Dads have feelings too

Most expect single dads to contribute to the upbringing of their children. But most seem unwilling to accept that single dads have feelings, and that their lives are seriously disturbed by divorce.

One man tells his story of how he cried each night at 8pm, the hour that he would be involved in putting his four children to bed.

A friend of mine recently told me about his brother. Recently separated, the brother continues on with his life as best he can. He has been stripped of his wife, his child and his home. He lives in a bedsit. He barely ever cooks. He works late. He brings in food that he buys in the street. He probably drinks a lot more than he ought.

One day a week he gets to spend time with his four year old daughter. My friend, the child's uncle, no longer gets time with his niece. They both appeared to enjoy their outings, their trips to the park – but that no longer happens.

It is of course not only my friend that misses out on taking out his niece. It is her father. And the little girl. I'm sure that the little girl's life is busy, but it is now full of strangers. People who mean nothing relative to those who used to spend time with her and who want to spend the time with her. Why is she unable to spend time with these people? Because her Mummy and these other people are separated by an enormous divide called Divorce.

I've been through the court system and I know that it is all about what is best for the child. Certainly there is nothing to argue with in principle. But what of what is best for productive, breathing, living, involved human beings? What about the father? Is it such a sin to want to see him get 'better'?

The courts aim to try and ensure that the child has minimal disruption to her life. But why does the court have to intervene?

For one thing, disruption is a part of life. There are many disruptions in a child's life and only rarely does the court step up to impose itself into the fabric of family to dictate what should and should not happen with the child.

Divorce is admittedly a considerable disruption. Perhaps a lot greater than some of the other disruptions that might happen in a child's life. Certainly more significant than everyday disruptions of skinned knees, cranky parents , or whatever. Also more frequent than other significant disruptions such as gross negligence – of which the perpetrators are mostly mothers.

However, the divorce disruption is one that is caused or created by at least one, maybe both of the parents. At a minimum then, one of the people that cares deeply for the child has decided to create this disruption. To draw the parallel with gross negligence, if a child is neglected and child services choose to intervene, they will 'punish' the parent that created that inappropriate environment for the child by removing the child from the parent.

In divorce, it does not work like this. In divorce, the parent(s) creating this disruption are unpunished. Well, they are so long as they are designated the primary care-giver. The other one, typically the male, will be punished regardless of whether he initiated or even wanted the divorce.

The parent who demands divorce is knowingly leading their child into an enormous disturbance. While I totally support fault-free divorce, when it comes to issues about the care of the children, I wonder whether we might not give some attention to the fact that the applicant is creating a disturbance in the child's life. This fact should be borne in mind when issues of custody are being discussed – just as a parent's negligence would be considered important in what will happen after the court appearance.


  1. Sadly not an unusual saga for the separated father. When helping guys here in NZ in that position how they handle the process is very important. I suggest they apply for shared care from the start if that's what they want.
    Many men change their working lives around once separated to accommodate this.
    Divorce and separation bring change for everyone - the parents and the children. They all get used to it and adapt.


  2. I have just been through the process of separation and fought for 50/50 custody. My thoughts mirrored this article in that I didn't initiate the separation and felt that the children needed my stability at that time. I was successful though the court process but I felt constantly as though my parenting didn't matter and that I was the 'under dog' so to speak.