To the Dads Left Behind

dadson

Some groups of people in our society don’t gain a lot of attention, especially for doing the right thing.

According to Pew Research, as of 2011, the percentage of households headed by a single father made up about 8% of all households. This was a ninefold increase from 1960 when only 1% were single fathers. Single fathers caring for their children make up about a fourth of single parent households.

In 1960, 92% of children lived with both parents. By 2011, only 67% of children lived with both parents. That’s a big difference, and quite disconcerting.

Deadbeat dads seem to get a lot of media attention. We’ve all heard about them. Of those individuals who pay child support, men comprise 85%, and women make up 15%. Moms are actually statistically more likely to not make their support payments than dads.

Being a single mom is a tremendously hard job, but single dads face unique challenges, too. And even dads who have married or married again may have to fight for time with their children. The court system continues to change, but for now dads are often awarded less rights than moms.

More and more women are leaving their families behind. This is becoming a rather disturbing trend. I guess because the percentage of these cases is still small, we just don’t hear that much about it. I’m good friends with a grandma who is helping her son care for his children because their mom is more concerned about her own needs. I’ve witnessed firsthand the difficulties of this situation.

Over the years I have met men who either have sole custody of their children, share custody, or have occasional visitation and it wasn’t their choice to end the relationship with their kid’s mom, nor did they commit any major infraction. One man’s ex-wife gave up her parental rights, but she still wants to see the kids when it’s convenient. She attended her boyfriend’s child’s school event, but not her own son’s.  In a few cases, the mom simply disappeared forever leaving the child behind. Then there are the cases where the individuals weren’t married. This kind of dad is in an even more difficult position when his significant other has no desire to marry and moves on to someone else.

I’ve seen the pain in this kind of dad’s eyes. The dad doing his best to navigate school projects, Halloween costumes, and striving to become the nurturing figure his child lost. The dad who misses out on the day to day life of his child. The dad saying goodbye, yet again.The dad who manages to get his son to church with him on Sundays, feeling slightly out of place among all of the other families, hands raised worshiping his creator with his son’s small hands intertwined. The dad who wonders what he could have done so wrong to make his wife leave. The dad battling the courts for custody, or picking up the pieces when his former wife washes her hands of their children. I know some of you have driven many miles just to keep up some kind of relationship with your child.

I see you, and I think you are some of the unsung heroes of our society. You didn’t choose your situation…it chose you.

There are too many men who give up on their children these days. Even worse, they leave the old family behind and start a new one, only rubbing salt in very tender wounds. I saw a man not long ago give a presentation to a large crowd. What he failed to mention when he showed the picture of his wife and son and talked about the importance of family was that he has two other children and even grandchildren from a previous marriage. They had at least momentarily ceased to exist for him. Thank you for not being one of those men. Thank you for being the kind of person that understands commitment and the power of your presence in your child’s life.

Life is often messy and we lack control to change what we desperately desire to undo. Keep showing up. Keep giving love. Keep being what real men, real dads, are all about.

Take a moment to listen to this reminder: Beautiful, the mess we are…Better Than a Hallelujah by Amy Grant.

Photo from Stock Exchange

 

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