“As a divorced father, I am lucky to have unrestricted access to my children. Also, I facilitate a relationship between my girls and their mother, even though she never pays her child support. Everyday, I thank God for this gift of joy he has bestowed upon me.”
- Juan Arevalo, proud single father
It’s not easy to be a single parent. It wasn’t easy years ago and it isn’t easy today. At one time, I was a single mother but I was blessed to have an ex-husband who cared a great deal about our sons and helped me raise them into fine young men despite the divorce. I know that many, many people (like my friend, Juan) do not have the privilege of a cooperative ex. They had to fight for years for their rights as a father and suffer from genuine pain and emotional trauma, leaving them bitter toward the court system and their ex.
For years, the courts here in Virginia and around the country have favored women when it came to custody. It was seen as an advantage to the children because a mother is typically (but not always) the nurturing caregiver, if not the moneymaker. Courts tried to judge the nature of the relationship from only a brief meeting and, typically, would side in the mother's favor. However, removing dad from the equation is hardly a good idea. Judging them based on their gender is a huge mistake. Children need their fathers as much as they need their mothers. Both are equally important. Especially if they are genuinely loving.
I believe that men have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to custody and are often stripped of their rights because women spend nine months pregnant and then give birth. People have been trained to believe that since women give birth, it is more hers than dads. Now, I’m not saying that’s what all people think. It does, however, seem to be a general consensus. I don’t think this is a valid argument. Put simply, the baby wouldn’t be there at all if it weren’t for dad, even if they can’t physically participate in its growth in the womb. In addition, he will spend the rest of his life being a father, whether he is allowed to participate or not. And not being able to participate can place a heavy and painful toll on a man’s mind, soul and heart.
Some fathers are not really dads, nor do they want to be. As for women, some should really not be mothers. Just because a women can get pregnant doesn’t mean she should. It’s always a good thing when people – both men and women – take action to ensure that they will not get pregnant with children they don’t want. This can come in the form of abstinence, proper contraception or sterilization surgeries. But very often, this isn’t how it happens. People don’t often decide when they begin having sex whether or not they want children and they don't think about how having a child with this person may cause long lasting pain and emotional trauma. That’s not exactly what’s on their minds.
In our day and age, it is also true that marriage is not as permanent as it once was. Having children with a woman or man that you love is still the natural instinct. But what happens when you are not in love anymore and you have the “throwaway marriage” mentality? The courts decide what’s best for your children. Unless you have a cooperative ex like I did, you are heading into days, months and possibly years of stress and pain. These situations have caused trauma so severe, it has led to suicide and murder.
So what does a father do when the courts decide in the favor of the mother? To fathers who love and are fighting for their children, remember to stay strong, let your children know that you love them and never give up. Even if your ex is giving you the biggest hassle of your life. Good fathers should never be shoved to the side in favor of the mother's rights simply because she's the mom. Good fathers that have been misjudged because of their gender must stand firm and fight for their rights.
It’s important to remember that whether you are mom or dad, your kids must come first when divorce is imminent. However, the adults in the situation can only care for the needs of the children properly if they are caring for themselves as well. Strong feelings rise up during these traumatic situations. This causes mental and emotional trauma for everyone involved. From the get-go, dads know the “odds are not in their favor”. Although times are changing and courts are becoming more “pro-dad” than ever before, it is still a long, hard battle for dads everywhere who want to spend more time with their children and are fully aware of their ex-wife’s manipulations of the court.
Statistics show that men can suffer from psychological and emotional trauma from divorce. Mental pain of this nature is not exclusive to women and children. It can be even more stressful for men, in fact, because it is engrained in males from their youth to be strong, to take charge and to be in control. When the control is taken away and insecurity sets in, men can suffer greatly and spiral downwards quickly, falling into bad habits, such as drinking and drug addiction. The effect of divorce on the human emotions is incredible and the emotional trauma can last for years, if not a lifetime, if they are allowed to. In fact, people can suffer from PTSD (Post-tramautic Stress Disorder) caused by the pain of divorce.
Psychologists recommend counseling sessions for everyone involved in divorce. My own sons were taken to a counselor for a time after my divorce from their father. My ex and I also attended a few sessions of our own. It is extremely important to make sure you keep a calm and level head during your dealings with the court, your ex and your children. It may seem impossible at times but it is essential that you stay strong. This is good advice for both moms and dads.
Men are often very proud and stubborn when it comes to things they consider "masculine". Therapy is not typically known as a "masculine" thing to do. They may refuse to accept the fact that their (impending or finalized) divorce is causing them a great deal of pain. But I say, take care of yourself. Talk to someone. Don't let emotional trauma and psychological damage keep you away from your children.