Thursday, July 24, 2008

Single dads...

I was thinking yesterday about my situation as a divorced man and how unfair the system is. And in an instant it dawned on me...perhaps the best example of the inequity of the whole worlds view of divorce.
My ex wife was single for 4 years after we divorced. During that time she referred to herself, and others referred to her, as a "single mom".
She was divorced and raising a child. But I was also divorced and raising a child and yet I have never heard of a man being called a "single dad" unless his wife died or abandoned the family. A perfect example of the inequity if ever there was one.
The term "single mom" alludes to a woman all alone facing the daunting task of making a living and raising a child. It illicits sympathy in some ways. It also implies that the dad isn't around to help, or isn't willing to help if he is around. Neither of these would be true in my case...or in the case of most other divorced dads. But we face this stereotype anyway. The poor divorced woman is seen as the sole provider for those poor children and the rat bastard ex husband is off somewhere with some 23 year old secretary.
Where did this idea get it's beginnings? I don't know. Female family court judges maybe. Women's groups. Probably a backlash against bad fathers. Who knows. All I know is that while there really are a lot of bad men out there who do reprehensible things to their families, I was never one of them. And most divorced men I know weren't either. I am starting to believe that the report I read was right...there are no "deadbeat dads" there are only defeated dads. Guys who just plain can't take it anymore. They give up 40-50 percent of their income to take care of their children, their wives don't have to pay taxes on it, they can't claim their kids on their taxes, and for all that they get to see them 7 days a month.
I have said this to other guys in private conversation and I will say it here...I have seen, we all have, those stories on CNN about some guy going over the edge and shooting his ex wife and his kids and then himself. Let me say this clearly...that's wrong and I don't condone it. But...I can see how a man can be in so much pain about his divorce that if he has no spiritual base, he can do something like that. I have been in so much pain in the past that I thought death would have been a relief somehow. I did NOT consider taking my own life...but I thought, at my deepest sorrow that it will be better when I am gone someday. Of course knowing the bond I have with Morgan and knowing the scar that would have left, I could never consider such a selfish notion. I want to live a long time and be there as long as she needs me. but I can understand how a man in this situation can become so overwhelmed with sorrow, fear, longing and dismay that without a spiritual anchor he sees tragedy as the only solution to his pain. Not that the act is right but it hurts THAT much. It can hurt enough to drive you to distraction.
The system that rules over divorce treats men with such disdain and second class citizen status that many just give up. Something as simple and seemingly innocuous as our ex wives being referred to as "single moms" while we are just divorced men only twists the knife a little further.
It's a silly thing really...unless you are on the receiving end. a single dad.

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