Sunday, December 27, 2009

Equal Rights for Fathers

As often happens in the single parent group I am a part of in yahoo, there is a heated argument going on about single father's rights. This was brought on by a man that was complaining about being forced by the courts to get a full time job rather than the part time one he currently has so he could pay more child support. A debate insued in the group and after staying out of it for some time I posted the following post and I think it fits good on my blog so here it is...just copy and pasted.

A wise man once said that only the foolish or stupidly courageous of men get involved in a fight between two women.  Who said that?  I don't know but if it was said, it was a wise man that said it! Actually, I made that up, but it is good advice that I am about to take my life in my hands and ignore. lol  I think this particular argument has gone on long enough without any meaningful input from an actual single dad, so here I go.
Before I continue, I wish to make it clear that I am not speaking for all single dads.  I am speaking for myself, and my views on this matter and what I am understanding from what each side is saying.  Now granted, men are not supposed to understand women, that dumb ass look we have when you talk to us?  It is not a show or make believe...most of the time we really don't have a clue what you are saying...the reason our looks trail downwards?  Well when we can't understand you our brain does a hard reboot and goes for what we DO understand...your boobies!  (jk...just trying to lighten the mood a little bit here)  But I wish to make that clear because I am about to say some thing that is bound to piss somebody of either gender off and I might as well make it clear that this is my personal are welcome to delete this point at anytime and my wittle heart will not be broken one bit.  Furthermore, if there are any single dad's out there that disagree with me, then take this fight where it SHOULD be..between single dad's.
One more point to be made...I am a single father.  I actually have the somewhat unique (by no means exclusive) situation of being both a custodial father, of my youngest daughter from my second marriage that is 5 years old.  Her mother left the country almost three years ago and has almost no contact at all since.  I am also a non custodial father, of my oldest two children that live with their mother almost 22 hour drive away.  Saying this I have not only a little bit of a unique situation but also a little bit of unique perspective.  I work, I pay my child support, I keep insurance on my kids.  I do the things that that both a non custodial parent and a custodial parent do.  So at least hear me out before you blow your stack.
So here goes nothing....*makes the sign of the cross and dives in*
(1)  Ignoring the situation only worsens it.
Ok....First to Michelle.  I do not know if you are stating that there is not a bias against fathers in our system.  But that seems to be the root accusation being made here, as well as an accusation of criticizing single fathers (and women defending them) for saying that there is a problem.  I am neither accusing or acquitting you of the accusations.  Instead I will deal directly with the issue at hand. 
There is a definite bias when it comes to the courts and the system when it comes to single fathers.  Now the reasons for this bias I will deal with further in the post, but there is no question that the bias is there.  It has improved some, even in just the seven years since my divorce.  But the truth is there is still a bias in the court system on who they believe is naturally a better parent.  Most would assume that the mother is, regardless of the facts at hand.  A lot of psychology goes into that perspective that is so prevalent in our country today.  Even men who are judges are biased toward the mothers, and it once again comes down to, they had good mothers and their dad was always busy working so they see mothers as nurturers and they don't realize how much times have changed.
I suffered first hand from this bias when I went through my divorce and when I went through the custody fight.  It did not matter that I had been a faithful husband, that I was working almost 60 hours a week to provide for my family.  It did not matter that she was a slut, quite literally, and a pig that didn't cook clean or take care of her responsibility.  None of that mattered, none of that even came into discussion.  She was the mother and the children are better off with the mother.  Now in retrospect more came into play in that decision and I will get into that also further in the post. 
The very fact that "alimony" is culturally seen as a man paying the woman money outside of child support for whatever reason (years ago when adultery and such were the reason for divorce some courts would force the man to pay alimony to the woman, but very rarely was it enforced in reverse), the very fact that many women see the court as their means to get back at him, while most men would prefer to settle out of court, tells us that through logical deduction people, in general, see the courts as more mother friendly than father friendly.
So, just to make it clear, there is a problem, and it does need attention and it does need to be worked on and reformed.  So in that respect I will say that if you are saying the problem doe not exist...then you are wrong.
(2) Perpetuating the victim mentality only perpetuates the victim.
Terri...I believe, however, that the argument being made is not whether or not there is a problem.  I believe the argument being made is the attitude and approach to it.  I will say this as clearly as possible, I do not promote or encourage a victim attitude when it comes to this problem.  As long as a person is a victim, they can never conquer the situation.  Are many dad's on the short end of the stick? Absolutely!  But they need to take that adversity and use it as a motivation to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make it happen.  I will speak from personal experience.  I felt cheated, I felt abused and I felt victimized by my divorce.  I felt my children were yanked out of my life and I out of theirs.  I sulked and struggled and bad mouthed her, the courts and the world in general.  Then one day I realized that I was reacting...and not acting.  I made a lot of choices in those days that I wish I could do over.  Then the day came that I was tired of being controlled by the situation. 
I sat down, did a lot of thinking and soul searching and I wrote this down...something that is the guiding compass of my life:  Life is neither chance nor circumstance...It is choice.  I can fly as high as I dare and go as far as I choose, only I can defeat myself.  Then I set about acting on that thought.  My first "act" was to call a school ad go back to school for my degree.  Now adding school to my life was not easy, but I was determined that if I had to lose my children, and pay that witch money every month, then by god I was gonna better my life so (a) I could provide a good life for my kids whether they were with me or not and (b) she could get her cut every month, and I could still live comfortably and look myself in the eye every morning when I shave.  Have I reached those goals yet? NO! Not by a long shot, but they are still my goal.  I may grouse and whine, I may struggle through the holidays...but I am no woman's victim!  I am no judge's victim...I am NOT a victim.  I refuse to be one.
The problem with too many of these so called "support groups" for single fathers, is that they spend more time on the negative and they perpetuate the victim by perpetuating the victim mentality.  Guys, it is not easy being a single dad.  The system IS sometimes stacked against you.  But talking about the problem and doing something about the problem are two different things...and only you can decide which side of the spectrum you are going to be on. 
(3) Understanding the root of the problem.
Having established that there IS a problem let us consider the reason for that problem.  Why is it that the courts, and generally society as whole, is biased towards the mother?  I have several reasons I would like to propose for your consideration:
(a) Social Structure-Through the social development of our culture there has been a very Judeo-Christian view of the home and its structure.  This mentality was very pervasive until recent years where society is changing and more secular views are beginning to take prominence.  In this view of the home, the mother was the caretaker and nurturer while the father was the bread winner.  Now this leads to a very biased view on the part of the child.  Because mommy is the one that cuddles, fixes the booboos and sets the food on the table, does the laundry, etc.  Children, being the self centered creatures they are by nature, see what mom does and instinctively and really inevitably are bound closer to mom than they are dad.  Now dad, under this social structure, is the provider.  He works long hours,comes home eats and rests, goes out the next day and does it again.  He pays the bills and such, but those are things that are beyond the child's comprehension.  If the child had to choose between the one that keeps the power on and the one that holds him at night when he is sick, he will always choose the one that holds him at night when he is sick because the concept of money, bills, etc. is an abstract one that they do not comprehend and frankly don't care about.  Because of this the people in positions that make the decisions in these courts are people that are still from that day and time.  Now I may be going to much in depth into the issue of social structure, but understand, that little boy grows up to be the judge presiding your case, and in his fondest memories, mommy was the one that took care of him, it is natural for there to be a little bias.  Is it right? Is it fair? NO! It isn't...but that doesn't change the reality of it.
Men today suffer from the very social status that led to the feminine rights movement, but in reverse.  Hear me out.  Women were unable to break into the work force, that was the 'breadwinners' world-men.  They had a glass ceiling.  They became active and times are changing.  Look at this last election where we very nearly had a woman as presidential candidate.  Men face the same stigma but in reverse.  We have a social battle to prove that we can be effective single parents.  We have to fight for equal rights to our kids.  Is not that hard a concept to grasp that in both cases it is the social structure that is embedded in our culture that leads to both fights.  And us men would do well to learn from the feminist movement in order to further our cause for equal rights as parents.
(b) Dead beat dads-Let's face it dads...we have not helped ourselves much in this whole situation either.  Dad's that refuse to get involved.  Dad's that abuse their children.  Dad's that spend more time with the buddies and drinking.  Dad's that would rather stay unemployed rather than pay that any money.  These classic stereotype dads have not helped our case any!  I am not saying any of us here are any of those things.  I am just saying that these judges see enough of it to automatically be biased against dad's and the burden of proof lies on the dad, rather than the mother.  Now just because this is not fair and is not right does not change the reality of the is what it is and bitching and moaning about it does nothing other than waste energy that could be better spent elsewhere.  Sometimes I read some of the posts of single moms in this group and just wince...and wish I could take that bastard out behind some woodshed and beat the shit out of him...because it is dad's like that that have put the rest of us in the situation we are in.
I work in the emergency room of a hospital as registration.  And I can attest to the human nature of assuming the worse because of past experience.  I can look at a patient sheet and it says they are there for a headache and I assume a couple of things...they have medicaid, they are deadbeats that are unemployed and they are trash of whatever color or variety that it is.  Why? Because most hard working honest people take Tylenol or Motrin and find a way to deal with it.  Now there may be that occasional legitimate case that comes in and they deserve all the respect and sympathy because it is a serious thing, but when I look at those sheets night after night and am proven right night after night, that poor soul that is legitimate to often is lumped in with the rest because of the experience I have been through.  This is too often the case in the courts, sadly enough.
(c) Personnel involved-When I call the friends of the court in the State of Michigan, I have come to one conclusion...they are all women!  I have been dealing with them now going on eight years and in all that time of contacting the FotC (Friends of the Court...since I am lazy) offices in two counties as well as the child support offices in the capital I have yet to talk to ONE single man.  I have occasionally groused after hanging up the phone with one ol bitty that was particularly nonchalant and uncaring that it is just a bunch of of bitter women taking revenge on their exs vicariously through the fathers that call.  There is a bit of a gender bias in these offices.  You can go to your local DFACS office, and with VERY VERY few exceptions they are all women.  Now lets face it ladies, while you may agree that single fathers can be good parents and efficient parents, if you do not feel it now, at some point in the past you have felt that nothing beats the care of a mother...because you are a good mother and there is a pervasive mentality that there is a natural instinct in mothers and they are usually the better parent. 
And to a point you are right.  I believe a mother has a natural instinct in her genetic code that makes her kisses work so much better than daddy's!  That there is a natural tendency to nurture that is not there in a dad.  Maybe it has to do with the bond during pregnancy, or the fact that most of us dad's were snoring while you were up at 3am feeding and changing diapers.  What it is I don't know but there is a magic there that we dad's do not come by naturally.  We have to work at developing it.
But getting back to the point I am making is that, be it because of that mentality in women about mother being the naturally nurturing parent, or be it just a bitter woman that thinks all men stink because hers did, women are the ones running and working these offices and cases, and that places a higher difficulty level for men to break through and prove they are as deserving or capable, sometimes MORE capable than the mother.
(d) Men tend to think with the wrong head.  I heard somebody once say that if God ever made a mistake, that mistake was to give men two heads and not enough blood to run both at the same time!  Now here come some harsh words that have to be looked at honestly and objectively.  Guys, lets be often our pride or our hormones get in the way and put us in a situation that we later regret, and are sometimes unable to admit to.  Let me explain by personal experience and some personal confession.
When my first wife and I separated, we separated because she was unfaithful multiple times.  I knew of at least two affairs and also knew she had tried to seduce my brother and also my best friend.  I was angry and hurt.  I had been faithful to the point of insulting to women.  I would not even ride in the car alone with another woman so nobody could SAY they had seen me alone with another woman.  My pride got involved and it was destined to be trouble.  After we separated I met this woman that I had talked to some online, she was coming from Australia for a visit and I thought I would get back at my soon to be ex with a little revenge F*!% Well, enter left stage wife number two.  We met spent a few weeks doing our thing and she ends up pregnant...funny how that whole things work...guess they knew what they were talking about in biology class after all!  Well, while I was busy off getting my revenge, she was busy filing for the divorce 22 hours away from where I lived...she was going against everything we had agreed on and filing for full custody.  Instead of me doing the smart thing, I went off half cocked with my wounded pride and I made some bad choices and she took advantage of them.  But who's fault is that really? Hers? Or Mine?  Frankly it is mine, and I had to swallow my pride, stop pointing the finger at her and face my mistakes and deal with the consequences.
I know, however, that I am not the only one with this kind of story.  It is a curse us men have and more often than not, if we were to stop being the victim in our own mind, and stop and look at our own actions and decisions we would realize we left ourselves open in the first place.  Is that a criticism of single dads? if Fathers left behind? no...that is a criticism of myself and an admission that made me a better person. 
(e)  Times have changed....but peoples mentality hasn't-All of these points brought together lead to this conclusion.  Times have changed.  I have seen many many situations where the mother was NOT the better choice but won anyway.  The problem is that society changes fluidly with generation to generation, but mentality and ideology does not.  The actions of mothers in many cases have changed, but the mentality that leads to the bias in their favor has not. 
(4) How to fix the problem.
It does no good to acknowledge a problem without proposing a solution to that problem.  So what should be done about this problem?
(a) Look in the mirror-First and foremost you must take an honest look at yourself dad.  Are you the kind of dad they are accusing you by assumption and stereo type?  And do this honestly.  One of the hardest things to do is to look at oneself critically.  I have room for improvement, this I know.  I get side tracked easily.  My hobby is World of Warcraft, and every now and then it takes my daughter coming in and saying "Daddy can we play" to realize, oh shit I did it again.  Don't play innocent.  You know damn well we all have things we need to fix.  I WAS that dad that was never involved in my kids life.  I lost them before I ever took the time to be a significant part of their life.  And I'll be damned if my stubborn ass didn't learn my lesson till I was left with a 3 year old girl and I went from being an uninvolved parent to the ONLY parent.  It was time to wake up and change for me.  I will say something that is very painful to admit....I did not deserve my kids from my first marriage when our divorce took place.  I was not abusive, was not violent, was not irresponsible...I was uninvolved.  I didn't know the first thing about real parenting and had no desire or interest in learning.  I have changed, but in order to do so I had to take a long honest look at myself.  I would like to think that I am now one of those dads that deserve to have their kids, and the system is stacked against me.  But if more dads will take the time to look at themselves and change, then we can littel by little prove by our example that we deserve equal consideration.
(b) Adjust your Attitude. Stop the victim bullshit!  Ok Fine! She won! Yay for her ,boohoo for you!  Life is tough dude, by a helmet!  Deal with it.  Pout for a few days because we all have that right and then get over it.  Do not give her the satisfaction of having you feel helpless and victimized.  Look to the future and what can you do to better yourself and your life.  I have a serious problem with the victim attitude that is so pervasive in our country.  Every body is a victim.  And victims deserve special treatment.  I don't want special treatment, I don't want to be a victim.  I don't want fights in group protecting my feelings because I am victimized by the system.  I want to know how I can look the system in the face and deal with it.  Don't pamper me, coddle me and/or treat me with kit gloves.  If I need a bucket of cold water tossed over my head to wake me up then by god have the balls to do so!  You are not helping me by protecting and sheltering me.
The post that started this all.  A single dad upset at the system.  I did not say much but this fight has gone on long enough so I am going to say it...Dude..stop whining about having to get a full time job.  It is what we do.  We work, we pay child support.  I show my kids the pay stubs so they know their dad is not a dead beat like their mom implies.  I am proud of the fact that I fulfill my responsibility.  I work hard.  I worked 18 hours on Christmas day so I could pay that money and still have some left over to take care of my own responsibilities.  Make it happen.  Sure we can all vent here, that is what this place is for.  And frankly if such a big deal had not been made I would have not said anything, I understand the need to vent.  "nuff said.
(c)Act...don't react.  "For what is a man, what has he got? if not himself, the he has not to say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels, the record show, I took the blows and did it my way."  Words from the song My Way (I prefer Frank Sinatra's version personally lol) Stand up and make choices man.  Too often us men react in anger and pride and we make a fine mess of it all...and then want to bitch and moan about how we got screwed...well buddy too often we screw ourselves!  Stop reacting to the situations and Act!  Life hands you a lemon make lemonade and drink it in life face and give a nice sigh of satisfaction when the damn thing is done.  Find what you can do to help.  Look at it as fight against an old fashion mentality, not a personal fight against your ex!
(d) Plan ahead...This one is very important to me.  I lost the custody fight with my ex.  She has done everything to keep me and the kids from developing a good relationship.  I have worked hard at it.  Quietly and respectfully I am winning their hearts.  She may have won them when they were young and had no choice in the matter, but with a combination of her actions and my behavior, when they reach an age that they can choose, I will win.  How can I be so confident?  Because it is already happening.  But it didn't happen UNTIL I changed my perspective...and decided if the courts felt she was a better parent, when I knew better...than I would step by determined step prove to my kids...the only people that matter to me... who and what I am...and as a result this last summer my 11 and 12 year old told me they want to come live with me.  That has taken time, patience and swallowing my pride.  I do not have them yet and I feel that they are not ready for the kind of legal battle that that would take.  But in the end she may have won the custody fight...but I am winning them..a reward that lasts long after they are of legal age.
I hope I did not offend anybody.  And I hope I did not overstep my bounds with the moderators. If I did I will accept whatever penalty you choose, up to and including clawing, scratching or loping off my head! Lol I did not want to get involved in this argument.  But I think us single dads should speak for ourselves more and not let the ladies be the only ones going to bat for us, or fighting about our rights, and how we feel about the father's rights movement.  And as I said at the beginning, it is just my opinion, you are more then welcome to disagree.



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