By Ben Simpson-Black
I recently came across this article from the Daily Caller about fatherlessness and how “the establishment” creates it. I confess that I had an opinion of what I was going to read — and it could not have been more wrong.
As a divorced and-now-part-time dad, I instantly identified with a lot of what was being described — from the use of the term “awarded” for “two to six days a month” [sic] to Jackie Stebbins‘ comment that “…young moms can do pretty well at shutting dads out”. Oh boy, I could tell you stories for days.
I even identified with part of the heartwrenching “crossroads” that Emma Johnson described as “…a crossroads with four paths. Some men [choose to die by] suicide because they can’t handle the anguish. Others resort to violence and anger against the ex-wife. The thirds [sic] set take the difficult road, and sacrifice years of their happiness, battling on [sic] a hopeless battle with the ex, just to maintain some sort of contact with the kids. The fourth way, [sic] is to simply give up, and decide that the cost to the child[ren] through seeing the conflict, and to oneself, is too high.” [Emphasis mine.]
While violence was never anywhere near my realm of thinking, I know all-to-well the incredible depths of despair I faced (and continue to face) when I thought ‘I’d rather not be there at all than drag them through this for the next __ years.’ It is a thought that has, on multiple occasions, brought me to tears for even having it and then realizing that it might just be an option to keep my little ones from dealing with a vitriolic relationship between my ex and me that would harm them as much — if not more — than not having me around at all.
In my case, despite it all, my ex continues to behave with virtual impunity, to the detriment of the relationship (such as it is) with my 7- and 8-year-old. While it is still maddening, it was nice to know that I am not alone in this regard. It is also stunning to me that someone once said to me, “[m]others have been convicted of [multiple felonies] and [the respective fathers] still could not get custody or even more time with their kids.”
It’s a topic that MIT researcher Philip Greenspun hit squarely on the head when he said, “[i]t is not rational for fathers to fight for custody because their chances of winning primary or shared parenting are insignificant.” Even despite dozens and dozens of studies that show our system is flawed and that there is a better way, we continue to operate (in the vast majority of states) with systems like Michigan’s that “award” the overwhelming majority of fathers “…alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday evening until 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Parenting time shall occur one evening per week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on a day of the week to be determined by the parties.”
And then you have the Florida Bar who “…spent $105,000 on ‘Emergency Lobbyists’, suggesting,’The game plan is to flood the Governor with emails and phone calls and letters…the best will be non-lawyers reaching out to him. We could also send emails from our personal email addresses.'” All of this to fight changing a parenting system that is making a lot of lawyers a lot of money. My divorce and subsequent legal fees to try and achieve equity and compliance with our “parenting plan” literally bankrupted me.
It is things like this that most people don’t associate with mental health or suicide, but it is time to realize that there are many things that lead to a person’s choice to die by suicide and we have to look at — and start to fix — all of them.