Elevating the Conversation About Dads


Our years together so far haven’t been perfect–like most blended families, we have so much on our plate that at times solitary confinement (on a tropical island with cocktails and good books) sounds appealing. But a constant source of support over these three years has come from Todd, and how much he is willing to give as a dad and step-dad. This blog developed, in part, as a celebration of what everyone in our family brings to the table–and Todd’s contributions are a huge part of that.

That’s why I was so pleased when The Good Men Project–a new (est. 2009) media venture intent on fostering a national discussion centered around modern manhood and the question, “What does it mean to be a good man”?–asked if they could republish this blog’s very first post, the one where I wrote about Todd helping me with a poopie diaper. They found me on Twitter. The prospect of their huge (and fast-growing) audience getting a glimpse of my awesome guy in action made my day.

The fact that The Good Men Project is an “alternative” media source begs the question: why do we need a new conversation about what makes a modern man? And why is so much of the site’s content devoted to family matters? Unfortunately, we’ve got a dilemma in our country: dads–especially divorced dads–get a bad rap, even if they don’t deserve it.

Lately, I’ve been spending time on Twitter, and honing in on posts with the #twitterstepmoms hashtag. This informal group is an amazing support system for stepmoms, many of whom have blended families. I notice a common thread: stepmoms are on the defensive because their husbands stand accused of being bad dads, even though they know better. The problem is rampant. I’m shocked at the number of blended and stepfamilies whose lives have been deeply impacted by PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome), HAP (Hostile Aggressive Parenting) and similar challenges that don’t quite reach the intensity of PAS and HAP.

The assault on dads isn’t unique to divorce situations where custody is at stake. I know married couples where the neighborhood is littered with complaints about dad. Where a child is torn from her dad’s arms by a possessive mom. Where a mom insists on defining the parenting culture within her home to the exclusion of dad. And what happens when Divorce knocks on the door? The accusations ramp up; and dad, who has been defined as a bad dad for so long, hardly knows if he’s a good parent or not.

How can we turn back the tide and reframe this situation? It takes a village.

  1. Openly celebrate the parenting abilities and accomplishments of the men in your life.

Last night, when Todd leaned over and kissed me goodnight, I looked into his exhausted eyes (oh my God he was so tired!) and saw a lot of love there. His early morning had included taking my son to school, and after work they played Stratego so I could have a few hours of one-on-one time with my daughter. In between, he had worked his butt off, and again this morning he was up at 6 a.m. for a photo shoot. Did I keep this information to myself? No. I told my colleagues today at work. It’s called “spreading the love” people! Preach the good news.

My ex is a really good father. Despite this, women in my life immediately assume I’m the primaryparent and the go-to person for kid-related decisions, play dates, etc. While I could easily enjoy this support and fluff up my ego in that role, I’ve decided not to. If a parent from school calls to make a play date with one of my kids, I make sure they have my ex’s number for weekends the kids are over there. That’s a small thing, but it sends a message that I trust him–why else would I encourage these mamas to send their children to his house?

  1. Engage with media that supports fathers.

In my opinion, the grass-roots payoff of private conversations among friends and acquaintances is the most significant force for change. That said, media has an influence. Sites like The Good Men Project and Playground Dad are the beginning. Also, it’s nice to see T.V. shows like Parenthood and Modern Family portraying dads not just as detached providers but as engaged, active parents who know how to plan stuff, do stuff and BRING IT as dads. I know a guy like that. He’s mine. Go find your own!

  1. Support activists, and become one yourself.

As our cultural awareness of PAS , HAP and the like grows, so to does support for the families impacted by these stunning oddities. It takes strong voices, like that of Rebekah Bradley (@StrongStepmom) to directly challenge the very real, actual manipulations that are turning children against parents. On her site, you can learn the signs of Parental Alienation:

*Changing a child’s name in word if not in deed. (Have you added a different last name for your child on their backpack or school forms? You know who you are!)

*Arranging temptations to distract your child from the other parent. (Yes, you’re awesome, but must you drop dimes to wow the kids whenever possible? That limo ride to Six Flags Great Adventure was ridiculous.)

*Poisoning the therapist against the other parent. (Concealing the beauty and richness of your ex’s life with the kids is plain wrong!)

And there’s more, so please read up and see how you can support LEGISLATION.

Do you have a story about how PAS, HAP or something similar has impacted your life? We want to know!

Comments (2)

wow great post,This is the first in a series of articles about how the conversations that you had with your dad in childhood has made your life better now that you're an adult. One piece of advice is included with this introductory article. I'm hoping that it'll spark a conversation including the things your dad said.