Challenging the ‘divorced dad’ stereotypes

What’s the difference between a “single father” and a “divorced dad?” This sounds like the setup to a joke, but it’s not. Many of us would use those terms interchangeably, but there is a difference, according to some. And that distinction may reflect a larger problem with the way that society views the custody rights of men.

Single fathers and divorced dads were the subject of a recent Huffington Post column penned by a man named Doug Zeigler. He explained that he and his first wife are divorced and he has weekend custody of his children. He was angered to hear his second wife discuss the difference between single fathers and divorced dads with a mutual friend lamenting the post-divorce dating scene.

According to Zeigler’s column, single fathers are men who have primary custody or full custody of their children. They are generally considered on par with single mothers. Divorced dads, on the other hand, are men who have custody of their children only part of the time and essentially lead two different lives. One life is time spent with the kids, and the other is time spent as a “free” bachelor. According to Zeigler’s wife, divorced dads may be datable, but would probably not be considered for a long-term relationship.

But why should men with less than full custody (or even 50 percent custody) be considered any less of a devoted parent? There are certainly some men who do not want parental responsibility. But many fathers very much want to stay involved in their children’s lives after divorce. Unfortunately, there are parts of the country where mother bias makes equal custody all but impossible.

Courts are slowly coming around to the idea that men and women can be equally good caregivers and parents. And in some cases, judges are granting full custody or primary custody to fathers. Unfortunately, change on this front is occurring at a glacial pace.

Until or unless the playing field becomes more even, fathers everywhere should challenge the unfair distinction between single father and divorced dad. In doing so, we may be able to help dispel the myths that allow mother bias to remain pervasive.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Are You a Single Father or a Divorced Dad?” Doug Zeigler, May 15, 2014

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