Monday, May 16, 2005

Father's rights, do we have it all wrong?

EVERYNOW and again a story hits the papers, or batman scales Buckingham Palace to highlight fathers rights. There are websites, groups, all manners of vehicles for a campaign which I have to say I think is more anti women, than pro-father, quite aggressive and very little, if any of it, centres around the child and it’s needs.


This is a complex issue and definitely should not be centred on the term ‘fathers rights’. For me, this highlights just how much we are getting this debate wrong. We know that the best place for a child is generally with its mother – research backs this up. However that’s not to say that fathers are not important, of course they are a vital part of a child’s life and must be, where possible, as involved as possible. BUT this debate must centre on children’s right, not fathers and not mothers.

I suppose my loathing for this debate, or lack of it, stems from my own dealings with my child’s father, a situation that is unfortunately mirrored everywhere. We spilt when our child was a baby and continued on in an uneasy relationship until our child was four when all hell broke loss. In that time he had married and paid no to little (I wont say little to none as that is just not how it was, regular payments only started for four months in total when our child was four years old) maintenance. Despite only paying £15 a week for four months when the child (sorry I don’t wish to identify anyone here) was four, my ex’s wife started to resent this miserable payment and we had the mother of all arguments. My parting shot was ‘I will not be contacting you about seeing our child, you want to see them, you have to make all the arrangements’.

You see up until that point, I organised everything regarding his ‘fatherhood’. I carried him in everyway. I would have the child make pictures and send them to him, I would phone and see did he want to see the child, I would travel the 100 miles and leave the child with him and travel back home AND then travel back to pick them up again. For my trouble I would receive a bag of soiled washing which would sit until the next weekend when I would be able to visit the launderette. So many clothes were ruined at that time because him and his wife would not wash the child’s clothes despite having a house and washing machine and it would be left to me to do despite my full time college course and my shite flat with no laundry facilities. And do you think I could afford to lose another top, trousers because they were lazy feckers????

Anyway this all (and much more besides) led up to a massive buildup of resentment and when things hit the fan, they hit big time and I decided that the role of father could not longer be upheld and maintained by me. Guess what happened, eight years on and he hasn’t seen his child. It was always important to me that he be in our child’s life.

I grew up living with my dad, we saw our mum all the time but they used us children as a weapon against each other and it has been one of my golden rules that I would never do that. If you had told me 10 years ago, this is where we would find ourselves, I do not think I would have believed you.

So when I read about the plight of fathers (the campaign), I find it hard to be sympathetic, which I DO know is wrong, I know fathers and their children who have suffered so much because of a bitter mother. However I know far more (lots, lots more) women who have been left high and dry by their former partners. Left to raise a child on their own, left to find money to raise the child, left to explain those dreadful ‘when can I see daddy’ questions (they are sooo hard), women and children just left.

I sometimes seriously worry about the moral lessons we are teaching our children, particularly our boys. We only have to look at the children whose fathers do not stay in touch, whose fathers do not make time for them and whose fathers are no where to be seen.

We need to teach all our children responsibility and duty, which is seriously lacking in many, many young men and unfortunately it is the responsible fathers who bear the brunt of this irresponsible behaviour. Are we teaching our boys that it is okay to sew your wild oats; it is okay to impregnate women and not be responsible for that child. These lessons are coming from somewhere and I believe this is a vital part of the debate which has so far been sadly lacking.

But the debate on fathers rights needs to take a different slant altogether, we should not even be talking about fathers or mothers rights; it has to be about children’s rights.

Surely that encompasses everything that is important about this debate, not about one ex being wildly bitter over another, which seems to me to be at the centre of most of the father’s rights arguments. Lets make it about our children and their well being. So back to the title, Father's rights - do we have it all wrong? You better believe it.
Batman and Buckingham Palace, fathers rights story on BBC news


Anonymous said...

This is a well and good what you say. But what about those fathers who are not able to see there children because the mother is down right horrid.

My friend has had to stop seeing his child as she was telling social services that he was hitting her when she was staying with him. He made this choice as he did not want this to go on record.

You tell me when this is right. Tell me when a mother has all rights over a father on a child. He has no power as she has it. It took 1 word and all trust was on her. The dad is so easy to remove.

Red Mum said...

I acknowledge that anonymous when I said in the piece anonymous:

"I know fathers and their children who have suffered so much because of a bitter mother. However I know far more (lots, lots more) women who have been left high and dry by their former partners."

Which brings me back to the fact this debate must be about children, not fathers and not mothers, children.