It's no use celebrating fathers one day a year if we're deriding them the rest of the time.
Like many fathers out there, Father's Day is a very special day for me to celebrate my relationship with my son and reflect on our countless memories that we share. I feel very privileged to have this time with my son and to have all the time that I have with him now.
It wasn't always so simple though, unfortunately. I had to fight for the privilege, I had to defend these memories. Which is why Father's Day has always triggered some sad emotions in me too.
I missed a Father's Day when my son was young, just as I missed many days I truly wish I hadn't through no fault of my own. I reduced myself to begging to see him at the time and it would fall on deaf ears. I'm happy that I never gave up and kept making it clear I would never back down when it came to my son but despite all the time we spend together now I will never get back the time we missed out on. Even though it's so far in the past now it's still a feeling that's always there lying dormant until it's triggered.
I'm someone who's been "lucky" to regain proper contact and maintain a 50/50 relationship for many years now but how about the thousands (and millions) of fathers out there who aren't so lucky?
So many fathers out there are fighting to be part of their children's lives and getting nowhere or being made to feel that any contact is good enough. It's not good enough for any loving parent or their children. These fathers deserve to play a significant role in their children's lives and not be forced into a peripheral role by an alienating and/or a corrupt system that doesn't care about them.
Father's Day can be a painful trigger for these fighting fathers because it's a reminder that they're not able to be there for their children. For some the pain is too much to bear, which is why parental alienation is a huge contributing factor to the high male suicide rates. Fathers are quite literally "dying to see their children", they're sadly taking their own lives due to the severe damage of parental alienation combined with the fact many men are put into financial ruin trying to keep up with court costs and child maintenance payments.
Millions of pounds are spent every year on private family law cases with the majority in the UK being fathers trying to gain or regain meaningful contact with their beloved children. Children that quite often don't even know their father exists. They're completely unaware that they have a whole other side to their family that loves and cares about them. How heart-breaking is that?
These fathers deserve our praise and compassion for continuing to fight for their children but a card isn't going to help when they're missing out on what is most important to them, so what can be done?
We collectively as a society need to continue to push for equal parenting as the presumptive stance in split families. We need to push for legislative changes that account for split homes, which is considered the "norm" nowadays, yet current legislation doesn't reflect that. There needs to be more severe punishments for parents who intentionally alienate as well as severe punishments for mothers who intentionally omit the father from a child's birth certificate in order to relinquish their parental responsibility (thus making it a harder and longer process to gain a meaningful arrangement with their children).
It's important that we not only look at the legislation that is often working against fathers but also we look at negative stereotypes such as the "deadbeat dad". In some cases it may be a fair assessment but it many many others it won't be.
In the UK only one parent can claim child benefit and in turn only one parent can be considered the "main caregiver" without a court order saying otherwise. In over 90% of cases the mother will be the benefit claimant and "resident parent" by default. So if a father wants to have an equal arrangement and the mother disagrees they will have to go to court to fight for this.
How ridiculous is it that a father often has to go to court to establish an equal arrangement because our outdated systems prefer to suggest one parent is always more important than the other?
Going to court costs time and money, the latter being something that not everyone has, so some fathers may feel intimidated and/or not be able to afford to go to court and sadly may fall at the first hurdle but who's to say that these dads wouldn't be just as capable as the mothers had they received the same financial benefits from the beginning? Who's to say that the mother wouldn't have had to give up when put in the same situation? A person's financial situation should not be the only determining factor on whether you're a capable parent, which is why the benefit system should be available to both parents equally. Children from low income families should have the opportunity to have a relationship with both of their parents.
Even in situations where a father can afford to go to court, it can take months and even years to make any meaningful progress. Some of these fathers can be forced into financial ruin as a result of family court. These fathers who are oppressed by the family law system are not deadbeats, they are victims, as are the children.
So while it's very important to celebrate all of the fantastic fathers out there on Father's Day, it's also equally important, if not more so to work on creating a framework for the fighting fathers out there who are forgotten about for the rest of the year. We can all do our part by encouraging equal parenting and encouraging fathers to take on a meaningful role in their children's lives.
If you're feeling low or deflated due to the sad reminder that Father's Day can be please don't hesitate to get in touch with someone at PAPA and we will try to help you as best we can.
Every single father out there fighting for their children is a hero in our eyes and whether you're near or far from your children this week please remember how important you are to them and how proud you will make them one day.
Let us know your thoughts and feelings about Father's Day in the comments.