Today is Father’s Day and I’m missing my long dead dad. Reading happy family messages on social media on a day like today is tough, especially when you’re doing double duty. I’m loving my strong male mates who are showing up and working hard and being great dads by making their children their main priority. I’m not loving the dads who show off their kids at public social functions but aren’t there for the hard graft of parenting. A part of me wishes that men in Western society would take the men who decide to be deadbeat and Disneyland dads to task. Tiger Woods can treat his wife and kids like shit but still be awarded player of the year awards. In our society it’s even easy to get away with not paying for your kids. I don’t know if it’s the role of government to chase up sperm donors who are not declaring income and crying poor then taking their new families out for dinner and getting on with a newly invented life as though the children they had first are a part of their past that they don’t need to revisit. The Child Support Agency doesn’t seem to be highly effective. I’m not advocating a return to the strict moral code of the 1950s but a few conversations along the lines of ‘mate lift your game’ and ‘real men pay child support,’ I think would help us ladies struggling with bearing the full load of child rearing. Yes we chose to have our kids, but in most cases, no we didn’t deliberately choose boys masquerading as men who have relinquished their responsibilities to their children. Real men man up.
Another day, another break up of a ‘star’ marriage, be it Johnny Whatsit or a ‘celebrity’ personal trainer; these are the ‘men’ who walk away from their children and run to someone else who may be younger, or prettier and aren’t burdened with looking after his children. Meanwhile who takes the kids to school, helps with their homework, washes their sports uniforms? While the little boys are taking selfies with their girlfriends on red carpets and jetting off on fun holidays, the women who are left behind are the ones dedicating themselves to child rearing. What does it do to a teenage girl to see Daddy running off with someone young enough to be her elder sister? Yawn.
Are these the role models we want for our boys? Males who’ve been in relationships that lasted less time than a bottle of Morning Fresh detergent (that stuff lasts ages). Guys who can’t hang around when the going gets tough in a marriage? Ask anyone who has been married for a long time and they’ll tell you that the going gets tough at some point in a long term relationship. Good blokes can you have a word with your mates? Please tell them that kids need their dads. I don’t want to male bash, I know some fabulous fathers, but I’m not meeting a lot of deadbeat mummies. 32% of babies in the United States are born to single mothers, and in 2006 mothers headed 87% of one-parent families with children under 15 years in Australia.
Parenting isn’t glamorous, it isn’t fun a lot of the time, it’s about making tough decisions and showing kids there are boundaries to their behaviour. To do that you have to be in the same space as children. Being there for a kid means physically showing up, cleaning up their vomit in the middle of the night, sitting through school concerts even when you’re bored, showing kids that as a parent you want to be in their lives for all the important moments. Any monkey can take their children to a cafe. Fathers who think that going to a trendy hairdresser is more important than being with their kids are not attractive. Yes, the rules of the game are being redefined but parenting isn’t something you can opt in and out of and decide to sit out on the bench for a few years, you’re either there or you’re not. Kids are tough bosses, they notice when you don’t show up for parenting duty. I meet many teenagers with mental health issues, and troubled adolescents are being admitted to hospitals in greater numbers than ever before; I truly believe that family breakdown plays a part. A lot of these kids crave time with absent parents. As a survivor of domestic violence I’m not advocating staying in an abusive relationship forever, but I really don’t think modern men are trying hard enough to keep it together for the kids or themselves.
Divorce is painful for kids. So if your relationship is faltering from the burdens of modern life, not enough time or money or extended family to give you a break from the relentless pressure of work, child rearing, nursing ageing parents and paying the bills, get thee to a good counsellor.
All the research apparently says that kids from broken families do fine eventually. But there are a lot of tears, heartache and wasted energy between now and the mysterious destination called eventually.