Stepmoms Speak

28 10 2008

Dads Are People Too
By Gina Shuster

Gina and her husband married in September 2000. Together they have two sons, 6 and 3. Gina works from her home in New Jersey. Gina’s husband has joint custody of his 12-year-old daughter. The schedule itself can be challenging, but otherwise, Gina gets along well with her stepdaughter’s mom, which means she has less conflict in her life than many stepmoms have. Although Gina has a relatively good situation, she has still found that life in a blended family definitely has challenges: her sons not getting to see their sister every day, nor she them; dealing with planning; adjustments to different parenting styles in each home, to name a few. She is the founder of an online forum for stepmoms: www.stepmomstation.com.

Historically, mothers are viewed as the nurturers and fathers are viewed as the breadwinners. When couples with children divorce, there are many assumptions:

– He left his wife, presumably for a “younger model”
– He doesn’t want to be a full-time father
– She is now left alone, saddened and penniless

…as well as many other stereotypical assumptions.

While this may certainly be the case in some situations, it’s most definitely not in all, and in fact, is true in the minority rather than the majority of families.

Time was when even the court system saw fit to provide custody of the children to the mother, with the father allowed every other weekend visitation and told to pay child support. It wasn’t the norm for children to live with their father, and joint custody was something most of us hadn’t heard of until recent years.

Welcome to the 21st century!

News flash: Fathers want to be parents, and in fact, are parents. Many people forget that in a divorce situation. Many look to the mother to make decisions, even simple ones such as getting a child’s haircut or what clothes the child should wear.

As the owner and an active member of Stepmom Station, I’ve seen many situations, running the gamut of custodial schedules and support orders. More often than not, I’ve seen fathers who want to be involved, who want to love their children, who want input, but are often met with resistance from the ex-wife and even from family members and outsiders.

When parents divorce, they divorce their partner; they do not divorce their children! No one knows the full extent of any situation except for the two parties involved, so the automatic assumption that it was his idea to divorce or that he cheated is unfair. In fact, in my own blended family situation, it was my husband’s ex-wife who wanted the divorce. (And no, she wasn’t cheating.) It’s also completely irrelevant to his parental status.

Fathers aren’t bad guys. Maybe some weren’t the best partner, but that can be said for some ex-wives as well. I see too many fathers kowtowing to their ex and her whims for fear of losing their children. Why? The children are his too. She doesn’t get to decide if he can be their father. He is their father. One does not lose their parental title by virtue of divorce. A dad should still be there to provide love, discipline, financial and emotional support and everything else that he was providing up to that point.

It’s high time that society recognizes the equality of fathers as parents in more areas than just the wallet. That would be best started by these fathers recognizing as much. Hey guys, you may not be Mommy, but no one else is Daddy.

Have advice to share? Email Jacque.

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