Having just finished up a parenting plan for my kids’ relocation, I’m feeling pretty drained. The process is slow, painful, expensive, emotionally draining and time-consuming. As a father, it was almost entirely up to me to put the effort into keeping my time with my children. In Washington state, there is a “presumption” that the custodial parent (i.e. the mother) can have her way, and whatever parenting plan she submits upon a relocation, even one that removes the father entirely from the children’s lives, becomes law if the father does not oppose it within 30 days. Previous custody agreements are irrelevant.
This law gives women the ability to erase fathers from their children’s lives as easily as submitting a new parenting plan and moving to the next school district. If the father is too poor or too busy to show up and fight it in court, he’s out of luck. If he already lives elsewhere, he’s pretty much screwed. And even if he can fight it the first time, the mother can simply repeat the process until he gives up.
For all the talk of progress in father’s rights and equality, the brutal reality is that a determined woman can still remove her children from their father’s life simply with some persistence and knowledge of the law. Men have the option to fight it, but realistically speaking, most men don’t have the means. The typical separation and/or divorce happen when both parents are young. All the young single mothers clogging up the hookup/dating sites are clear evidence of how common this is. In most cases, they left their children’s father; they were not abandoned.
Young men in particular, especially these days, do not generally have the wherewithal to fight for their children, and I’ve learned from personal experience that if you don’t fight for them you will lose them. I count myself one of the lucky ones. I was tenacious, and would have been no matter what the circumstances, but friends and family, which I have an abundance of here in my hometown, were essential to my ability to persevere. I really feel for young men without this advantage — there’s often nothing they can do. This is why I will always give the benefit of the doubt to men who are estranged from their children.
And yet we still have politicians, pundits and producers bemoaning the plight of the poor, abandoned single mother and fatherless child, pointing the finger of blame at men, despite the fact that women are given options all along the way. They have the option to leave their children’s father, they have the option to continue to demand support from him, and they have the option to cut him off from his children. Not one of these options results in a penalty, so a great many women pursue them.
The unspoken truth about fatherlessness is that in most cases a woman chose to remove the father from his children’s lives. Fatherlessness is not, when it comes down to it, about a problem with men, but rather a problem with women. There may be some men who willingly abandon their children, but these are a small minority compared to those who have been disposed of by the mother.
Our society needs to stop asking “what’s wrong with men?” and start inquiring into what’s gone wrong with women. Fatherlessness is a major crisis in our civilization, and the blame for it lies almost entirely at the feet of our women.