Fatherlessness is an epidemic in The United States. The author shares what she did right and wrong to facilitate co-parenting after divorce.
Statistics tell us that one child in three in the United States lives in a home without the biological father. More than 40% of first marriages end in divorce and 60% of second marriages. This involves millions of children. I am a statistic twice over; once as the child of divorced parents, and then as a divorced, single mother.
I research and write on this topic because I believe every child is better off with two good parents. Good, meaning one who will not cause physical or emotional danger to the child, family, or society. Mediocre and not dangerous is good enough to be good, in this regard.
My personal experience with my father leaving when I was 4 years old was that it was his own choice, that he was not able to cope with the responsibilities of family life. As the stories go, he would not have qualified as good by my generous definition, above. He left and then my parents divorced. Clearly, the events are not always in that order.
Fortunately, when I was a young mother going through my own divorce, my son’s father was a good man who chose to co-parent to the best of his abilities. I was aware of the consequences of my own fatherless history and I knew that if I facilitated a healthy relationship between my son and his father, it would be easier for my son to achieve success in life.
However, I must say that my ex-husband was diligent and reasonably consistent in his efforts despite my blunders. I regret that I was thoughtless–truly unintentionally–in some of the decision-making that affected my son’s visitation with his father, such as when I moved us 80 miles away. Although my reasons were valid independent of the proximity to my son’s father, the distance put undue pressure on my ex, especially during the period of time when I did not have a car to drive our son to see his father for the weekend.
If my son’s father had not been diligent and responsible AND had the resources to make the effort, the two likely would not have had as good a relationship, which would have been at least half on me.
When my son graduated from eighth grade, I moved us back to a residence near his father so they could have a solid relationship while in high school. In retrospect, there were several significant opportunity costs to our moving–even those my son recognizes, such as moving him out of the school district to a place where he had no long-term friends. The financial costs included leaving the home I owned outright and moving into an apartment where I had to pay relatively high rent.
Still, the move back to the suburbs near my son’s father was in their better interest and mine, residually. My now adult son is a well-adjusted contributing member of society, at least in part due to having had the benefit of two participating, loving parents.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I share this with you to encourage thoughtfulness in your decision-making in matters related to your child(ren) and the other parent.
If you are divorced, in the process, or contemplating divorce, please give careful thought to co-parenting:
- If both parents are reasonably sane and at least somewhat loving, their presence and participation in parenting–even if separate–will be better than either parent being absent.
- If you are a non-residential father, do what you can to participate in your child’s life actively. Absence from the household does not have to mean absence from the child’s life!
- If you are a mother with custody of your child, and the father is a decent person and not harmful, do everything you can to facilitate their visitation.
- Remember: You are divorcing your spouse, NOT your children. Likewise, your children are not divorcing the other parent. The kids need two parents. Be there.
Fatherlessness is an epidemic in The United States. How can good parents effectively reduce fatherlessness and the negative impact on their children and our society?
Tell Good Men Project readers your story.
If you and your ex-spouse co-parent with reasonable success, I’d love to know what has worked for you. Feel free to comment below, or submit the longer version via our online submission portal at http://GoodMenProject.Submittable.com. If you have not yet written for The Good Men Project, feel free to name me as your preferred editor. If you are working with an editor you like, feel free to name your current editor.
–A version of this post originally appeared on FatherlessDaughter.Info and is republished here with the author’s permission.
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–Photo credit: Flickr/Francisco Osorio