Parents until death—not divorce—do us part
We should expect that idea of “two” parents having equal access to their children to be embraced as “We are expecting” becomes “We are parents. Forever.”
By Diane Weber Bederman
September 29, 2014
We have unfortunately been inundated by nasty news about men. Shameful. There is no excuse for abuse. But, at the same time, let us not let anger toward this behaviour tarnish the importance of men in the lives of their families.
Not too long ago, while driving on the highway, I was listening to gossip time on some radio station. Latest celebrity tid-bits. I had no idea whom the radio hosts were discussing, but I do remember what was said. The recently married husband-of-two-weeks was speaking about some unexpected news. Paraphrasing, he said that it came as a surprise but “we are expecting.”
WE are expecting. Not my wife is expecting, not the wife announcing she was expecting, but the father-to-be, the newlywed husband. We are expecting. And I realized that he, this young celebrity, has moved us into a new paradigm, one I hope takes hold around the world.
We are expecting. That means it takes two. A man and a woman. “We are expecting” acknowledges that pregnancy is not an accident. Not today. Barring God forbid a rape, two people knowingly entered into a behaviour that led to the formation of a child. “We are expecting.” Not “I.” Not “she.”
The idea that a woman is alone in her pregnancy, solely responsible, is thankfully diminishing. They are both responsible for this pregnancy. She may be the vessel in which this child is growing, but they are pregnant. They are each responsible for this new life to be. They each now take upon themselves rights and responsibilities that they will carry forth to forever.
If “we are expecting” is the new paradigm then “we” decide whether or not to take this pregnancy to fruition. If “we are expecting” then both are responsible for raising this child-equally-in sickness and in health until death do us part. Death—not divorce.
Too often divorce means more than mom and dad parting ways. It means that children are, unexpectedly, without their permission, divorced from their father as well.
Marilyn Stowe, senior partner at Stowe Family Law, is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA. She said “As a society, we are now much readier than we once were to acknowledge the importance of the father figure. Single fathers are no longer objects of pity and the traditional assumption that children are the automatic possession of their mothers is questioned with greater frequency. There is solid evidence for the many benefits fathers bring to their children’s lives beyond the merely financial.”
Sadly, the latest Canadian government survey shows that mothers have sole custody of children 79.3% of the time; fathers have sole custody only 6.6% of the time. In Canada “close to half of the children visited their fathers on a regular basis; less than a third (30 percent) visited every week; and another sixteen percent visited every two weeks (see Table 7). One-quarter of the children visited their fathers irregularly (once a month, on holidays, or at random). Fifteen percent of children never saw their fathers (although a small number had letter or phone contact with him).” This is unconscionable. Time to look to our neighbours to the South who are fighting for the right of fathers to shared parenting.
Fifteen thousand citizens, women, men, grandparents, and friends got together in North Dakota to defend the right of children of separation and divorce to have access to both parents. They did this because “too many North Dakota children are forced into a living arrangement where one of their parents becomes an occasional visitor when the parents are no longer living together.”
These citizens were joined by four national shared parenting organizations—Leading Women for Shared Parenting (of which I am a member), Divorce Corp. Stand Up for Gus and American Coalition for Fathers & Children to promote this change in law in North Dakota. Molly Olson, President of Leading Women for Shared Parenting said, “We’re excited to be amongst the founders of a community of organizations where women and men work seamlessly to do what leading child development experts say is best for children – maximizing a child’s access to both fit parents, to help nurture them for a lifetime.” Hopefully this is just a beginning for the rights and needs of children to be honoured.
Dr. Richard Warshak, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, spent two years reviewing and analysing the relevant scientific literature and concluded “Just as we encourage shared parenting in two-parent homes, the evidence shows that shared parenting should be the norm for children of all ages, including sharing the overnight care for very young children.” His study was endorsed by 110 leading experts from 15 countries in a recent edition of the American Psychological Association‘s respected and peer reviewed journal; Psychology, Public Policy & The Law. .
Paul Raeburn, a science writer who has published books on mental illness and space exploration, published his comprehensive survey of scientific research on fatherhood in his book, Do Fathers Matter? Fathers, it seems, play an important role in the lives of their children before they are born.
“The fetus is not just passively receiving nutrients from its mother,” he said. “It’s actually sending out control signals, and it got that ability from genes that it got from its father.” Raeburn cites research from Nadya Panscofar of the The College of New Jersey and Lynne Vernon-Feagans of the University of North Carolina. They found that “fathers have a greater impact than mothers in expanding their children’s vocabulary.” Raeburn also notes the research that says “good fathers help their daughters transition from childhood to adulthood.”
Raeburn’s most important statement might be this “I’m glad to know my involvement is a good thing,” he writes. “But that’s not why I spend time with my kids. I do it because I like it.” Fathers like being fathers, not babysitters. They are parents, like mothers. Fathers are one half of the “WE are expecting” and “WE are raising our children.”
“It is time to resolve our ambivalence and contradictory ideas about fathers’ and mothers’ roles in their children’s lives. If we value Dad reading Goodnight Moon to his toddler and soothing his fretful baby at 3 a.m. while the parents are living together, why withdraw our support and deprive the child of these expressions of fatherly love just because the parents no longer live together, or just because the sun has gone down.”
As “We are expecting” spreads in the culture, then we should expect that idea of “two” parents having equal access to their children to be embraced as “We are expecting” becomes “We are parents. Forever.”