It must be a mother thing. I don’t remember lying in bed worrying half the night when I was childless. That is probably because until I had kids I did not have a sober night to ponder or reflect. I spent my twenties drunk as a back packer, talking shit like a complete tosser until 5am. Now I spend my nights wide awake fretting about important issues:
Are tomato farmers pissed off with Charlie and Lola?
Will my 10 year old drown at her school swimming lessons and no one notices?
Is my face always going to look this tired, cranky and old?
Are we ever going to have political leaders with bravery and vision?
Is a Paddlepop a well-rounded meal on a Friday night when I’m exhausted?
“Any idiot can face a crisis – its day to day living that wears you out”
– Anton Chekov
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.