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Children Should Come First But Adult Selfishness Stands In The Way
Most people feel their gender gets the short end of the stick when it comes to parental rights, but the reality is that they both have inequitable burdens to carry.
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Gender roles have been in place for almost all animal species since the dawn of time. Progressive human society has taken steps to lessen those role identities, mostly to alleviate the unequal status suffered by women throughout our history.
There’s no denying many of these steps were necessary and long overdue, as men held the upper hand regarding children and relationships in almost every culture. They could spread their seed indiscriminately and choose to walk away, or stay and dictate the terms of their families’ lives. Women were treated as little more than vessels to facilitate the immediate desires of men and were often cast aside afterward at their whims.
Rectifying inadequacies of life in the past doesn’t require overcompensation in the present, but that’s what has frequently occurred. It’s no secret that today’s men experience extreme disadvantages in most Family Courts. While most people (men included) would agree that all things being equal, children need their mothers, the role of fathers has been marginalized too much. In modern culture, men are often forced to be responsible for things in which they have little or no say.
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This starts at conception, an event in which men and women are equally responsible. If a woman decides she doesn’t want the responsibilities of a child but a man does, he has no recourse to prevent her from obtaining an abortion and spare his son or daughter. The decision is legally hers, and hers alone, even if he’s willing to take on the responsibility of parenting by himself.
If a man decides he doesn’t want the responsibilities of a child but a woman does, he has no recourse to prevent her from keeping the baby and forcing financial responsibility upon him. That decision, too, is legally hers and hers alone.
This is touchy ground for a variety of quite legitimate reasons. As those who physically carry babies, women should have the autonomy to decide things that pertain to their own bodies. And children should not be forced to suffer for lack of financial support - they certainly didn’t ask to be here. These self-evident realities supersede most questions of fairness. Our system, however, leaves plenty of room for abuse.
Bob and Jane conceive a baby and plan to move ahead as parents. Excited about his impending fatherhood, Bob starts arranging his life around his future child. But then Jane has a change of heart months later and terminates the pregnancy without even telling Bob, who is crushed that his child has been simply discarded. Our system says “tough beans, Bob, get over it”.
Tom and Lynn conceive a baby and plan to move ahead as parents. Excited about his impending fatherhood, Tom starts arranging his life around his future child. But then Lynn has a change of heart months later and breaks up with Tom for another man. Tom is forced to pay child support for 18 years for a kid he sees twice a month and never has a chance to raise directly. Our system says, “that’s the breaks, Tom”.
Joe and Kathy conceive during a casual hook-up, and Joe admits from the get-go that he has no desire to be a father. Kathy has other plans and keeps the baby, turning the rest of Joe’s entire life upside down against his wishes by saddling him with the support of a child he did not want in the first place. Our system says, “be careful whom you sleep with, Joe”.
Peter and Joanna are dating casually. They agree to not have kids and use birth control, but it fails. Joanna decides the pregnancy was meant to be, and… you get the picture.
Women have their share of bullshit to deal with as well. There is still the occasional man who thinks nothing of siring children randomly and disappearing, though the laws are on the woman’s side if he is found. Many abusive men get away with their repulsive behavior because women will often tolerate it to avoid becoming single parents. And society often presumes that it’s the woman’s place to make the majority of the sacrifices required to be a parent, while negligent fathers get little more than sideways glances.
A common theme that has been lost in all this is what’s best for the children. Asking women to actually be good mothers does not seem unreasonable, since the choice to become one is entirely theirs. Children bear the burdens of adults who continue to use poor (or no) judgment when choosing partners with whom to procreate.
It has also been statistically proven that the more the involvement of fathers is reduced, the more kids become rudderless and lost. No amount of spin can change that reality, but our system is designed to incentivize that scenario for women, whose subsequent empowerment lessens their sense of partnership obligation.
Good fathers show their sons how to not be shitty fathers, and set examples for their daughters of what traits they should seek in a good father for their own kids. Good mothers do the same, by exercising tolerance in support of the life decisions they previously made. None of that can happen if fathers are cast aside and resentful that their lives were dictated to them instead of chosen by them.
It’s easy to say people should be more discerning about prospective partners, engage in symbolically permanent unions like marriage before having children, and put children first by committing to the sacrifices necessary to make their relationships work long-term. But the understanding of those sacrifices is eroding, as more and more people choose their own wants over their children’s needs. At the risk of sounding antiquated, if people are not willing to give it their all with like-minded prospective co-parents, they shouldn’t have kids. There, I said it.
You can complain that such a stance marginalizes you, or that it infringes on your rights to raise children even if you don’t want or haven’t found a suitable partner. You can claim that it’s an unfair burden to ask you to refrain from the joys of parenthood. You may be right on all of those things, but whose well-being takes precedence?
Children must come first, and adult selfishness stands in the way of that happening.
Zephareth Ledbetter is the author of “A White Man’s Perspectives on Race and Racism”, available as an ebook at smashwords.com/books/view/1184004, and can be reached on Facebook and Twitter