The Divorced Dad Syndrome Miss-plained By a Divorced Mom

The Divorced Dad Syndrome Miss-plained By a Divorced Mom

Divorced Dad Syndrome?
I’d never heard of it until I sumbled on this post.

There are some inherent problems in the opening paragraphs of this divorced mom’s premise about marriage and the balance between moms and dads.

The idea that moms and dads should spend equal time parenting is all around fantastic but so are most romantic comedies. That doesn’t mean life generally works that way. Many fathers have every intention of being as involved in their children’s lives but a family needs to eat. On a basic logistical level, men often find themselves having to work too hard for too long to be able to make that a daily reality. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. Marriage is a partnership, and clearly defined household roles, not necessarily according to gender, can be stabilizing and healthy for everyone.

If the partnership crumbles and the would-be parental teammates end up separating into two households, it’s quite common for both parents to worry about how the children will handle their time in Dad’s new place. The kids have had mom there every single morning they’ve woken up and night they’ve gone to sleep for their entire lives while dad has been out at meetings or away on business in order to build a stronger network and keep the family in that beautiful home.

“Equal parenting time” is equated to a romantic fantasy. Um… So, you are saying YOUR equal parenting time was not a 50/50 partnership? Okay…

“Many fathers have every intention of being as involved in their children’s lives but a family needs to eat.” Okay, so dad is the breadwinner in this scenario. Can it go the other way? Can both parents be responsible for the income in a family with kids? Yes, I believe the answer is yes.

“On a basic logistical level, men often find themselves having to work too hard for too long to be able to make that a daily reality.” Okay, is this a SAHM here we’re listening to? I’m unclear. But the assumption that working dads make daily shared parenting more of a “romantic fantasy.” Okay, I’m trying to listen.

“Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that.” Well, except you’re saying fathers are not 50/50 partners in parenting if they are working fathers.

“Marriage is a partnership, and clearly defined household roles, not necessarily according to gender, can be stabilizing and healthy for everyone.” Yes, let’s get back to this partnership thing. Did you both decide that he would work and you would do the lion’s share of the parenting? I can see how that is possible. But your overall premise that this is the way it is as a setup for your entire article is a bit misguided, I think.

On to paragraph 2.

“… it’s quite common for both parents to worry about how the children will handle their time in Dad’s new place.” Wait, when did we decide mom was getting the house? (I’ll suspend further questioning for a bit.)

This next one is so loaded I’m going to break it into two parts.

“The kids have had mom there every single morning they’ve woken up and night they’ve gone to sleep for their entire lives.” Oh, yes, hard to believe dad might have been in that picture as well. But wait…

“… while dad has been out at meetings or away on business in order to build a stronger network and keep the family in that beautiful home.” Nice, so dad’s business trips to keep everyone in a nice home, the home that mom’s keeping, is now not such a primary caregiver? Is that the idea?

I’d really like to hear the author write about how she navigates being a single mom and parenting two boys.

I find these statements biased and unfair to all parties. And then as the article goes on to outline a dad and his daughter and the difficulties he might be having with something called “The Divorced Dad Syndrome.” The author outlines for us dads how best to be accommodating to our daughters. It’s a quaintly written piece from a divorced mom of two boys. She’s projecting what her daughter might like from her dad. And I think it’s a bit off, given the opening bias.

I googled “The Divorced Dad Syndrome” and found it to be a made-up phrase.

Did I struggle to provide a good home for my daughter? Sure. Did my ex-wife get the house? Yes. Did I also struggle under the mortgage payment I made on that house while still trying to feed and provide for myself, and my kids, when I got to see them 30% of the time? Yes.

Is 50/50 parenting a romantic fantasy? No. Is the mom the primary and most vital caregiver because she’s been there every morning and every night of their kids lives while dad was away on business trips? No.

I’d really like to hear the author write about how she navigates being a single mom and parenting two boys. That might be within her wheelhouse, here in this post she’s talking about something she doesn’t know about and doesn’t really support. Are there similar issues for her as a mom of 2 boys? Is “mama’s boy syndrome” a risk for her sons?

This woman is a dating expert and former divorce mediator, but she’s setting up her premise for helping men with their divorced dad syndrome and she has no idea what she’s talking about, personally. Maybe she interviewed her divorced friends with daughters. Maybe she’s using her experience as a divorce mediator. All fine and good, but this article is not instructive or balanced. It is assuming

  1. Dad works a lot
  2. Divorced moms get the house
  3. Kids need mom more because she’s been there every morning and every night
  4. Dad’s struggle with daughters, for lack of first-hand experience

And all but one of those is true. But it’s the lie in #3 that sets up the inequality in divorce that is rampant in our country.

Here are five common assumptions of divorce in the US:

  1. Dads are lesser parents
  2. Moms should be the custodial parent
  3. Dads should pay child support
  4. Moms should get the family house
  5. Moms should get the majority of the time with the kids

M daughter is now 15, and sure, as a single dad, we both experienced some growing pains. They were not fixed by “nesting” or going shopping together. I’m fighting to bring these lies to light. I welcome comments and corrections in my comments, they are always open.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

NOTE: At the request of the author of the piece I am critiquing, I have removed the link to the original.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. You are right to challenge such misplaced thinking based on stereotypes.

    I was that working father, putting in too many hours working a C-level job to provide for my family, including the beautiful home. But I was also an utterly committed father. Nothing, but nothing, was more important to me.

    My wife decided that she was bored of being married (after 3 years) and wanted out. Fair enough. I don’t want to be with someone who isn’t into me or the relationship. She had been divorced once before, also after only 3 years, also with a 3 year old child from that relationship. I guess history repeats and patterns form. Doesn’t matter!

    Her presumption was just as this author had painted: She’d get the house, have primary time with our child, I’d pay for everything and be happy to see my kid every other weekend and Wednesday nights.

    Except I want happy with that. It scared the hell out of me. The ensuing divorce and debate over childcare has, quite literally, changed me as a person. It was not easy, but pushing for 50/50 was absolutely the right thing to do. I did my homework. I researched the experience of countries where 50/50 is presumed and usually followed by agreement or by default. The evidence is overwhelming and absolutely compelling that children fair much, much better when they have 50/50.

    So I changed my life to accommodate that. Frankly, I would sweep the streets of it means I have the time to be a proper dad 50% of the time. I cannot have 100%. It is not an option because we split up, as parents. And I wouldn’t want full custody and to deprive my child of a great mother.

    And the outcome has been that our child is thriving. Top of class in all subjects, physically bigger and healthier than the other 7 year olds in class. Hugely popular and very, very happy.

    The last point about being happy is important. As parents, we have never shown a drop of animosity towards each other. Our child knows they are loved equally by both parents.

    There are peripheral benefits. I am now a much more authentic version of myself that I’ve ever been. As a man and as a father, my child is benefittng from that. Likewise, mum is also more herself these days. We are different people. And our child reaps the rewards. Mum also seems to have come to like that she has half the week child-free so she can do her own thing (including, quite rightly, new relationships).

    But it is worth noting that in the beginning, with the evil lawyer bending her ear, she did not want 50/50. As a rule, the parent with most custody gets most financially. That can be wrong for a whole raft of reasons. But the evidence is compelling that going 50/50, having zero ongoing financial support (that only creates indebtedness and at best, bad feeling) produces the best results. Our child is perfect evidence of that. And it breaks my heart when I hear of all the cases where there is fighting over such things. Usually driven by the money. Who was it once said: “It’s always all about the money”!

    1. Rob, thank you for your compelling story. I think the “divorce brochure” is stacked to look nice for the moms. Dads will have to fight for 50/50 parenting if that’s what they want. I did not, and I regret it. My kids are doing well, also. I do think they would’ve benefited from more of my positive attitude around them in their formative years.

  2. You are right that your children would have benefitted. As I say, the evidence from countries with presumed shared care, legally, is compelling.

    The “divorce brochure” concept is an interesting one. And it is very valid. Quite simply, there is only ever one reason why people divorce: It is that they believe, rightly or wrongly, that life after the divorce will be better than life now (being married). Often they are proved right, but the journey to get there is pretty hellish. Many times they are wrong, but cannot wind back the clock. Sometimes the journey of the divorce process is so utterly horrific that they choose suicide. (Sadly, more men than women, especially if they are deprived of their kids. That’s not anecdotal, it is a fact).

    It is so damned unnecessary! The experience of countries with 50/50 shows good outcomes. The parents argue less and the workload of the courts drop (why go to court if the law already says 50/50?) Maybe it’s turkeys not voting for Christmas, that the legal profession doesn’t want to see the changes that ordinary couples could benefit from. And particularly when one looks at the fact that, following the introduction of such 50/50 laws, the divorce rate drops.

    Now, considering that (UK figures I believe) 82% of divorce proceedings are instigated by the wife, maybe, just maybe, the grass on the other side doesn’t look quite so green if one isn’t certain of getting the house, the car, the money and, more importantly, knows in advance that one will be spending half the week without the children.

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