FATHER

Posts Tagged ‘Moms’

Why I (and, I suspect, many separated women) regret divorcing | Mail Online

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Civil Rights, Divorce, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Marriage, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers on July 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm

By Jane Gordon

Last updated at 10:57 PM on 16th July 2009

Last weekend, at a family wedding in the country, I was overwhelmed by an emotion that has, in the last year, become only too familiar to me.

Sitting in a stifling marquee, listening to my cousin Sally’s husband making the traditional father-of-the-bride speech, I was overcome by a feeling that was part envy, part guilt and part regret.

My cousin’s marriage, which has lasted for 25 years, is by no means perfect – what marriage is? – but against the odds, she has achieved something that is now, and always will be, beyond my grasp.

A lost life: Jane Gordon with her husband and son in 1999, before her divorce

A lost life: Jane Gordon with her husband and son in 1999, before her divorce

As I looked at her sitting happy and radiant at the top table, laughing uproariously at her husband’s far from funny jokes, I realised that, in a world that has horribly devalued the institution of marriage, she was reaping the benefits of putting the love and security of her family first, before any disagreements she might have with her husband in the rough and tumble of daily life.

Watching her united with her husband on such an emotional occasion reminded me sharply of exactly what I had lost – but had no idea I was losing – seven years ago, when I got divorced from my husband, the father of my three children, after 25 years together.

Our relationship had broken down, I can now see, not because of any petty irritations such as his lateness or my untidiness, but because we had both moved irrevocably away from each other.

In the past few years of our marriage, I was more absorbed in my children and my career than I was in my husband while he, feeling increasingly isolated, simply switched off.

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many couples. But how many of them choose to separate, and how many have the gumption to stick it out?

The trouble is nobody tells you the truth about divorce. They tell you it’s a ‘difficult’ experience, and it’s generally accepted that the process sits somewhere near the top of the ten most stressful life events.

‘No one ever points out that the repercussions of a marital split will reverberate down the timeline of your life forever’

But in the main it is regarded by society as a necessary evil. A milestone which, in an age when two in five UK marriages will fail, millions of us will go through at some point in our lives.

Indeed, in many ways, divorce is given a more positive spin in our confused modern world than marriage is.

The drawbacks of divorce are believed to be mostly either financial – as if the splitting up of the spoils of a life together were the very worst part of the process – or the fallout experienced by the children.

Little is ever said about the longer-term effects of divorce on the couple. No one ever points out that the repercussions of a marital split will reverberate down the timeline of your life forever.

This week, the Conservatives published a report commissioned by Iain Duncan Smith which proposed a three-month ‘cooling off’ period for couples considering divorce.

But the idea that couples would be ready to rethink their break-up after such a short period is unrealistic.

Change in family dynamics: Jane and her family before the divorce, now special occasions involve jugging the needs of her step family as well

Change in family dynamics: Jane and her family before the divorce, now special occasions involve jugging the needs of her step family as well

As I have discovered the hard way, it is only now, seven years after I received my decree nisi, that I am starting to realise the gravity of what I have done.

If it has taken me this long for the seismic shockwaves of divorce to really hit home, how are warring couples expected to take an informed decision about separation when they are in the midst of the rows, the tension and the recrimination that so often accompany the death throes of a marriage?

It is only now that I am experiencing something akin to the seven-year ‘itch’ of marriage; the seven-year ‘ache’ of divorce, a regular recurrence of the emotion I experienced at that recent wedding – a pang, a regret for what has gone for ever.

There is much in my post-divorced life that I am grateful for and happy about. I have gained a new partner and two stepchildren, and our ‘blended’ family is more harmonious than anyone could have expected.

My ex-husband, who is a media consultant, has ‘moved on’ to a perfectly ordered and elegant bachelor apartment and a social life (with a series of ever-younger girlfriends) that is the envy of his old married friends.

On the surface, we have ‘come through’ our split relatively unscathed. But however contented I might be with my new partner Robin – and he with me – we realise that our relationship is, well, somehow second-best.

‘I had no idea of the true complexity of unravelling a life that had been led in tandem with someone else for more than 20 years’

Our true loyalties lie not with our new ‘blended’ family, but with our own biological children and the ex-partners from whom we were both amicably divorced.

The important occasions in family life which I used to love – birthdays, Christmas and so on – are now difficult, trying times.

They are unsatisfactory no matter how hard we try; whether my partner and I attempt – as we have on several occasions – to unite our new and old lives or agree to simply be apart for the ‘sake’ of our children.

Now, for example, we spend Christmas apart – each ensconced with our children and ex-partners – which causes huge tension between us and has made us both dread the annual celebrations.

When my husband and I parted, my view of divorce was simplistic. I believed in the notion of divorce as a clean break and imagined a ‘fresh start’ would solve all my problems.

It wasn’t a decision made lightly, but I had no idea of the true complexity of unravelling a life that had been led in tandem with someone else for more than 20 years.

It was the death of my parents, within six months of each other in 2008, that was the catalyst for my change of heart.

At my father’s funeral, my brother made a moving address about the formidable achievements of an extraordinary man. He concluded that the greatest achievement of all was his remarkable partnership – over 60 years – with my mother.

Ashley and Cheryl Cole

Still going strong: Jane admires women like Cheryl Cole who can get past their husband’s infidelity for an enduring marriage

The fact that I had not been able to give my own children the security that I had taken for granted shamed and upset me almost as much as the loss of my adored parents.

My children hadn’t lost their parents when my husband and I divorced, but they had lost their family home and the continuity of family life that makes the journey from childhood to adulthood so much more comforting and secure.

It was at that funeral that I first experienced the feeling – part envy, part guilt and part regret – that has haunted me ever since.

With my new partner sympathetically sitting by my side and my ex-husband (who shared so much of my family history and yet had somehow been edited out of it), standing in the gallery, I truly understood what I had lost.

And there have been countless other moments in the past year when I have experienced similar feelings.

Last month, I attended a dinner party thrown by a close female friend whose own marriage had shifted perilously close to the edge of divorce, shortly after mine did, because her husband had an affair.

At the time of my break-up, my view of other people’s marriages was as skewed as my view of my own, and I viewed her reluctance to divorce in a cynical way – imagining that her main motivation was her fear of losing her status as a married woman.

‘It is impossible to go back, but at the same time my divorce makes it difficult for me to move forward’

But I now see there was a much more selfless reason for her tenacity. Because a marriage, however imperfect, isn’t just important in the happy moments of life – a child’s graduation or wedding for example – but also in the bad times.

Shortly after my friend and her errant husband were reunited, he lost his high-flying City job and he now admits that it would not have been possible for him to recover from that (they started a successful new business together) without her love and support.

Their relationship has changed – my friend admits that she is still wounded by his infidelity – but losing her trust in him for a time is nothing to what she would have lost had she gone ahead with her divorce.

Back then, I couldn’t understand her ability to accept his behaviour. But now I have nothing but admiration for the way she was able to take a longer view of her own marriage.

Indeed, I have a similar sense of admiration and e

nvy for a handful of other still-married friends whose relationships I had viewed somewhat cynically because they displayed such open animosity towards each other.

A good marriage – I now realise – is dependent upon the ability of both partners occasionally to be selfless and to compromise.

It is, of course, ironic that divorce has strengthened my belief in marriage. But then the years haven’t just changed my view of divorce; they have inevitably blurred my memory of the reasons for our split.

Somewhere in my new home there is a large brown envelope filled with the reasons why we parted, duly noted down by lawyers, but the passage of time has made those mutually exasperating irritations seem petty.

In 2002, they were real and seemingly insurmountable. Had someone told me the truth about divorce then – explained exactly how, in the years ahead, it would impact on my life – perhaps we would still be together.

WEDDING SCENE SHOWING BRIDE AND GROOM

I do two? Jane is unsure whether she will marry her new partner due to the scars left by the failure of her first marriage (file photo)

It is impossible to go back, but at the same time my divorce makes it difficult for me to move forward.

Maybe one day my new partner and I will marry, but the impact of our break-ups – he divorced several years before me – has so far prevented us from making a legal commitment to each other.

Our mutual fears that re-marriage will somehow invalidate our original families, and his concerns about the financial loss he would endure should our marriage subsequently break down, make the notion of a wedding unlikely.

But my divorce hasn’t just had a major impact on the likelihood of re-marrying. I worry, too, that it has affected my children’s view of marriage.

Will the repercussions of my break-up not only reverberate down the timeline of my life but also the timelines of my children’s lives?

My daughters were 19 and 22 when I divorced and my son, who lives with me, was just ten.

Seven years on, my daughters are both much more focused on their careers than their love-lives, and show no sign of settling down in the way that my cousin Sally’s daughter – several years younger – has done.

The long-term effects of my divorce, then, may not only deny me the opportunity to be a bride again and thus, in some way, legitimise my new relationship in the eyes of the world.

But they also could prevent me from being the mother-of-the-bride and – ultimately – a grandmother.

To paraphrase William Congreve’s famous quote: ‘Divorce in haste, repent at leisure.’

Why I (and, I suspect, many separated women) regret divorcing | Mail Online.

Mom’s House, Dad’s House – Two Books on Divorce

In Best Interest of the Child, Childrens Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Marriage, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Relocation, Parentectomy, Parents rights on June 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm

For Kids on divorce, stepfamilies, and staying strong

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Five Myths on Fathers and Family by W. Bradford Wilcox on National Review Online

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parents rights on June 25, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Five Myths on Fathers and Family

Be on the lookout this week for stories with these bogus memes.

By W. Bradford Wilcox

With Father’s Day almost upon us, expect a host of media stories on men and family life. Some will do a good job of capturing the changes and continuities associated with fatherhood in contemporary America. But other reporters and writers will generalize from their own unrepresentative networks of friends and family members, try to baptize the latest family trend, or assume that our society is heading ceaselessly in a progressive direction. So be on the lookout this week for stories, op-eds, and essays that include these five myths on contemporary fatherhood and family life.

1. THE ‘MR. MOM’ SURGE

Open a newspaper or turn on a TV in the week heading up to Father’s Day and you are bound to confront a story on stay-at-home dads. I have nothing against stay-at-home dads, but they make up a minuscule share of American fathers.

For instance, less than 1 percent (140,000) of America’s 22.5 million married families with children under 15 had a stay-at-home dad in 2008, according to the U.S. Census. By contrast, about 24 percent (5,327,000) of those families had a stay-at-home mom. This means that the vast majority — more than 97 percent — of all stay-at-home parents are moms, not dads.

via Five Myths on Fathers and Family by W. Bradford Wilcox on National Review Online.

The focus on Mr. Mom obscures another important reality. In most American families today, fathers still take the lead when it comes to breadwinning: In 2008, the Census estimated that fathers were the main provider in almost three-quarters of American married families with children under 18. Providership is important to protect children from poverty, raise their odds of educational success, and increase the likelihood that they will succeed later in life. Thus, the very real material contribution that the average American dad makes to his family is obscured by stories that focus on that exotic breed, the stay-at-home dad.

2.  WOMEN WANT EVERYTHING
50-50
Another prevailing media myth is that contemporary women are looking for fathers who will split their time evenly between work and family life. It may be true for the average journalist or academic, but it is not true for the average American married mom.

Most married mothers nowadays do want their husbands to do their fair share of housework and childcare. But they do not define fairness in terms of a 50-50 balancing act where fathers and mothers do the same thing at home and work. Instead, contemporary mothers take into account their husbands’ work outside the home when they assess the fairness of the division of labor inside the home.

Moreover, most women who are married with children are happy to have their husbands take the lead when it comes to providing and do not wish to work full-time. For instance, a 2007 Pew Research Center study found that only 20 percent of mothers with children under 18 wanted to work full-time, compared with 72 percent of fathers with children under 18. My own research has shown that married mothers are happiest in their marriages when their husbands take the lead when it comes to breadwinning largely because his success as a provider gives her more opportunities to focus on the children, or balance childcare with part-time work (the most popular work arrangement for married mothers). So, on this Father’s Day, dads who are fortunate enough to hold down a good job and make a major contribution to their families financial welfare should take some comfort from the fact that they are likely to be boosting not only their families bottom line but also their wives’ happiness.

3.  MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER
With the rise of cohabitation over the last 40 years, a large minority of American children will spend some time in a household headed by a cohabiting couple. Experts now estimate that about 40 percent of American children will spend some time in a cohabiting household, either because they are born into such a household or because one of their parents cohabits after a breakup. Faced with this reality, many journalists, scholars, and advocates are tempted to minimize the differences between married and cohabiting fathers and families.

But the reality is that, on average, cohabiting fathers do not compare with married fathers. As Sandra Hofferth of the University of Maryland and Kermyt Anderson of the University of Oklahoma found in a recent study, married fathers are significantly more involved and affectionate with their children than are cohabiting fathers. In fact, from their research, they conclude “that marriage per se confers advantage in terms of father involvement above and beyond the characteristics of the fathers themselves.”

Married fathers are also much more likely than their cohabiting peers to stick around. One recent study by Wendy Manning at Bowling Green State and Pamela Smock at the University of Michigan found that 50 percent of children born to cohabiting parents saw their parents break up by age five; by comparison, only 15 percent of children born to married parents saw their parents divorce by age five. Dad is much more likely to stick around if he has a wedding ring on his finger.

This is because, for men, marriage and fatherhood are a “package deal,” as sociologists Frank Frustenberg and Andrew Cherlin observed a number of years ago. By force of law and custom, marriage binds men to their families and gives them a recognizable role to play in the lives of their children. Try as they might, unmarried men typically find it difficult to be a consistent and positive force in the lives of their children.

4.  THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Every couple of years, some journalist seeks to revive the myth of the good divorceoften to excuse his or her own bad behavior. Sandra Tsing Loh is Exhibit A this week. In the most recent issue of The Atlantic, she spends several thousand words trying to justify her divorce from her husband of 20 yearsa man she admits is a “good man” and “loving father” — under the cover of a sprawling, incoherent, and frankly disturbing review of five books on marriage and family life. (Among other things, the reader is regaled with all too much information about Loh’s private life; we learn, for instance, that one reason she ended up divorced is that she could not replace the “romantic memory of my fellow [adulterous] transgressor with the more suitable image of my husband.”)

Loh claims that her children appear to be doing just fine. Her two school-age girlsaged 7 and 9appear to be “unfazed” and “relatively content” in the midst of their parents’ divorce. Who knew divorce could be so easy on the kids?

In reality, Loh is probably deluding herself. The best social science presents a rather different picture than the rosy one Loh is trying to paint. According to research by Sara McLanahan of Princeton University and Paul Amato of Penn State, girls whose parents divorce are about twice as likely to drop out of high school, to become pregnant as teenagers, and to suffer from psychological problems such as depression and thoughts of suicide. Girls whose parents divorce are also much more likely to divorce later in life.

Moreover, studies indicate that children experience the most harm when their parents divorce after living together in a low-conflict marriage for many years (as Loh appears to have done). Why? These divorces come as the most surprising ones to children who thought that their parents had a good-enough marriage.

Though Loh manages to find for her Atlantic piece a bunch of well-educated friends who are also entertaining thoughts of divorce, she is (fortunately) in increasingly rare company. The work of sociologist Steven Martin indicates that since 1980, college-educated Americans have grown less tolerant of divorce, and the divorce rate among this cohort has fallen off sharply. Thus, well-educated readers of The Atlantic are unlikely to take Loh’s misleading and self-serving essay to heart.

5.  DADS ARE DISPENSABLE
The final myth propagated by journalists in connection with fatherhood these days is the myth of the dispensable father. Often conjured up in glowing profiles of women who have become single mothers by choice, this myth holds that fathers do not play a central role in children’s lives.

This myth fails to take into account the nowvast social scientific literature (discussed above) showing that children typically do better in an intact, married families with their fathers than they do in families headed by single mothers.

It also overlooks the growing body of research indicating that fathers bring distinctive talents to the parenting enterprise. The work of psychologist Ross Parke, for instance, indicates that fathers are more likely than mothers to engage their children in vigorous physical play (e.g., roughhousing), to challenge their childrenincluding their daughtersto embrace life’s challenges, and to be firm disciplinarians.

Not surprisingly, children benefit from being exposed to the distinctive paternal style. Sociologist David Eggebeen has shown, for instance, that teenagers are significantly less likely to suffer from depression and delinquency when they have involved and affectionate fathers, even after controlling for the quality of their relationship with their mother. In his words, “What these analyses clearly show is that mothers and fathers both make vital contributions to adolescent well-being.”

This is not to say that all journalists get it wrong when it comes to making sense of contemporary fatherhood and family life. This week, for instance, Sue Shellenberger at the Wall Street Journal had a great piece discussing the ways in which mothers serve as gatekeepers for fathers to their children; she also encourages mothers to allow fathers to engage children with their own distinctive style of parenting. Likewise, Linda Carroll at MSNBC has written an incisive story showing that involved and affectionate fathers play a crucial role in steering their daughters away from early sexual activity; in fact, it turns out that dads are more important than moms in protecting their teenage daughters from early sex.

In the coming years, we will need more tough-minded and honest journalism like the kind offered by Shellenberger and Carroll. This is particularly true because the cultural and economic storms of latee.g., the individualistic turn of contemporary life and the recessionhave been eroding the marital foundations of family life in America. Given the social scientific record on fatherhood, marriage, and family life, the United States could use more journalists who are willing to confront hard truths about the roles that fathers and marriage play in advancing the welfare of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, our children, and the cultural, economic, and legal forces that are now undercutting marriage and fatherhood in America.

W. Bradford Wilcox is a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Institute for American Values.

Breakthrough Parenting – Moving Your Family from Struggle to Cooperation

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Jayne Major, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parents rights on June 23, 2009 at 4:02 pm

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