Dads are Not Second-class Parents, Part 5: Perception & Paradigms

This installment of the Dads are Not Second-class Parents series came about in an interesting way. Back in July of 2008, I spoke about this topic on At Issue With Ben Merens, on Wisconsin Public Radio. Soon after, I received a call from the Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, a state run program. I was asked to be a guest speaker at one of their conferences, and this article is the result.

I recently had the honor of speaking with professionals that are dedicated to helping dads (both in-home and in various programs throughout the state) become better, more involved parents. After all was said and done, I realized this would make a good blog post…

Today I’ll be focusing on how dads are often perceived, drawing concepts from my article, ‘Dads are Not Second Class Parents.’

The question I have for you today is this:

How do we show fathers that they don’t have to be carbon copies of their fathers & grandfathers? How do we turn fathers into involved DADS who ARE ABLE to change a diaper, feed their children, care for them and nurture them. That they are able to teach their kids their numbers, letters, virtues, morality and integrity. Show them compassion.

This is not to say that moms are less capable to do these things — this is just to say that WE are as capable as moms to do them.

We are not a stereotype. Working men whose duty it is to make the money, deposit the checks and the sperm. WE ARE PARENTS. We are modern day dads.

I have been told by a close family member, something that troubled me very much. Let me tell you a little story…

There was a time where I worked from home as a freelance writer. For the first year and a half of my oldest son’s life. I was able to make my own schedule, and spend a lot of time with my son. Day in and day out, I fully shared the parenting with my wife. And I was making good money.

One day, at a birthday party for a cousin, I was speaking about raising my son. I can’t remember exactly what I was speaking about. But what I do remember is being told, “you know Joe, it’s not your job to raise this child. It’s your job to make the money and provide financially. It’s your wife’s job to raise this child.” It was also mentioned that I should be going to an office like everybody else to earn a living, not working from home.

Needless to say, I was VERY, VERY upset by this comment.

Now imagine hearing “you shouldn’t be raising your child,” from family and the community. You turn on the TV and dads, if they’re even around, are bumbling idiots or sitting in the background pouring themselves a cup of coffee – while mom makes the dinner, works a full-time job, changes the diapers, cleans the house and discovers a cure for blindness — all at the same time!

Not only does this insult dads, the ones who actually DO all these things themselves, but it also sets a very low standard for fathers who do not. It perpetuates a problem where everybody loses.

What I’m saying is, when this kind of perception or paradigm BLEEDS in from TV, magazines, society, family — the message is pretty clear. I am lucky enough that my wife has always been supportive and agrees that we should be parenting together. But what about the dad who does not have this type of wife? Who’s surrounded and pressured by old-school thinking?

What else is HE supposed to believe? How can he know any better?

I’m from NY, I’ve been raised in a progressive environment. What about someone who comes from a small town, where these progressive thoughts do not exist? Or the dad who doesn’t know he has choices, because he’s never been introduced to them? How are they supposed to know they have a choice when they’re being told:
MAKE THE MONEY, THAT’S YOUR JOB.

It’s all about perception. How dads are perceived vs. who they really are. Sometimes the perception of a dad — even just calling him a father vs. a dad (there’s a difference) — sometimes this perception causes him to feel isolated AS IF he’s on an island, as if he has no support, because he can’t find any! There are no magazines geared towards dads, no acceptable venue for us to speak about what’s on our minds, what we’re struggling with.

Could you imaging the reaction a dad might receive if he walked into work and told his coworkers that he cried on the car ride in because he missed his kids? What would you think of a man that said this? Would you judge him, or respect him?

It’s the same with women who were prejudiced against for years and years. They weren’t allowed to vote, then they could vote. It was very difficult to become an executive, now their presence as an executive is much more prevalent. Now, although the battle is not over, there is much more equality. But it has taken decades in order for women to reach a point where they can feel somewhat respected and treated equally to men.

Do you think for a moment that women were not capable of voting? Or making executive decisions? Of course they were capable. But they needed a movement to overcome the obstacles laid before them.

Now is the time for an equal rights movement for dads.

This is the main reason I started blogging. It’s why Daddy Brain exists. To help build a community for dads who don’t have one. To let them know that it’s OK to be feeling whatever it is they are feeling. That they are not alone.

You too can do this, if you haven’t already started.

Before we can help dad, first we need to understand him, and what he THINKS his role is. If we can connect with him, the input he receives from us could very well change his life. I’d like to turn this conversation over to you, to discuss what your major problems are in doing this. And what you have found that works well to engage dad and help him take his place as a true parent.

And remember, you are not alone…

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story?

Family Blogs
blog

Divorced Dad: An Interview with Derek, Part 2

divorce1Welcome back to my interview with Derek, a divorced dad of two.

Click here to read Part 1 if you missed it.

DB: What is it like trying to have a relationship? How much more difficult is it now that you have kids?

Derek: Having a relationship is much more difficult with kids involved. First of all the person that you are dating isn’t really your number one person in your life, your kids are.

If I would have a date planned or the kids have something going on that I want to be at, say a school event, the woman I am dating takes a back seat to them. Of course if the relationship was progressed to a level where the kids have met her and feel comfortable, then she would get an invite to come with me to the event.

So if I choose to be in a relationship then the woman first of all needs to enjoy kids in general and can’t be to needy or jealous of the time that I spend with my children, without her. When I decided to have a relationship after my divorce, I wanted to fined a woman that loved kids — that either had her own kids, or was willing to get to know my kids.

So before anything else I need to know those things otherwise it isn’t going to work. My schedule revolves around my kids, then my girlfriend which makes it hard to have a relationship at times. So planning things can get hard at times especially if it’s spur of the moments things. It also helps to date someone that is in the same stage of life as you are, mainly because they will have friends that will have kids usually around the same age.

DB: Your significant other also has a child. It seems like planning a life together is exponentially more difficult and complicated. How do you do it? Do you have any advice for other divorced dads?

Derek: Right now my girlfriend and I have not done anything together with our kids. So when I have my kids and she has hers we do our own thing. We are currently planning to start doing things together so I would probably be able to answer that question better then.

DB: What is the hardest part of being divorced?

Derek: I would say finances have been the hardest part to manage. With all the money you have to pay the lawyers and your ex spouse it really makes things hard to be able to afford to do certain things. But I would say that is the most stressful, and I will see better days as time goes on.

The hardest part for me is not seeing my kids enough — every other weekend during the school year is not enough! I travel on my non-weekends to see them but it’s a lot of running around on my part, which is very tiresome.

DB: What is the easiest?

Derek: Is there an easy part of being a parent? Regardless if you are married or not? I would say no, but the most enjoyable part is the time I have with them, even if it is not enough.

DB: If you could have the children full time, would you do it?

Derek: Without a doubt I would have my kid’s full time. No question asked.

DB: Do you feel you are still making a substantial impact on your kids lives? Or is your influence undermined by your ex?

Derek: Well to be honest with you I do feel as if I am making in substantial impact on their lives. But I do feel that my ex in some way will always undermine me. It’s really hard because if I don’t ask what is going on with them at her house I will never know. I have been the one to communicate issues that we need to work on with them in both households but she seems to not really think they are big enough issues to concern her.

She always thinks she has the upper hand in everything when it comes to the kids’ issues and what’s best for them.

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I’d like to thank Derek for sharing, and you for reading.

If you have a story or situation you’d like to share, let me know.

And remeber, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Fathers Help Hotline
Child Support Savings
Fathers For Justice

Divorced Dad: An Interview with Derek

divorce1One of the main goals of Daddy Brain is to help build community with other dads. Part of this process includes giving dads who don’t have a blog the chance to be heard. It’s always a great honor when a dad agrees to carve out some time in his schedule to share his story with us.

Derek and I have known each other for about two years now, and over the past year or so we’ve become pretty good friends. He’s a divorced dad with two kids (5 & 7 years old), and he’s been divorced since June of 2007. Derek has been kind enough to answer some questions about being a modern day divorced dad. This is his story…

Daddy Brain: Can you describe to me what it was like after you and your ex-wife decided to get divorced?

Derek: It was a relief for me mentally to finally have made the decision…well at that point it was a mutual decision. Every week was different as far as the emotions that I went through, and I second-guessed it all. I wondered if I could do everything on my own and be a good dad.

We set up a schedule for the kids to come see me, every other weekend. The first couple of months, when I would pick up the kids, my ex wife was very angry with me   sometimes yelling or saying certain things about the situation. Of course this made the kids (2 and 4) upset and made for some long rides home by myself with them.

But I stuck with it, almost having to prove to her that I was serious about things and that this was the way it was going to be. I wasn’t going to give in. I made the best of the situation, knowing that someday all of this was going to be well worth it for everyone.

DB: What transpired with the kids? How did you explain what was happening to them? How did your ex-wife handle it?

Derek: The first couple months I traveled up to where they had move to with their Mom, 2 ½ hours away. I decided that they needed to start coming to my place so we set up a schedule and a half way-meeting place for the drop off.

It didn’t go over well with my ex wife but about four months later things were very routine. She handled it awful at first, being very rude with me, making me feel guilty about everything I had done, but over time it got better.

My daughter, 2 1/2 at the time didn’t understand any of it, which I thought was good. But my son understood it all, and asked a lot of questions — but seemed to accept it.

I explained that mommy and daddy loved them both very much but we just couldn’t live in the same house together anymore. I don’t know if he got what I was telling him or not…or if it was the right thing to say, but looking at both my kids now I’m certain that they know mommy and daddy love them a lot despite the fact that we don’t live together.

DB: Do you think you got a raw deal with the divorce proceedings because you’re a man? I have another friend that’s divorced, and he has told me that he felt taken advantage of  both by the system, and his own lawyer!

Derek: My divorce went on forever! One and a half years later I sat in the court room listening to some bullhead judge tell me what was going to happen from here on out…I had 3 different lawyers throughout the whole process because no one would work with me to go after what I wanted for custody for my kids. 

The whole process was unfair and so twisted that it makes me sick to think about it right now! Basically my lawyer did as little as he had too to help me because he knew that the judge wouldn’t go for anything I wanted.

My lawyer told me that to my face and told me that no matter what lawyer I would get it would make no difference.

I fought everyday to try to make 50/50 custody work but in the end I got what most dad’s get: an every other weekend schedule, paying an ass-load of child support, and giving her half of your retirement.

Every case isn’t the same. But some dads deserve more than the “standard ruling” (which some fathers seem just fine with) of being an every other weekend dad!

In the end I figured out, piecing things together that were said from my lawyer and my ex wife, that I was a little puppet from the start and they had all been working together to get this case off their desk and put money in their pockets.

DB: Do you feel that you’re treated differently (by teachers, coworkers, whomever) when it comes to your kids? Are you updated by the kids’ schools?

Derek: Well, I feel that some people are going to have their stereotypes about divorced families in general and there is no changing that.

For instance, one of my daughters pre-school teachers had an ugly divorce 20 years ago; she was also good friends with my ex wife’s mother. She would never talk or make eye contact with me. I thought it was unprofessional but what was I going to do about the way that she felt? Nothing. I know that sometimes people will treat me differently but I know what kind of dad I am.

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I’d like to thank Derek for sharing, and you for reading. Click the link below if you’d like to read Part 2 of this interview.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Divorced Dad: An Interview with Derek, Part 2
Fathers Help Hotline
Child Support Savings
Fathers For Justice

Dads are Not Second-class Parents, Part 4: Dads Need Help Too

This is a video I came across on Twitter. It’s made by a “dude” named Hugh Weber. Although he’s still awaiting the birth of his child, that hasn’t stopped him from beginning the transition “from dude to dad.” His powerful message is a perfect fit with this series…

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You can find Hugh on Twitter, or visit his page @ vimeo.com

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Want to share your own Second-class Parent story? Submit it as a comment and I’ll be happy to highlight you on my blog. Click the widget on the right-side tool bar (near the top) for more info.

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And remember, you are not alone…

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Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
– Part 5: Perceptions & Paradigms
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story?

Family Blogs
blog

Dads are Not Second-class Parents, Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective

A Divorced Dad’s Perepective is written by by guest blogger Derek, dad of two.

 

Derek is a very involved dad who puts his kids first. He is constantly looking for ways to become a better dad and a better man. The story he relates here is one of many instances where the school system has treated him like a second-class parent…

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Without getting too detailed about my situation, I must say that as being a divorced dad I feel I have been treated like a second-class parent many times.

 

I’m a very involved, hands on dad — from changing diapers when my kids were little, to potty training them, to reading them books at night.

 

I believe that there shouldn’t be labels put on tasks when raising your kids, such as “mom’s always cook dinner, unless of course it’s easy mac (and cheese) or dad’s putting something on the grill.” Or doing laundry and grocery shopping to name a few.

 

These were things that growing up my mom would do, and rarely if ever I saw my dad do. He was in charge of the man things around the house and did a good job at that but I believe those times have changed.

 

On my own now being divorced I am forced to “do it all” and doing great with it all. I honestly have most things under control. I always know what my kids schedule is for school and extracurricular actives, I decorate their rooms and make sure sheets are clean, make sure that we all are eating healthy and not taking them to Mickey D’s all the time!

 

And I would be this way even if I were married. It’s called being a parent!

 

What is hard for me is dealing with how the system or people in our society make us dad’s feel as if we should just be a “traditional” dad and not a parent and modern dad.

 

Recently, I called my son’s school and asked if I could have some info about his hot lunch monthly billing (for the last couple months). No big deal right?

 

The first question the lady asks is “now you and your son’s mother are divorced right? And she has primary custody right?”

 

At first I felt like asking: “am I speaking with my lawyer’s office?” I thought better of it! I answered her and she continued talking about how she’d see if see could get that info to me.

 

She could see??? See what? She doesn’t know if I pay for the hot lunch bill or if it’s my son’s mother who pays. She was not telling me what I needed to know. She told me that she would mail me the info…well that was 3 weeks ago and I have not received a thing.

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Want to share your own Second-class Parent story? Submit it as a comment and I’ll be happy to highlight you on my blog. Click the widget on the right-side tool bar (near the top) for more info.

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And remember, you are not alone…

– – – –

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
– Part 5: Perceptions & Paradigms
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story

Family Blogs
blog

Tired of Being Exhausted

Being a parent is tiring…
…especially if you work hard to be the best dad you can be. I have heard childless people, all women, share with me how their mother “raised 5 children under the age of 8,” or “8 children under the age of 12,” etc. My first question (which I refrain from asking) is: did your parents ever hear of birth control? But it gets worse. These same women have told me they were beaten by their mothers when they were “bad,” with shirt hangers and wooden spoons no less. In some odd way it becomes a pissing contest of sorts. How many kids one mom could take care of. Then, as if it were good parenting, the different ways their wonderful mothers “cared” for all of these kids by beating the shit out of them. What’s wrong with this picture?

If you made a mistake at work, what would you do if you were reprimanded with a spanking by your boss? If he or she took you in their office, bent you over their lap, and spanked the crap out of you? (For the purposes of this blog, disregard any thoughts of your boss being incredibly hot, or any desire some of you might have to be spanked.) Would that be acceptable behavior? Or would you have that person arrested for assault?

The answer seems pretty clear. So why would anyone think it’s OK for parents to hit their kids?

This prelude leads me to the main point of this blog. Exhaustion. I am exhausted. And I feel pretty stuck in the sticky muck of it. I have a plan on how to get out: exercise, meditate, sleep — but I’m inept at getting these things done. Anybody else have this problem? My current physical and mental state makes it harder for me to make good, clear decisions. And although I would never dream of hitting my kids, I don’t always have the energy or the mental capacity to assess what they’re really saying when they’re acting out.

Parenting is a lot like poker.
And just like there are different types of poker players, there are different types of parents.

The above example of a parent who hits to have their children behave a certain way (and to prevent them from doing certain things) is like a hyper-aggressive poker player. This type of player bets, bets and bets some more, no matter what the situation — attempting to beat their opponents into submission. They lack the ability to assess a situation. They only act with aggression, no matter what is going on around them. They’re not looking to understand, they’re looking to pummel and control opponents.

Another type of player is more thoughtful. He/she sits down at the table and assesses his opponents — their tendencies, personalities, playing styles, etc. In other words, he is taking stock of what is going on around him so he can make the proper adjustments. This allows him to make the best decision (at any given moment) on the most effective way to act. But this style of playing requires a high cognitive process (not needed in the brutal aggressive style nor in the abusive parent who’s only solution is to hit until a behavior is changed).

This thoughtful style of parenting is one where we can actually gain an understanding of our children and help them, instead of instilling fear in them. I believe children who live in fear become adults who live in fear. They’re too scared to make a mistake, so they often fall way short of fulfilling their potential.

My job is to help my children reach their highest potential and be true to who they really are. But when I’m exhausted, it’s hard to make the right decisions. One’s “read” of a situation can often be way off.

Somewhere along the way, things tipped and started feeling too hard.

Maybe it’s because there’s no family around for support (we’re recent transplants to Madison, Wisconsin). Then again, there wasn’t all that much support from family when we lived close by to begin with. But there was always an option to ask for help if you really needed a break. Out here, the isolation never ends. It’s like driving on a road, and you never get to stop. There’s never any substantial regeneration. Plus, it’s rare for my wife and I to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. Our boys are 4, and 1 ½ years old, and my younger boy wakes up crying quite often these days — teething, colds, lost pacifier… I am so tired.

I start to feel sorry for myself, which makes me incredibly angry. So what if I’m tired? My kids need me! It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or at least it shouldn’t. I feel like it is an excuse, but isn’t it a reality? I just feel so overwhelmed, so inept. In fact, as I write this it is past 12 am. So in a way, I’m perpetuating my fatigue. But this is my time, the only time I get all day long for me. I’m not complaining, it’s a fact. And I think there are many like me — looking for some self-time. Without it, we might wake up one day with nothing left of ourselves.

For me, I need to sleep, exercise and meditate. Easy right? But the mind gets in the way. It stops us from doing what is natural, easy. It rationalizes, in a most irrational way, and keeps us in patterns that we would rather break. In other words, I’m resisting. So I stay up. I play online poker instead of meditating, I never seem to make the time to exercise.

Accepting resistance is the first step in letting it go. It’s there, whether we like it or not, so accept it. Let it be there. Resisting your resistance only builds upon what is already there.

Yes, just about every waking moment is for my kids, my wife or my job. The little time I have for me doesn’t get spent on the things I need the most. Some would say I have nobody to blame but myself. But I’m doing my best.

Does anybody else have this problem? Has anybody found a way to overcome it? Your thoughts and stories are welcome.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related posts:
Equal Rights for Kids. Part 2: Don’t Hit!