My story’s sad on the face of it but not that unusual. I’m a middle-aged father of a small child, my marriage ended and because of my daughter’s age, she stayed living with her mother and my access was structured around fortnightly weekend visits. That’s the sort of industry standard outcome for these kinds of situations. It’s endorsed by child development experts and it’s in line with the flow of rulings from the Family Court.
That’s a fairly cool and rational way of describing what happened to me as a dad. I want to tread carefully, because there are many men who have similar experiences and don’t describe them coolly or rationally. At the one end of that spectrum, you have a basket of Men’s Rights Advocates and domestic violence deniers who see the fraught process of defining parental access for fathers as a sinister feminist conspiracy.
They’re hostile and bitter and because they tend to be aggressively vocal, they dominate the dads’ side of the public conversation. And because their talking points are ideological, unhelpful and often just self-evidently stupid they make the conversation easy to close down.
Which is a problem. Because there are still important conversations to be had about dads and the relationships that they have with their kids after divorce, and about the emotional impact of divorce on men.
Before I go broad, let me personalise. When my ex-wife and I separated, I was still in love with her. She’d fallen out of love with me. That happens. My daughter was two and a half, so not old enough for shared care. I’d been working while my ex-wife looked after our pre-school age little girl. So when we split, that was the status quo for our new family relationship.