I guessed it was my job to listen. She arrived at a café I had suggested, she sat down and began to unburden herself.
A sad, disconsolate story. She was in the throes of breaking up with her husband of not much more than a year. She had had a child with him, and another child with another man before.
She admitted that she had entered this latest relationship and this marriage with the full hope that this latest man could step up to replace the previous father.
This triggered me.
What exactly was wrong with the previous father? I didn't ask. This wasn't the time and it wasn't the place.
Tears were streaming out from under her large fashion sunglasses. Her disappointment, her tragedy were manifest.
However, what was with the rejecting of the father of the first child? Sure, she didn't like him and she was fully entitled to reject him as her partner. But just because she didn't like him did not make him any less of a father. His rights to access to his child should in no way depend on the mother's like or dislike of the father.
Would she do this to the second father? Was she in the process of rejecting this second man as partner and would this extend to rejecting him as a parent as well?
What 'right' is it that some women operate under that makes them think that they can create a baby – which they don't do on their own regardless of their thoughts on the issue – and then can decide whether, when and how the father might have contact with the child?
What about the kids? Is she thinking about the kids? Or is she simply thinking about herself – and the kids are tagging along for the ride. Regardless of whether they want to or not.
I felt sympathy for the woman though her story was long and distracted. It covered ground that I really did not need to know. It was details. I laughed at myself. Men are stereotypically good at handling the big issues, the gist of things while women are stereotypically great on the details.
Nonetheless, I felt sympathy. I could see her pain, I could see her hurting, and I felt for both of her kids from two different fathers who can so often be the victims of parents' relationships and breakups.
I reflected how I could feel sympathy for her. Me, as a man commonly stereotyped as uncaring, unresponsive. She a mother who looked intent on beating up her exes through her control of the children.
Despite all this, I did care. I cared about her children, about her, and yet I had no relationship with her.
Or at least, I no longer had a relationship with her. I was (and remain) the father of the first child – the father she admitted during our conversation that she had sought to replace.
I don't like what she said, I don't like how she behaved. However, I do not think for a second that this gives me the right to deprive her of her children – the one I fathered or the one that she bore with another father.
So, what gives her – and so many women like her – the right to decide the role of the father. Who allows her to execute this right when it is her emotions that are driving that decision? Emotions it might be noted that are directed against the man. The child is merely a tool used by her to emotionally hurt her ex-partner.
Men have right to challenge the mother's right to decide. More than a right, they have an obligation to do so for the benefit of their own children and for the benefit of others.