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August 2, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This heartbreaking story is, on one hand, just about the couple involved (News.Com.Au, 7/23/17).  But it also reveals a fair amount about the zeitgeist as it pertains to fathers, mothers and children.

A 44-year-old Australian man named Scott and his first wife have three kids.  They’re divorced and Scott is remarried.  He and his second wife have a child of their own, bringing Scott’s total to four.  Apparently, Scott’s first wife is quite cavalier about when she wants him to see their three children.

My first wife has been continually awkward. I’m often left with the kids at weekends, at short notice, during school holidays and basically, whenever it suits her.

Plus, throughout his article, Scott emphasizes what pressure he’s under financially.  He seems to work pretty much full-time and struggles to make ends meet.

Financially it required real focus on my part but I was happy with that. I love all of my children very much…

It’s all taken a toll on my relationship with my now wife. I’m constantly having to say no to things financially because it’s so much to juggle.

That’s easy to understand, particularly since Scott seems to be the only one who’s earning. 

So it came as a great and unwelcome surprise when his wife told him her news.

She had removed her contraceptive implant 12 months ago. She is 11 weeks pregnant. This is the first time she has mentioned anything.

In short, she decided to have yet another child without telling her husband and without his consent.  Unsurprisingly, Scott isn’t happy.

I’m devastated and angry. I’m struggling to get my head around the fact that she’s deliberately deceived me. She planned a pregnancy and didn’t discuss it with me — she’s been upfront about that, now…

I find the whole situation disgusting. I can’t even look at her. I feel like I’m the victim here. But, I don’t have a leg to stand on. Legally, I’m screwed. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to find the extra hours for more work.

I can’t talk to anyone about it. I don’t want us to be another broken family. It kills me being away from my older children. I can’t possibly imagine going through that twice…

But, in the meantime I can’t sleep, I can’t eat or even think straight. I wonder if anyone even sympathises with the situation I’m now in?...

I feel heartbroken and incredibly alone.

Part of his anguish stems from his wife’s intentional deception and part is because Scott was just at the point where, with none of his kids young enough to require constant attention, he could look forward to some time for himself.  Now he’s staring at several years more of day-and-night childcare.

And then of course there’s the problem that his wife takes no responsibility for lying to him.

We had a huge argument. She says she knows me and knows how much I love my kids. She says I will love this one too. She seems to think that she’s justified in her actions. She tells me I’m being unreasonable, that this is just what happens in relationships and I should just cop it.

And therein lies the rub.  I believe that Scott’s wife’s point of view is not only common among both women and men, but that it’s supported by public policy and the actions of public officials.  Now, I’m not talking specifically about lying about birth control.  Yes, there are plenty of women who say they’re happy to do just that, but what percentage of the total they make up, I can’t guess.

No, what I refer to is her frank assumption that she not only does, but should exercise control over Scott’s fertility.  That of course is exactly what she did.  Had she told him she was going to remove her implant, he could have had a vasectomy or started using condoms.  But she didn’t.  She didn’t for the very reason that she wanted a baby and he didn’t.  Hers was an assertion of power over his moral right to decide for himself whether or not he wanted another child.

That attitude on her part likely stems from the fact that, for untold millennia, humans have given women the primary authority over all things child-related.  Fathers have usually been the secondary parent because we’ve placed on them the primary responsibility for supporting the family.  It was a simple division of labor that, for the most part, both sexes tacitly agreed to.

And that of course explains many things about our culture.  When family court judges routinely award primary custody of children to mothers, they’re simply responding to that age-old stereotype.  Ditto when they fail to enforce fathers’ visitation rights.  Ditto when they place the bar for child custody higher for fathers than for mothers.  And again ditto when state legislatures pass paternity registry laws whose frank objective is to give mothers even greater power over whether a child is adopted or not.  The same is true of child protective agencies refusing to even contact fathers when a child is taken from a mother due to abuse or neglect.  And the same holds for our failure to punish paternity fraud or to even impose the simple, obvious requirement that, when a mother “establishes paternity” she tell the government the truth about the identity of her child’s father.  We could extend to fathers the right to opt out of the consequences of a pregnancy, much like we give to mothers, but of course we don’t.

We live in an age in which we pretend to value gender neutrality and imagine that men and women are, to a great extent, interchangeable parts.  But we also live in an age that is profoundly suspicious of that very concept.  We abandon our sex roles only with great difficulty if at all. 

Scott is a victim of that.  He lived his life assuming that he had an equal say in matters relating to children and family that his wife owed him simple honesty about her desire to have a child.  He’s learning the hard way that he doesn’t.  People of decency and feeling empathize with him and roundly condemn his wife.  But society, as expressed in our laws and public policies, does no such thing.  After all, what remedy for his wife’s shameful and morally wrong behavior does Australian law or policy afford Scott?  None whatsoever.




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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#fathers'rights, #contraception, #sexroles, #anti-malebias

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