An Alternative View

I’ve got a guest post on the blog today – the first ever one I have agreed to publish anonymously – from a father who won’t be able to spend this Sunday with his children. I know he would appreciate your comments.

Father’s Day. A day when children give their fathers hand-made cards, cuddles and another round of unwanted gifts. They do this to let their fathers know how much they are loved and appreciated. Alternatively, it is just a cynical marketing ploy to find another way to guilt consumers into spending money on various assorted tat masquerading as presents.

For some of us though, it is a yearly source of pain or, at best, a reminder of the most precious part of our lives that is missing most of the week. I fall into this camp as I only see my two children one day a week. Their mother asked me for a separation four years ago, we sadly went our different ways and started to think about the future. While I am happy for my ex to have custody during the week since their primary school is a five-minute walk from the matrimonial home, the weekends are still a battleground. Despite my best efforts and appealing to her via mediation, I still only have a limited time with my babies.

In the meantime, every time I walk into a shop from mid-May onwards, I am struck across the face by reminders of this ‘special time’. This year is made even worse as I won’t even get to see my children on Sunday. Thanks to some wonderful planning on the part of the Scouts, my son will be coming home from camp late afternoon on Sunday, which means there is no time for a visit. It is the same story on Friday afternoon, when the packing, checking and general getting ready is happening. On the plus side, my daughter will have me all to herself on Saturday. The time I normally have to split, at times unequally, between the two of them can be lavished just on her.

Supposedly, fathers have an indispensable role to play in the lives of their children. Sadly, that’s not the case for many fathers who face a constant struggle for time with their children. I am not a risk to my children, but have had to resort to the courts to gain time with them where I’m not trying to fit in a meal, a snack, getting them ready to leave, some individual Daddy-time and all of us playing together into an afternoon. I’ve given up trying to include a phone-call to my parents as it isn’t practical and was one of many things – such as going to the park or the cinema – that can’t be achieved in the time we have together. I constantly have to ask for information about what is happening at school – both from my ex and the school itself. This week was a prime example, where only due to the fact of me asking did I learn when Sports Day was. Thankfully I asked in time so I didn’t miss it. Luckily the school remembered I existed the day before my daughter’s P1 induction morning otherwise I would have missed that too. Every Christmas and birthday is a struggle – while I hope we’ll discuss what we’re buying and curb excesses, my ex-wife announces to me what she has bought the children. That leaves me with second choices or creative shopping. Decisions about what activities the children do outwith school do not involve me, as do those made about who looks after them if my ex has a (rare) night out.

I want to be involved but, as happens throughout the country, the children, their lives and their care are used as weapons. I happily, voluntarily and willingly pay more than the Child Support Agency suggests I should pay. I also buy clothes to have at my flat just in case there’s a spillage or some kind of accident. These clothes are usually worn twice at most and every time I package a new lot for donation to a charity shop I look wistfully at them, wondering how my bonny daughter would have looked in this dress or how much my son would have grumped about my choice of T-shirt for him. After every visit I tidy away the books and toys they have scattered around and try not to notice the quiet.

According to the Families Need Fathers’ charter, children should and indeed must feel they have two properly involved parents, with free access to both. The children, it says, should spend enough time with both parents so as to negate any attempts at ‘parental alienation.’ The charter also says that any attempt to deny or obstruct this relationship is unacceptable. Sadly in my case I am having to fight for these basic rights.

I have to wait and see what one of the sheriffs who deal with family law will make of our situation. I wish it hadn’t come to this but every effort I’ve made to discuss contact issues has met with a rebuff. Any attempt at negotiation, mediation or reasoning is met with a firm and stark refusal.

Taking my daughter to her swimming class?

No, she’s happy with things the way they are.

Walking my son home after the school disco, where I’m chaperoning?

No, I’ve made arrangements for that.

Creating a reward chart for when the children are at my house?

They already have one here.

I will spend this Father’s Day on my own, avoiding places where families will be and trying to keep myself busy. Luckily I have a very good and strong circle of friends who will, again, help me through the day. This year’s constant reminders have been easier to deal with. Obviously I am more used to the retail sector’s constant reminders of what I’m missing out on.

For every father reading this who is dreading his over-excited and bubbling children waking him early on Sunday, please spare a thought for those of us who won’t have breakfast in bed served to them. For those of us who will wake up in an empty bed in a quiet house, the last echoes of the day before’s playtime having long since disappeared. Hug your babies tight and kiss their heads, for those of us who are not in a position to do so to their own. Most of all, cherish how beautiful and wonderful they are. I sincerely hope you never have to miss them.


Update on Fathers Day — Sunday June 17th.

WOW! Thank you very much for all your kind comments and best wishes. I really am over-whelmed by it all.

I know I’m not alone, but there are times when it feels like it. Sometimes you don’t want to burden your friends, again, by talking about how much you miss your children, especially those who don’t have any of their own.

I know that there are fathers who complain about their access but don’t make use of the time they do have. I’ve even had the displeasure of meeting a few. Likewise, I’ve looked in amazement at mothers who should not be left alone with their children. Each side of the gender divide includes villains. Despite everything that she’s done, I don’t want my ex to suffer and have the children turn on her, although there are times when I think very uncharitable and cruel thoughts about her. Most of the time I just sit in astonishment at her behaviour and sorrow that she is still so hurt and angry.

Soon Summer will pass and a sheriff will decide what is best for the children in terms of contact with me. I tried to negotiate with my ex but she was not willing to even consider granting me more time. I would say more but am going to go down the path of discretion, just in case.

I loved the comment from @SAHDandproud that “Any day you spend with your children can be Father’s Day.” Today was one of those days. My four-year old daughter took a trip on Daddy Airways, resting on my feet as she ‘flew’ above the bed. We made naan bread from scratch. We cuddled, laughed and made a cave. Even when the balloon she brought along burst there was a silver lining, as she looked on astonished that I had a new one in my sock draw. Lastly, she gave me a cuddle and a kiss when she was in the car, something she rarely does, probably because she doesn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t spoil her rotten, she did that to me. Despite all the hardship and pain, I’m a lucky man.

For those interested, Families Need Fathers is a charity that seeks to obtain the best possible blend of both parents in the lives of children; where the children have enough time with each to realise that both parents are fully involved in their lives. You can read more about them via their UK site, whose information mainly relates to the situation in England and Wales, or the Scottish site.

Thank you for reading and, again, I really do appreciate your very kind thoughts.

20 responses

  1. What a brave post and not the only person I know in this position. It’s bloody hard, but massive kudos for consistently being there for your kids. As they grow up, they’ll know and appreciate that – and as they get bigger they can reach out to you themselves.

  2. A most beautiful, heartfelt piece that has brought a tear to my eye. I wish you the very best in gaining the contact you and your children need. Keep fighting for them – I am sure they love that you love them enough to do that.

  3. I honestly feel for you and can’t imagine what it is like. My eldest had his first Christmas and Birthday away this year and it was awful without him. I can’t imagine living every day like that. I really hope you get more visiting time with them very soon xxx

  4. I really do understand what you’re saying and what you’re going through. Totally.
    If it was me, I’d try to organise another day that you can spend with your children. If you can, if it’s not too much of a fight and a struggle. But it sounds like it is and, by getting advice about the way forward you know the right thing to do. Any day you spend with your children can be Father’s Day.
    I wish you the very best of best wishes, and hope that you can keep yourself strong. As you say, fathers do have an part to play in their children’s lives while bitterness and acrimony, although often there at times, can often prevent this from happening.
    I hope you get to see your children more. Because I’m sure they want to see you as much as you do. I hope things get resolved. I wish you all every happiness.
    Good luck, and let us know how you get on.

  5. It really saddens me to hear stories like yours. Kudos to you for paying more than your share of child support! My first husband moved from the U.S. where we live to somewhere in Eastern Europe when my oldest son, Tim, was 11, and from then on, the only child support I received was $100/month, and there was nothing I could do about it. Needless to say, that wasn’t enough, but I managed.

    When my 2nd husband, Ashe and I split up in ’95, and I moved 150 miles away, we met halfway at a truck stop (4 hrs. round trip) every Friday and Sunday. Sadly, he died in 2005, and I’m really glad as much as we fought at times that neither of us ever let our animosity come between him and Max.

    I pray in time that your ex-wife will see the error of her ways that she’s depriving her children of half their childhood, really, because there’s no reason you shouldn’t see your children more.

    And I don’t know how things are in England or wherever you live, but most schools in the U.S. have their own websites these days where the teachers post information about upcoming events. At the very least, do their teachers have your email address, so they could send you newsletters or other information that way? I had full-time custody of Max, who graduated last year. But sometimes that was the only way I could keep up with things because he was always leaving permission slips and forms, etc., at school.

    I wish you the best with the new sheriff you mentioned, and I’m glad you have friends that will help you deal with this not so-awesome holiday…

    Take care.

  6. This is SUCH shame, and so unnecessary.
    My ex-husband & I have 4 children together & split 4 years ago. The children live with me. I ask him for no money, I have a new partner who supports us all. My ex has the children at weekends, but is free to see them whenever he or they want to. He is more than happy to change a day if I need him to, as am I if he needs to. Generally speaking I go to parents evening as I’m closer to the school but he wanted to go to the latest one, so he did.
    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sweetness & light all the time, we still have disagreements but the important thing is the children, they want to see him as much as he wants to see them and that’s how it should be.
    I find it miserable that some (not all) women need to restrict the time spent with fathers.
    I use my time when the children are away to do household chores, pampering time & generally let my hair down & relax before the children are back. I actually appreciate the time they are with their dad as it gives me time to recuperate and I then appreciate MY time with them all the more.
    I truly hope you find a better path with your ex-wife than the one you are on now.
    Things needn’t be so awkward & I wish done ladies could see that.
    Take care xx

  7. I have no advice but I hope it gets better and you get more time with your children – such a horrible, unfair situation. Thanks for sharing a side of a story that is often unheard!

  8. I’m so sorry honey. Stay in their lives and keep fighting. Keep asking for more time with them. Make it clear to them and their mum that you want them as much as possible. They will grow and learn that their Dad is a wonderful guy who never left their sides.
    My parents split when I was six months old – and my Mum did everything she could to push my Dad away. Until he decided it was best to leave altogether.
    I didn’t meet him again until I tracked him down when I was 16. And I can’t forgive the fact that he left. Nor can I forgive my mother for putting her hatred of him before my need for a father.
    Hopefully things will get better. Hopefully you can see them more.
    But if you stay in their lives, they will grow to realise how much you fought for them and wanted them.
    Your ex may suffer, as they’ll also realise (if she continues like this) that she’s put her anger first.
    I know these words may not comfort you on Sunday. But there are so many Dads out there who, in your situation, turn their backs on their kids.
    Fight all the way. Show your ex you’re not going to leave.
    And I’m pretty sure things will get better for you. Sending hugs.
    Donna x

  9. I’m bawling reading this. Thank you for being so honest and I hope Sunday is better than you think it’s going to be. Keep fighting x

  10. Sending so much love and hugs for Sunday and all the other days you can’t be with your children who you clearly love and adore.
    Don’t give up. Always let them know that you are there for them. And make the days you do have with them extra precious.
    I really, really hope that you get more time with your children soon.
    Take care x

  11. What a beautifully written and touching post. I worked for many years for a firm of solicitors in their Family Law department and sadly saw many fathers being treated just like you. It is incredibly wrong how good fathers are treated by ex spouses and the Law itself. Some fathers were fighting to have more contact with their children who resided with an alcoholic or even drug addicted mother and even still had difficulty winning the Courts around. Something truly needs to be done. A good father is incredibly important to a child’s self-esteem and must never be undervalued by society or a bitter ex.

  12. Fab post and certainly cuts home. However reverse this… and think about the Dad who could see his child whenever he wants (as has been mentioned by the Mum on many occasion), who will not really contribute anything, certainly doesn’t care about schooling, complains Skype twice a week isn’t enough but he has all the free time in the world to make the journey to see his child. It’s a bit of a kick when Mother’s Day wasn’t recognised yet somehow if something isn’t sent for Father’s Day then the Mum will look spiteful even though she isn’t. Always two sides and albeit Father’s do get the rough end of it all, there are Dad’s who don’t really deserve the sympathy of not seeing their child on Father’s Day as it is actually THEIR choice not to!

    I hope you have a wonderful day with your daughter today, spoil her rotten x

  13. I truly feel for you, if you are as sincere as you sound in your desire to be a part of your children’s lives.

    In my case, my children’s father realized too late, after I said I wanted a divorce, and two marital therapists, having mostly divorced and single male friends, hitting his mid-40’s and asking me if I realized how lucky I was to be married to him, that he had taken us for granted for many years. Then, all of sudden he wanted to appear to one and all as a Father of the Year, where before he couldn’t be bothered to deal with school, clothes, playdates, and anything else, NOT because of lack of time, but just lack of interest.

    The children are willing to give him another chance, because he only ignored them, he didn’t succeed in destroying their self-esteem because I protected them, but his continued attempts to malign me and my mothering for the sake of the custody arrangement and his own ego make it so I don’t even want to be in the same room with him.

    He distorts and mangles the truth. He criticizes without a filter. Yes, those children need a father, but the amount of influence he, a brusque narcissist, has on them worries me to no end. Because of my lack of funds for the legal fees required, versus the lie that he is telling people: that I agreed to a generous custody schedule (43% of the time) because I was afraid of losing custody due to what a forensic evaluation would find, I ended up accepting that he have our younger teen a few nights a week. The elder teen is in college.

    It’s sad when a family splits up. It’s sadder still when one parent has to invent sins because the real ones aren’t bad enough. And the children don’t know whom to believe and you can’t show or explain, because even that upsets them more.

    You are in the minority, unfortunately . . . a dad who truly loves his children and wants to spend time with them and be a more than symbolic part of their lives and not just for show, or to convince himself that even if the marriage didn’t work out, at least he’s a good dad.

    From what I’ve seen of the divorced families around me, the men run off to be a playboy with the renewed vigor of a 20-year-old, get a Barbie Doll young girlfriend, maybe even start a new family, and simply leave their old life, the children, and, sometimes, the bills, to the ex-wife.

    I’m sorry you feel like your ex is blocking your every move. My ex tells people the same thing. The pity he elicits with his fabricated realities work for a time, but then even his 1st lawyer found out the host of lies he has been spreading. To top it all off, he’s not following the parenting agreement, and so I spend thousands of dollars fighting for my rights, and what he signed off on already. I’m not blocking anything, if it I am abiding by our legal agreement.

    In the end, we all have our own cross to bear in these situations. And we have to deal with our own different realities. There’s his reality, my reality where I think I need to outthink and outspend him and protect my children from their own father’s creative distortions or just give in . . . and then . . .there’s reality that no one ever really sees.

  14. I really do feel for you and wish you the very best with trying to get more access time with your children. It is worth contacting the school and checking the website to keep up to date with up and coming dates of concerts, assemblies, sports days etc. I work in a school and our teachers are happy to see parents separately for Parents evening as well! When events are on at school and whether parents are split or not children always look out for both. Being able to praise your child’s efforts that they’re making at school because you saw their work also helps. I think that you are being pro active by taking things further please don’t give up. Your children will know someday how hard you tried to be able to see them. Any day can be Father’s Day. This year was my first Mother’s Day with my son was at Uni. I spent the day with my daughter and I had Mother’s Day with my son and daughter when my son returned home a few weeks later. Tell your children you love them whatever happens so that they always feel loved. Lastly, please remember that although you feel really gutted that you didn’t see your son on Father’s Day your son will be really excited that he went to Scouts Camp. Good luck.

  15. I am so sorry for your situation. It sounds hideous. I am sure you are the best father you can be, and your kids will always know this. I have an amicable relationship with my ex husband and I would never, ever think to deny him access to our daughter. I fail to understand your ex wife’s actions. It astounds me. Please stay strong and hold on to the love you have.

  16. It’s a real shame that you find yourself fighting for access to your children but it says so much about you that you continue to fight and haven’t given up. I hope something can be worked out so that you can see your children more. It’s something that both you and your children will benefit from

  17. The only thing I have to say is to always be there showing your love and support. There will come a time when your children will see this and appreciate you so much more.

  18. Pingback: Father’s Week – An alternative view of Father’s Day. | Netmums Blog

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