I came across an article written last May by Daily Mail columnist Lauren Libbert dealing with the issues women face when they have to share a 50/50 custody arrangement with their children’s father. She asserts that for decades women have enjoyed the ability to claim a primary custody situation with their former parenting partners, allowing for visitations on weekends or when it’s convenient. In her opening, she waxes philosophically about what it means to be the maternal nurturer:
Every mother lives for those small, joyful moments when her child masters something new – a book once too challenging, the telling of a joke previously stumbled over, a food devoured that had formerly been rejected.
For it’s in the gentle minutiae of a little one’s life that you really see their budding personality grow.
Imagine, then, the agonising pain of being privy to your child’s life for only half the time. The milestones missed. The lost cuddles before bedtime. The long nights spent wondering if they are sleeping sweetly or crying out for Mummy.
Not being familiar with this writer, and as an American also not familiar with The Daily Mail, I was left feeling as though I was waiting for the punchline. She goes on to chronicle the situations of several women who are co-parenting with their former spouses (insert former lovers as well for the modern world we live in) all of them lamenting the problems they face in separation from their children while they spend time with their fathers. Lauren goes on in great detail discussing the mental anguish, anxiety, and sense of separation that a mother feels when she is “forced,” either via court order or mutual agreement, to share a 50/50 custody arrangement with the father of their children.
I find it astonishing that Miss Libbert sat at her computer and wrote in great detail the stories of these women and it apparently it never dawned on her that this is precisely what fathers have had to suffer through for the last two or three generations. Divorce and co-parenting is now a multi-generational issue seeing the children of divorced parents becoming parents themselves and then discovering the joys of divorce and arguing over who gets to see their kids, when and where.
Do your best to ignore the stats for combat deaths, homicide victims, industrial death/accidents, and suicides, and take a look at the winners of custody in the “Male Privilege” chart by Bastiat Insitute. We can see that women overwhelmingly become the primary caregivers of children. I don’t think we need a diagram to understand this, though. Think back to your childhood friends who had divorced parents, or divorced adults you know who have children. Where did/do children overwhelmingly reside? With the mother, while the father gets access to his children.
Think about that phrase for a moment; “access.” Having “access to your child” makes it sound as though you’re a criminal, a spousal abuser, or someone who shouldn’t have unfettered “access” to your kids.
If the solution to something is not equal to all persons, it is not equality. Something being 50/50 is, by definition, equal. But maybe we’re looking at this article, and the situation overall, in the wrong light. When it comes to parenting, children need a mother and father. Please don’t take that as an indictment of same-sex couples because that’s not what I’m getting at; what I would like people to take away from that is individuals who co-parent usually have different styles of parenting. Often times that means one is a nurturer while the other is a disciplinarian. In the current era, we are favoring the nurturer over the disciplinarian, and this might be part of the problem we have with Millenials and their attitude of guaranteed success. Everyone gets a trophy but doesn’t have to earn it.
We look at the term “disciplinarian” to mean “you’re in trouble” or “just wait till your father gets home.” That’s not the extent of it, though, is it? Fathers are often considered the disciplinarian, and somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that men do not need their children as much as their mothers do. We pretend that men aren’t as devastated as women are when they have to hand over their children to their ex-partner because men don’t traditionally show emotion the way women do. We infer that because men don’t show this emotion that it doesn’t exist, or worse, that they simply don’t care.
Disciplinarians teach us skills and how to become good at something. After all, becoming good at something takes discipline. It takes patience, know-how, and skills that the parent in the role of nurturer may not have. The alternate result is we end up with kids chasing $80,000 degrees for jobs that don’t exist. Meanwhile, they could have spent an equal amount of time with the disciplinarian in their life teaching them plumbing, how an engine works, learning carpentry, or other life skills that can turn into careers that pay much more than that degree in eleventh-century English poetry.
50/50 parenting helps to mold children into the best people they can be. In literally everything, you come second to your child. Your wants, needs, and desires do not compare to that of your child’s. You are their protector and their guide and any issues or disagreements with their other parent are of no consequence to them. You should not be vying for their approval, winning their love, turning them against their fathers, or worse using them as leverage against them. Your children should be completely in the dark about what caused your separation, and in all things, you should be a united front with your ex on all matters pertaining to the raising of your child. Likewise, your new partners should be in a supporting role that does not deviate or seek to undermine the primary parents.
If you have trouble finding common ground with your ex on what sort of child you should be raising, think back to what drew you to their father or mother in the first place. If you didn’t know the person well enough to begin with, say a short-term relationship or a one night stand, find something you like about that person and encourage your child to adopt that trait or traits. Yes, that means you have to try to find something agreeable to you in a person you might find despicable. That’s work on your part, but it goes a tremendous way in showing your child that while you’re not with their father or mother anymore that you approve of them and even care about them on a platonic level. That sort of thing matters to kids. I’ll say that again for those in the back – THAT SORT OF THING MATTERS TO KIDS. This will also help maintain that united front that helps mold a successful, non-entitled member of society. Isn’t that what liberals and conservatives are both arguing is the problem with today’s kids? Aren’t privilege and entitlement the same thing?
Men are fathers as much as women are mothers. There cannot and should not be favoritism in child custody situations unless it is demonstrated that one parent is unfit to be in the child’s life. Mothers are no more entitled to access to their children than their fathers are, and if we come to that conclusion by way of gender-based reasoning, then we’ve truly come full circle. Simply put, if your argument that you should be the primary custodial parent is because you carried them for nine months I have to question if you understand how biology works (not to mention this puts divorced gay couples in a peculiar situation). We did not design the way our body systems work or decide which sex would carry children until they are born. That was, and is, out of our hands. In this sense nature, God, or whomever you chose to designate as a higher being has established equality for us. Nature has assured equality in all things. It took humanity to believe that we were better than the original construct of that design. We’ve spent so much time trying to get back to a natural sense of equality that we’ve warped what equality actually is.
What we do control is how we parent and the way we raise our children. This goal should be nothing less than encouraging them to be the best parts of ourselves and what we loved about their other parent. That is how you raise stable, successful, adult children of divorce.
James Windale is the author of several novels and short stories. His works are available in paperback and on Kindle through Amazon. Click the image below to be redirected to his Amazon site.