When It’s Hard Being A Father…Be A better Man!
As I predicted a few weeks ago the summer schedule has been a little tough. I have not been doing three episodes a week like many of you are used to. There was no Monday or Wednesday episode this week. Summers are always busy up here in the Pacific Northwest but this summer has been particularly so. What I can guarantee is that you will be able to count on the Friday episodes every week. As the weather changes heading into September I suspect things will return to normal though.
Because this is a Friday episode I am honor bound to tell you about the sponsor of this show, a company called Stump Town Kilts. When a lot of people think of kilts they imagine plaid garments worn by men toting bagpipes and marching in a funeral or something. While those are definitely traditional Tartan kilts…that is not what I’m talking about. Stump Town Kilts makes modern kilts for the contemporary man and woman. They are garments of comfort, designed with style and function in mind and suitable for everyday use. I own three of these kilts and I have done literally everything wearing them from the dirty jobs to the fancy events. They are durable and comfortable in the dirt, and they look fantastic when you are wanting to get noticed at a social event. These kilts have several innovative features that their competitors do not possess like the adjustable sizes and snap on accessories for example. They come in a variety of colors and even the rivets have options; you can get brass, gun metal, or chrome rivets.
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Ok guys today I want to talk about an aspect of fatherhood. A lot of the things we talk about here can apply equally to anyone. Many of the topics we deal with have to do with human character and people who are not a man can get something out of it as well, that’s why we have so many non-man listeners and I welcome them. However, there are some things that are specific to being a man, and fatherhood is one of them.
Within the realm of fatherhood there is an aspect of it, a phenomenon that is relatively new in human life and specific to the modern times we are living in. What I’m talking about is when men are involuntarily separated from their children, as a direct result of relationship failure with the mother.
This can be a touchy, emotionally charged topic, but it’s also a fact of modern life and I feel like I need to talk about it a little bit. This is something I have dealt with personally in my life. Many, many men I know have also dealt with it. My own son is still dealing with it right now and I just got a letter from a long time listener named Tom where he told me about the struggles he is going through regarding access to his children. It’s a real thing, a heart wrenching thing, and as men we really need to think about from every angle.
In my opinion, the highest calling any man has in life, the most profound, prestigious, important position he will ever hold is that of a father. Becoming a father is a mans best opportunity to influence the future, to leave a legacy, to alter humanity in some way by passing on what he has become and lessons he has learned to the next generation.
Sadly, there are many men who do not give fatherhood the weight it deserves. There are men who create children and then spend the rest of their life avoiding their responsibilities. I’ll never understand that, it’s tragic. I can’t imagine why a man would give up the best part of what being a man is, when he chooses not to be a father to his children. I can only assume that it’s because many of those men did not have a benefit of a father in their own life. They were not raised with that example and therefore have no real idea of what they are missing out on. Whatever the case, this tragic fact makes it even more important that good men do their best when it comes to being a father.
Like I said earlier, men being denied access to their children is a relatively new phenomenon in human life. Even a hundred years ago society was much different, men were largely in charge of everything. It was truly a mans world and if a man wanted his children with him then that is what would happen. Women did not have the support of the courts and in most cases they were financially dependent on men for their survival. To be clear—that was not a good thing either. Inequity is inequity no matter how it is apportioned, and motherhood is equally as important to a child’s life as fatherhood is.
The inequity women have suffered at the hands of men goes back to the beginning of time. We men have only been experiencing this in recent history. The issue though, is not who has suffered the most or what gender has been treated unfairly. The issue is, and should always be, the welfare of the children. When a parent who loves and cares for their child is denied access to that child, it is the child who suffers most.
So here we are now, in a world where both father’s and mother’s play spiteful, vindictive games of revenge and power struggles at the expense of our next generation. Children are treated like commodities or possessions rather than as human beings who crave and need a balanced life, and love from both of their parents. It is a sad state of affairs.
It is gradually getting better in some places. The rights of fathers are being recognized on a larger scale than when I went through it 25 years ago, but we have a long way to go.
In the meantime, there are men and children suffering the pain of forced separation. Some men who feel the weight and hopelessness of it just throw up their hands and quit trying. Others resort to violence born of frustration. Neither of these reactions helps the child.
I don’t intend to paint women as the only offenders here. I know of women who are also experiencing this because the father is wielding financial superiority and denying access to the mother. It is equally unfortunate regardless of which parent the children are being denied. However, I believe that this happens with greater frequency to men these days. I have often seen children being used as pawns—tools to manipulate the behavior of their fathers. Or simply used to make their fathers suffer emotionally, as compensation for a perceived injustice the mother has suffered. It’s all bad. It’s all wrong, and the ones who suffer the most are always the children.
Now I’m going to share some basic advice for men in this situation. This is not legal advice, it is my opinion. This is advice gained from my own experience, and also from the experience of other men I have witnessed go through it.
First some common sense. Take care not to become a father in the first place if you are not ready. If you are not in love with a woman and can’t see yourself sharing your entire life with her—for crying out loud take some precautions to not create a child. It isn’t rocket science, be the master of your biology, not a victim of it.
If you do happen to father a child with a woman you don’t love or can’t live with, what do you do? You be the best father you can, that’s what. The consequence of your lack of precaution is that you are no longer the most important thing in your life…your child is. Moving forward you must consider the welfare of this child first before you do anything—regardless of the mother’s actions. This is your obligation.
Pay whatever child support is ordered that you pay without complaining. Even if you are denied access. You are not paying for access…you are paying for the upkeep of a life you helped create. I lived in a semi truck for three years because I couldn’t afford to live in a house, because of child support. It’s just what I had to do in order to provide for my children. When you become a father, you come second.
Never quit attempting to gain access to your child. There are resources for fathers rights, seek them out and use them. Use whatever resources you can but never quit. This will pay off 18 years later when you get to know your child as an adult. They will know you never quit, and it will matter to them.
If you honestly deem the mother of your child to be unfit, or lacking in some way. If you sincerely believe that you would be a better parent. Then it is your obligation to gain custody of your child. This is what I did. It required a long, bloody, tedious, expensive and miserable battle in the court system but I eventually won custody of my children and it was worth every effort I made. Some of you might be thinking “holy crap! I can’t raise kids alone, I don’t know how. What if I screw up? I don’t have any idea what I’m doing here.” Hey…welcome to being a parent. Just do the best you can every day and love your children and it will work out. People have been doing it for thousands of years, you’ll figure it out.
This is an important one. Many dads only see their children 4 days a month; every other weekend and some holidays. Other dads are blessed with joint custody. Others may only get to talk on the phone with their children. Regardless of how much contact you have, perhaps the most important thing you can do for your children is never under any circumstance speak badly about their mother. Even if she is telling them horrible stories about you and trying to make them hate you as my children’s mother did, do not drop to that level. Children know they came from their parents. To hear that a parent they came from is bad in some way severely affects that child’s self esteem and self image. Remember, the most important thing here is the child. Not you and your feelings, and not their mother.
If you get access to your children, make it count. Don’t spoil them and buy them things out of guilt. Try hard to be the same dad you would if you were with them every day. It’s really hard, I struggled with this one myself. I wanted every precious moment to be wonderful and perfect, without any conflict. I overlooked bad behavior and spoiled them needlessly until I realized I was doing them a disservice. What they needed was a good, consistent, reliable dad—not a pal or best buddy. They needed my best example. They won’t always like you, and that’s ok—but they should always respect you.
It’s not always possible, in my case it was not. When possible though, do your utmost to co-parent with your children’s mother regardless of who has custody, who she is married to now, or who you are married to. Your child deserves the influence of both of you, and you cannot put your own petty emotions above that.
One of the most important things to remember is this. Your child will become an adult. They will be an adult for much, much longer than they are a child. Your basic objective as a parent is to raise them to be good, self sufficient, contributing members of society. Your secondary objective is to have a mutually rewarding relationship with them as an adult, to continue mentoring them and to ultimately know and extend influence to your grandchildren. When they become an adult the court no longer has jurisdiction. So you will have access to your child eventually. Everything you do when they are young, how you conduct yourself, the things you say and the example you are will come into play here. The quality of your relationship with your adult children relies entirely on the way you behave when they are children. They will come to know everything, it will all be revealed to them eventually. They will see both of their parents for the people and the parents they are—so, be the best one you can be. Even when it’s really, really hard. Being a dad is a grueling marathon, not a sprint.