By Trish Wilson
Reprinted with permission of the author
Over the past decade, fatherhood has been all the rage and dads are naturally the talk of pundits on Father’s Day. So let’s say you’re a divorcing dad and you’re having trouble coping. You look for help on the internet and discover the father’s rights movement.
Be warned – avoid father’s rights groups like the plague. According to the pro-feminist men’s group The National Organization For Men Against Sexism (NOMAS), “male supremacist groups (“Father’s Rights”) have caused unspeakable harm to our country and to our children by encouraging abusive fathers, often with little past involvement with their children, to seek custody as a tactic to pressure a mother to return or to punish her for leaving. “Shared parenting”, “friendly parent”, involvement of both parents and other concepts that seem fair and benevolent have instead been used to manipulate courts and legislatures to help abusive fathers. For instance, women are routinely denied custody of their children after being classified as “unfriendly” for asserting that the husband has abused them or their children.” Father’s rights groups prey on confused men angry and sad over the break-up of their relationships by stoking their rage and insecurities. In addition, father’s rights groups encourage men to fight for custody of their children by using harmful tactics that further erode their relationships with their ex’s – and by extension their children.
How can a dad – unemployed or working outside the home – be a good father? Not by fighting for custody or demanding “shared parenting” after divorce or breakup. The best way a dad can be a good father is by providing support to the mother of his children, including both financial and emotional support. According to Florida attorney Elizabeth Kates, “a father’s most important role, and the one common “father factor” in all research that indicates any correlation between father involvement or presence and positive effect on child well-being is: a father who emotionally cares for, financially supports, respects, is involved with, takes some of the work load off of, and generally makes life easier, happier and less stressful for. . . his children’s mother.”
If dad wants to make sure his children thrive he must do whatever he can to ensure that their mother is thriving. Stop fighting for “shared parenting” or sole custody if you are in court. Don’t badmouth their mother. Stop hiring paid mouthpieces that tout the latest psychological theory to show that the children are best off with a dad who had never acted as their primary caregiver. I know this will piss off lots of men but it is the truth.
Don’t believe me? How about the research?
A seven-year study by Dallas’s Timberlawn Psychiatric Institute found the one factor that was the most important in helping children become healthy, happy adults, was the quality of the relationship between their parents. This one factor was more important than giving kids hugs, providing good discipline, building their self esteem, or any other aspect of what is traditionally considered ‘good parenting’.” Other studies found that “the strongest single factor associated with resiliency in early years is social attachment to a primary caregiver. There is considerable evidence linking secure attachment to social and academic competence and positive developmental outcomes, such as improved communication, problem-solving, social relationships and grades” and “the single most important determinant of child well-being after divorce is living in a household with adequate income.”
Even the National Fatherhood Initiative agreed with the mother-needs-support assessment when it found that “the best thing a dad can do for his children is love their mother.” Researcher Michael Lamb, known for his studies of fatherhood, noted that “…the warmer, the richer, the more supportive the relationship he has with the mother, the better he is able to be a supportive and loving father for the child.”
So dads, the message is clear. If you want your children to grow up to be happy and healthy adults, the best thing you can do for them is to make sure that their mother is comfortable, healthy, and happy. When primary caregiving moms thrive, children thrive. And happy children enjoy their fathers more.