Dads Can Do It Too- Being Primary: Guest Blog from a Former Client - Images Licensed via Creative CommonsI am a dad of 3 daughters. No big deal, right? There are lots of dads with daughters. I am single. Still no big deal. With the divorce rate so high, there are plenty of divorced dads with daughters. Between my 3 daughters, there are 2 mothers.  Daughters 1 and 2, one mom. Daughter 3, a different mom. Nothing uncommon about that. “If at first you don’t succeed….”

All 3 of my daughters live with me full time. I am the primary parent, and in the case of my little one, I have sole custody. Is that common? Not so much. Is it a big deal? Not to me. But it might be to others, depending on their perspective.  Being primary is not a trophy, and being non-primary is not a cause for shame.

Susan B. Anthony’s dedication to the rights of woman was a big deal to those who wanted to limit women’s rights. African American woman Claudette Colvin – at the age of 15 – was arrested for refusing to abide by the bus segregation law which stipulated that ‘colored’ passengers must sit at the back and leave the front seats for white passengers. That was a big deal to many white folks back in 1955 when teenager Claudette was arrested. By the way, the Rosa Parks incident occurred 9 months later.

So, if it is a big deal to you that this male, single dad is raising 3 daughters full time, then the requisite follow-up question is, “Why?” If it is just because it is uncommon, awesome. If it is because “moms are supposed to raise children, not dads…” or any other expression of female/mom entitlement… then let me say this.

Believe it or not moms, I get it.  I love you, remember? In fact, I honor you. I praise you. For many decades, you have given more of your lives to your children than dads. This is especially true with single moms. So single moms and moms, believe me when I say that I hold in the highest regard for the sacrifices you have made for your children. But today, there is opportunity for a change. There is a method wherein moms and dads can realize equal parenting opportunity.

  1. Working men and women – many of whom are single mothers and fathers — need equal rights and equal pay in the workplace. I am not exactly sure where this stands today. I suspect there is still some disparity, but I do believe it is headed in the right direction.
  2. Working single fathers and mothers need to receive the same treatment from their employers when they have to say “My kid is home with the flu, and I am going to have to miss the next 4 days.” I can only speak for my own personal experience, bur both my current and past employer have been very understanding in this regard.
  3. Single dads need to step up their effort in the raising of their children. I think there is still some imbalance, but this is definitely changing. All of my daughters have multiple friends that live with their father. What is really exciting, is that the arrangement was decided by both parents. The mom and dad chose together what would be best for their children. Wow! When I was little, I only knew of one kid that lived with her dad, and that was because the mother had passed on.
  4. Single moms need to be willing to let #3 happen. Mom-entitlement-beliefs that answer the “Why not dad?” questions with “Because I am the mom…” have no place in this emerging, gender equal-opportunity society. It is time to place those beliefs to the side.
  5. And finally, single fathers and mothers need the same legal backing to raise their children. I am living proof that this is in place!”

I am blessed with the privilege of raising three amazing daughters, separated by no less than five years between each. I have one that just graduated from high-school, one that is about to begin elementary school, and one in middle-school. None of my daughters will ever share the same phase of “girlhood” at the same time. Thus far, I think that is a good thing.

I differ from my ancestors. I don’t spend all day chopping down trees for building materials and warmth or hunting bison while my family stays home.

I will remind you again — It wasn’t that long ago when women were not allowed to vote or people were legally owned as slaves in our country.

We live in a different time. The traditional gender lines and parenting roles are disintegrating. More women are working, and more fathers are willing to raise their children.

It is becoming more acceptable for men to wear pink and women to “wear the pants” in the family. Do we still have a way to go? Yes, but change occurs only when it is demanded. Fathers must insist society support our active participation in the lives of our children.

I am writing this on MLK day. In honor of this great man that offended many with his dreams. Here are some of my dreams.

 I have a dream, that fathers will carry the same sense of duty to raise their children as the countless number of moms have for centuries.

  1. I have a dream, that moms will willingly relinquish the primary role to the father, when it is in the best interest of the children

2. I have a dream, that moms and dads that are going through the very difficult process of marriage dissolution, jointly decide which parent is in the best position to provide the primary needs of the child.

 3.I have a dream, that after the primary-parent decision is made, that moms and dads work together to be amazing co-parents, for the sake of their children.

Our children are not a prize. Our children should never hear derogatory statements made about the other parent by either mom or dad. Our children are not tools to use in pursuit of Machiavellian goals. The end does not justify the means. That kind of “love” is kind of sick.

Our children are to be loved by both single moms and dads. The very same two people that created them. When they hear that there is something wrong with either mom or dad, that translates in to them thinking “there is something half wrong with me.”

I wish I could tell you that my story involving my youngest was one of those “dream” stories. It was not. It was hell. But it was a hell that I would go through again and again to save any of my children from irreparable harm. I had to use litigation. Trust me, it was a last resort. But eventually, I realized that “mom” was not capable of performing the very important duties of primary parent; an arrangement that we agreed upon in good faith when we divorced. So I chose to save my daughter, and give her the opportunity for a better life.

There is change within the air. I am proof that the courts are less opinionated on the mom/dad thing based on “how it has been in society before.” In my case, the courts focused on the actions of the individuals. And it was determined that I was the best place for my daughter.

There is also an abundance of mental health services available. I live in Collin county, and I have access to fabulous child therapist. I requested to the court that my daughter see a play therapist to learn coping skills; the court granted my request. During the litigation process, I requested that a social study be done by a court appointed Guardian Ad Litem; the court granted my request. And most recently, I requested that the court appoint a parent facilitator, to help me and “mom” get our proverbial “word that rhymes with hit and starts with sh” together; the court granted my request. I gladly attended a 9 month class ordered by the court, on Healthy Alliance Building; for me personally, it was eye-opening.

In the end, whether you are the primary parent or not, it does not matter to your children. What does matter is your active participation in their life.  Just be involved, be very involved their life. It matters a lot. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

I want to have as healthy a relationship as possible with “mom.” That does not mean we are “BFF’s.” Currently, I am pretty sure she loathes the very ground I walk upon. Does that matter to me? Nope. I can still act loving, and pursue that healthy alliance regardless.  It is actually pretty easy, when I keep my daughters as my point of focus. I do it for them, not for “mom.”

JG a.k.a dad of three winds.

 

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