, she would break up with me. She wanted me to give up on them.
Then, after a recent, terrible separation with the woman I married, I have two lawyers in two different countries, and am stepping into a realm of custody, divorce, and strategic warfare against the very person I shared love with for many years; our little one caught between the crossfire, sending me into pangs of guilt and distress.
Many have told me to just give up.
- “See him when he’s eighteen and you can start a relationship when he’s older.”
- “The mother is the primary care giver. That’s what he needs. Just focus on your work.”
- “Do whatever you can to save the relationship, so you don’t grow up without the child.” (I was mentally, emotionally, and physically abused during this relationship)
- “You don’t stand a chance, she is the mother and he is young.”
However, a vanguard of men are stepping forward and saying,
“hey, we are caring beings, we want to provide an influence in our children’s lives, and we’re not longer interested in looking in from the outside.”
Count me among them.
Men and Fathers are now in a double bind. If they do not become rich, follow their creative passions, feel and communicate their feelings, and spend more time at home, they are not seen as men. These men are often abused. If they do become wealthy and invest their time in their work then they are labeled as abandoners, “not family men”, who spend too much time away from home, absorbed in their job.
If a man and his wife separate, he is an abandoner if he gives up custody. If he does not give up custody, he is made aware that he is infringing on the mother-child relationship, and is “punished” by having to pay.
A father’s wallet has become more valuable than his time with the children.
We need to dream a new reality where both mother’s and father’s are empowered into their equally important roles. Here are my challenges toward Father’s who feel stuck, who look in from the outside:
Inheritance of Avoidance:
Practice a daily awareness that your reluctance to dive into the lives of your children does not necessarily mean you do not want to be a father. Know that you have inherited generations of fatherly attitudes that say your emotions are dangerous and you have little right to intrude on the mother-child relationship. Your child is half you, and if they want to know themselves, and indeed they will have to in order to grow and thrive in life, then without question, knowing you is a great thing.
Know you are Safe:
Because most fathers have not learned to share their emotions (another inheritance), sometimes those bodily charges can build up. Sometimes we get angry and shout. Just because your emotions are uncontrolled at some points, does not mean your child is not safe with you. In fact, a deep connection with your child goes lengths to reducing that charge. Just because you are a man, does not mean you are innately dangerous.
You are a victim too:
Even though parts of society and extremists will deny you this side of the spectrum. Many courts these days, fortunately, opt for an equal share of children. Having gone through lawyers both as a child and as a separated man, I am learning that I do have rights. When I get discouraged I see my son looking up at me saying, “don’t give up Dad. I need you.”
Don’t give up:
There may only be a small opening, a hidden path among the thorns of abandonment, that leads to staying engaged. The way you approach your child and his/her right to see you, is indicative of how you pursue your dreams in the world. If you have given up on them then it is easier to give up on your child. If you fight for your dreams, and find a way to deliver your gifts into the world, then you will also creatively find a way to have your child in your life. Find the one path that keeps connection alive, both to your calling and your children. This small path is your unique destiny.
Keep an open heart:
Your ex partner is the last person on your favorite list. But just because they may be trying to keep you out of the picture, does not mean you should keep them out of yours. Build some new neuro-pathways and hold them with love in your heart. Make sure your child knows that the other parent always has a place in conversations. Know, that from the standpoint of growth, this other person represents a challenge to grow out of old ways of thinking into new paths of harmony. Open your heart to the love that comes out of this social and familial activism.
How have you, as both men and women, been challenged to give up? How have you given up? How have you stood for what you believe in? Success stories? Failure stories? I’d love to hear them!