DRIVEL: Opinions and Reviews
to Roberta James & Hazel Prosser
What’s up, dad?
(Buddy, can you spare a decade?) ©2004
divorced mother of four said to me, “Sometimes
I wish I could just leave the kids and their schedules on his doorstep.”
When I said, “Why don’t you?” –
she gave me a blank then pitying smile at my witlessness. She
knew the earth was flat and the edge was right in front of his driveway.
Now we're provoked into thinking about why she believed
that—because this educated and sophisticated woman had never
questioned the flat earth theory.
stats are to be believed, 99.9% of divorced dads are incompetent
parents. Cuz they aren’t raising their kids. But
does anyone really believe this? No, no one believes
this. Then why such passive acceptance of competent, absent
aren’t divorced dads sharing in child raising? Only
three reasons exist:
don’t want to;
they aren’t allowed to;
The first group is hard to pin down; they’re rather quiet
cuz they don’t want the bad PR. The second group includes
the first group plus those who really want to, in an incalculable
mix. The third group is partly real and partly using "unable"
to cover for "hell, no!--are you crazy?"
99.9% of divorced kids end up seeing good old dad—as
nice as he may be—as dispensable. An option. A
sperm donor with a heart. That guy with the movie tickets—or
Playdium™ tickets, or Chuck E Cheese’s™ tickets,
or at least a TV Guide™—in his hand, and the Kraft Dinner™
on the stove. (And maybe a condo swimming pool for the kids,
where he does his best to look warmly devoted but eligible.)
kids become adults without knowing who this guy really is and why
he was a Runner Up parent. Either he wasn’t smart enough
to handle it, or he wasn’t ambitious enough to try it. Again,
does anyone believe this? Neither is very flattering to the,
um, sterner sex. (Men should be marching in the streets over
this. Why aren’t they? Go ask your dad.)
why are so few divorced men on-duty dads? Could it be because
their former wives won’t share? Yup. Damn
right they won’t. And why won’t they share?
It’s cuz they’re vengeful bitches, right? Nope.
And it sure as hell ain’t because they don’t need a
partner, thanks. (That is, after all, why the species evolved
to raise kids in pairs, if I remember correctly.) Nope, it
ain’t because the single moms don’t need a hand; they’re
dying for a hand, every one of them.
no sharing, then? It’s because they don’t
need the contempt.
women would rather labour alone, live thousands of days as weary
as a rag on a stick, struggle financially, struggle professionally,
struggle socially, struggle emotionally, push the boulder up the
hill alone—than shoulder the weight of the scorn.
"Your mother and I are feeling overwhelmed,
so you'll have to bring yourselves up."
happens currently? Divorced men opt out of child raising,
contempt-free, suddenly confessing that it was really that Flower
of Divine Womanhood who was in charge of the kids all along, so
really it's only right that the kids be with the more experienced,
knowledgeable, responsive parent. Yeah, that’s it.
ya wanna watch you don’t step in that on yer way out. The
spectre of single parenthood is beyond all our comprehension;
it’s so daunting that it makes us all sick with apprehension;
it’s not just you, big guy.)
the rush to retroactively claim that Dad was never more than a factotum
around the home, the mailroom guy of parenthood?—just a blundering
gomer who hadn’t mastered Stove-Knobs 101 and would surely
send the kids off to college with brains stunted by Kraft Dinner™
and tube-shaped pig remains...
Where did the idea come from that divorced kids need something
they never needed before: Only one parent?
Is it so unnatural then, this partnership that parents promise kids
when they conceive and emit them?
Hey, if the parents need
new sex partners, kewl. That’s between them and their
various mates and realtors. But that’s irrelevant to
the deal they made with their kids. No one gets to break that
would all dearly love to share parenting 50/50 with their men—if
they knew they wouldn’t be pilloried for it. (And
of course, if Dad isn’t a truly lethal liability whose after-school
snack plan is booze and a smoke.)
been asked a couple of times, by educated people, how I could ‘give
my children up’ – to their own dad. Last
time I checked, children who were with their parents weren’t
given up at all. Anymore than I ‘gave them up’
when I left them with their dad—or he left them with me—for
any amount of time when we were married. He is their parent.
They are his kids. (Anything new or incomprehensible
forget this. We reflexively think that poor old dad reverts
to his lower primate bachelor status and is suddenly purged of all
parenting skills upon Decree Absolute. And we think that if
mom offers him a chance to strut his parenting stuff, it’s
because she’s a hooker or addict or inmate, and the poor guy
‘has no choice.’ When the guy moved
out, was he a hooker, addict, or inmate?—or just exercising
my daughters’ dad ‘give them up’ when
he asked me to look after them, without him? Did he really?
Did he cower under a load of contempt? Nope. He was
protected by the mantle of ‘generosity’ and 'recognition
of my superior fitness for the job.' (Is anyone really fit
for three shifts a day? Superior fitness for stoopwork is
wickedly crafty praise. Again, the sterner sex should be outraged
by this—as it's tantamount to admitting that those P90-X™
biceps would tremble under the weight of a dustpan full of Cheerios™.)
happened when I returned the favour of sharing my kids with ex-dad?
All I can say is the assumption that he was generous in giving
them to me, was served back in my direction as the assumption that
I’m a felon, an addict, or a sex-worker--and that he's been
"forced" to do "my" job by rare and fatal character
flaws in the female soul. (Such a shmancy thought!--all tricked
out in Gerry Springer values and trashy leering.)
none of the above. I shared my beautiful daughters with their
conception-worthy dad for all the right reasons. Why would
I have children with this man, if he weren’t capable
of first-class parenting? My First Shift was nine years; his
Second Shift will be roughly the same. First Shift was handled
mostly alone and during the diapers-and-no-sleep decade. His
shift includes a partner and the "parents suck" decade.
It’s a macro-scale 50/50 split and my heart's at peace over
But it's tedious listening to the question What Happened? i.e. how
did you "lose" your kids to the Bumbling Dad? Are women
just assumed to be not smart enough to figure this out, is that
it? Is worshipfulness toward the mothering instinct just
intended to keep women from saying to Dad, "Oh gosh hon, you're just
as good, really you are!"
The peace comes from this deciding
factor: Were either of my daughters in my position, what
would I have them do? Breathe the fetid air of dead-end
destiny—or try for a little dignity for all?
a dad raising kids to be alternately proud and enraged; a chameleon
on a checkered cloth. His culture allows him no other
response. He’s proud that he has his children,
enraged that he ‘had no choice.’ It wasn’t
The fact that it was I who initiated the sharing
has left a deep ambivalence: That made me a Terrible Mom,
right? If my dad-type generosity made me a terrible mom, does
his anger make him a terrible dad? "What kind of mother
could do this?" [equals] "What kind of father could be
logic will sprain your brain as you ponder these one-way ideas on
a two-way street. To wit: A terrible parent is one
who gives the children to their other parent, true? Nope,
divorced dads set that precedent by the multi-millions. Ok,
then a terrible parent is one who gives the children to the witless,
penis-bearing parent, true? Nope, how dare anyone assert
this about the fathers of the world?
The same kind of woman gives her children to their dad as
the 99.9% of men who assume that their humanity will not be called
into question if they generously allow their former spouses to take
all the childraising joys for themselves.
your kids’ dads are still and always fathers. And you
will not suffer for sharing with him. The kids need him and
he needs a daily, hands-on grasp of the two decades following
conception—for the good of his soul and the growth of your
kids. And you need the same, humane, breathe-and-recover stage
that he claimed when he moved out. Think about it: If
you could have that minus the contempt, would you accept
it? Better yet, if you could have that with respect,
would you accept it?
If you have daughters, live what you'd want them to
live, if they were you. Don't
consign them to three single-mom shifts a day if you know you're
steadily perishing in the same role. Your daughters are not
prey, to be gnawed to the bone by a thoughtless culture. Your
sons are not witless sperm donors, to be pardoned for bolting from
the fruit of their loins. It takes two decades to raise
a child. One way or the other. By one parent or the
other. In tandem, or sequentially.
I tell this whole tale to divorced moms, I see a light dawning in
their eyes as the truth claws through the dirt from way, way underground
where it was buried alive: “I-don’t-know-how-I-could-see-my-children-half-time,”
they chant automatically, before this becomes the less noble,
more tentative, "Anyway, he’d never go for it”, and
before that becomes, “Um, how did he get the
option to never go for it?”
not sure how they could "see their children less," because
the idea has never had a home in their reality; never materialized
for a moment in the category of Possible. Never. They
can't even speak it, let alone live it. So the light that
goes on is the same one that dawned on us all long ago when the
earth was no longer flat. Hey, the edge is not in
front of his driveway!
illuminated moms regard me with a mix of admiration and fear and
envy: "Was this evil woman actually allowed to live?"
Yup. They're oddly surprised and mildly disappointed—even
the compassionate ones—that I'm not covered in boils and they
step back to avoid the imminent shower of frogs and locusts.
My only punishment is to hang out with a crew of divorced dads,
figuring out how to make weekend parenting less embarrassing to
the species and more dignified for the children.
weekend dads have their own squirmy responses to me. They
know why they don't have their kids; it's cuz
the-bitch-wouldn't-let-them—so their true feelings about the
gig need never come to light. They also know why I don't have
my kids: It's cuz the bitch would let them [go
to their very own dad]. They get chills of apprehension wondering
if their ex-wives might catch what I've got and turn their lives
upside down and perturb their girlfriends who haven't yet been baptized
by preschooler puke at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday.
all a very earthy and complex business and we'd do well to roll
up sleeves and scoop away the prose and posturing for some clarity.
I ain't afraid of telling the truth; to date, I'm happy to
report that I'm locust-free.
is weird and clumsy enough, without losing half the team--dads--to
false modesty and the other half--moms--to false martyrdom.
cartoons from www.cartoonbank.com]