"Are Fathers Disposable?"by Tony Zizza - Atlanta Journal-Constitution - 5/26/2000
I stood patiently in line at McDonalds Sunday
afternoon and overheard an amazing conversation
between a father and son. "But Daddy...I don't want
to go back to Mommy's at the same time every Sunday."
The boy sported a big Braves cap. He might have been
six years old. He pulled at his father's left arm
with some force after speaking a familiar lament. His
father put on another happy face and said, "I wish we
could spend more time together Steven. I'm going to
ask your mom and the judge if that would be ok."
Steven issued another "But Daddy..." as the cashier
handed me my change.
Moments later, I left the line with my food and gave a
nod of acknowledgement to the father and his son
Steven. Fellow victims of the standard visitation
arrangements handed down by Georgia's family courts.
Every other weekend, with miniscule time in-between.
It's "fatherhood in 48 hours", if you will. A
biological father turned into a "visitor." A son who
sees that daddy's somehow just "rented" to him every
other weekend. What a mess.
How did this happen?
For the last thirty years, the divorced/unwed father
in America has been under seige. With the advent of
no-fault divorce and a consistent campaign against
masculinity, fatherhood became a problem. While women
were properly entering the work force and college in
record numbers, fathers were still left out of the
picture at home. Women and men now work outside the
home, but men as fathers are still shown to be
bumbling drones in the household. How many times have
you seen fathers portrayed as morons on television?
Fathers can't even cook a meal, do housework or take
the garbage out, right? Wrong. While everyone
believed Arlie Hochschild when she wrote in her book
"Second Shift" that men only do seventeen minutes of
household work a day compared to three hours logged by
women, she forgot to mention the multitude of other
things men do including yard work, repairs and
actually bringing home a paycheck.
Part of the bias fathers face can be pinned on what
Richard Warshak calls the "motherhood mystique." We
believe as fact that mothers provide nurturing and
emotional support best and fathers provide discipline
and financial support best. In his book, "The Custody
Revolution", he writes that "the motherhood mystique
is the belief that mothers, not fathers, are uniquely
suited to raise children."
Are Fathers Disposable?
Here in Georgia, Sen. Donzella James (D-East Point)
introduced a simple bill that would have given the
non-custodial parent (usually the father) weekends
with their children that start Thursday afternoon,
conclude after bringing their children to school
Monday morning. Allowing the divorced/unwed father to
parent their child, what a noble idea! Apparently
not. Sen. Rene Kemp (D-Hinesville), the Senate
Judiciary Chair, did not even hold a hearing. Don't
tell me there are too many bills for the committee to
consider, we have all seen that fatherlessness is a
serious social problem. If the state legislature
allows mothers to bring back their babies to the
hospital a week after birth, is it a stretch to allow
fathers more time on the weekend with their own
Where do we go from here?
The Office of Child Support Enforcement indicates
collections are up some 60% since 1992. Fathers pay
child support in a plethora of ways. In Georgia,
fathers pay their support through payroll deduction
even if they are not in default. Collecting child
support is top priority for governments, making sure
fathers and children spend time together is not. The
message is crystal clear: fathers are disposable.
We're allowed to whine about the Braves losing another
World Series, but not about having to continually
fight to see our children.
A first step in ending the war on fatherhood is
acknowledging that fathers matter. In the last decade
there have been more than fifty new books about
fathers. Warren Farrell, the author of "The Myth of
Male Power" sees fathers this way, "As men discover
they have been deprived of their fathers, they start
asking if they are also being deprived of being
Are fathers disposable? I think the little boy in the
big Braves cap says no. As do I. Do you?