A Divorced Dad Sick of Being Taken for a Perv

Hi Folks! Here’s a note from a free-lance writer in Australia who had to vent. I see why! – L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: I would like to share with you my experience of danger lurking in many suburban supermarkets. I’m the type of modern father  you certainly wouldn’t see on television 40 years ago. I go shopping with the kids, I can use a washing machine and fix a loose button without accidentally sewing my pants to the tablecloth. A few days ago, I take my three children (13,9,3) on a regular trip to our local supermarket when my little one starts a tantrum in the candy aisle. I direct my older kids to another aisle while I take Lucy aside to get over her craving for Snickers bars and disappointment that I won’t purchase a hundred. I don’t expect anyone to know this, so to anyone else I’m just a guy in a supermarket holding a crying toddler.
For the next few minutes I’m observed by some other creepy looking guy. That disapproving glare all parents feel when their child is acting up in public.  It feels like a menacing thundercloud and you can almost hear the slow rumble beneath, “MY kid wouldn’t behave like that, for shame…” We eventually make eye contact and creepy guy demands to know “Where’s her mother ?” Awkward, since we’re divorced. I reply “Somewhere else. I’m her father.” Indicating my child.

I appreciate people looking out for my kids’ safety but there’s a difference between a protective community spirit and a belligerent, accusatory busybody. Creepy guy’s attitude gets deadpan. “I just want to be sure, ya know?” Sure of what exactly ? And what evidence should I supply to a complete stranger that I’m innocent of whatever concern he has ? Of course, I’m a potential predator simply because I’m a guy. It must inconceivable for a man to comfort his own child, so the obvious conclusion is I’m attempting to abduct a kid in broad daylight and pick up some half-price noodles and toothpaste at the same time. Slightly less offensive is the notion a woman can be automatically granted a free pass.

IN THE UNDERWEAR AISLE, I BECOME A PERVERT

The life of a potential predator is difficult sometimes. It’s adorable when I take my daughter shopping for a new dress, but as soon as we turn into the underwear aisle I become a pervert. I’m a cool dad to cheer my kids at soccer, but the local swimming pool is another story. I enjoy the condemnation, the stares and  mistaken assumptions. I enjoy the inconvenience and discrimination. I enjoy it because every little petty indignation I overcome gives me that little more dignity so my kids can look up to me a role model for principle.

So if anyone you know ever needs to confront a suspected predator, I recommend some diplomacy. I know its unlikely, but there’s just a small chance that guy isn’t a child molester or the orphan catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” or a serial killer looking for the next ingredient of delicious kid soup. Some of us are good dads just trying to make our way in the world.– Byron

What is that man doing to that poor child?!

101 Responses

  1. Well said, sir. Though not divorced, I also take a very active role in raising our children, and try to give my wife a break whenever possible.
    I always thought that people would look towards a father shopping or playing with his children in a respectful way, not an accusatory one. I’m deeply saddened that this is not typically the case.

  2. How wonderfully put Byron! I’m saddened to hear how difficult society has made the simple, everyday moments of life with your children for you, but I applaud your reaction.
    I have seen the “because he’s a male” reaction already with my sons. My sons who are SEVEN and FOUR!!! I’ve seen them being treated like potential predators because they readily hug their friends. I had always thought these were those incredible, tooth-achingly sweet Hallmark moments, but .. apparently not anymore.
    Kudos to you & to other fathers who take an active and caring role in their children’s lives.

  3. Give your wife a break?

    That phrasing makes me kind of sad, honestly, because it sounds like your instinct is for her to be the one doing the work and that you can relieve or help her occasionally.

    Regarding men with children, I often wonder what people do when someone asks where their mother is and the father says “We don’t know, because it’s my partner and I.” So often non-traditional family structures are totally invisible in society.

  4. Well said indeed.

    And try being the father of two adopted children who are a different race from you. When our kids were younger, especially, my husband hated going out with them alone because he was tired of the hostile stares.

  5. Given our work schedules (I’m a math teacher at an urban school, my wife’s a pediatric anesthesiologist at a children’s hospital), there are many times in which I am out with my daughter by myself. I do have to say that I have yet to encounter a single case of ‘the stare’. It helps, of course, that our daughter is a charmer and attention getter of the highest order. If pressed, however, I fully intend to respond by taking the “what kind of sicko would even think like that?” tack.

  6. Or uncle, friend of the family, older cousin, etc..

  7. @ Emily,

    As a full-time mother, she most definitely does the lion’s share of the work with the household and children. When I am not working one of my two jobs, yes, I like to take the kids and give her a break. She deserves it.

  8. @Nicholas – good response. People need to chill and realize that not every statement like that is an affront to feminism. Sometimes couples are partners and work together. It kind of parallels the topic of this post – people jumping to conclusions about men.

  9. I am all for more hands on fathers. My husband is not much on taking them out on his own but he does sometimes. He is very hands on at home though. I love that he feels comfortable giving his sons kisses and hugs all day long. Many fathers never show their little boys physical affection.

    Stay at home fathers are on the rise so hopefully society will get more used to seeing fathers out in public alone with their kids. I always smile and say Hi when I see a father with his kids alone. I give them extra encouragement.

    If the rare thing happens and my kid actually does get kidnapped I would hope someone would stop it if they saw it, so I can understand people watching out for little kids. But, confronting you about it was not okay. He should have just watched from a distance discreetly to make sure it was okay. Once she calmed down and continued shopping with you he would know it was not a kidnapping situation. I don’t think that just goes with men either though. A woman is just as capable of kidnapping a child. I have had people give me weird looks because I was playing with their child along with my kids like they thought I was going to try to do something to their kid. Some people are just going to suspect everyone.

  10. You know what? I would like to think that couples share childcare equally because that is part of why the above happens. Snide comments that I think everything is an affront to feminism is a really nasty response.

    When a father says that he is babysitting his children, that leads to the above attitude where a man with a child is seen as an aberration. When a father is just “helping out” when he engages in parenting, that leads to the above.

    Don’t try to paint me as part of the problem. I reacted to the information I had, and Nicholas’s response was awesome. I don’t stay at home with my son, and if my husband told someone that he “gives me a break”, I would find that upsetting.

  11. While not as rude as being asked you connection to the child, I also really dislike when people at the playground say something like “its so nice your wife gets to sleep in” or “its great that you give your wife a break.”

    Its offensive that someone is presuming that my wife would be the primary caregiver instead of an equal partner who shares both bread winning and child care. It also is sad because it exposes my son to stereotypical gender biases that simply no longer exist in the way most people live.

    Its sort of the same as saying “you speak really well” to an African American. The prejudice behind the statement makes the compliment really rude.

  12. Emily WK: You are right. I learned the proper response early on:
    “Oh you are babysitting tonight so your wife can go out to dinner?”
    “No, I am a father. Its called parenting not babysitting.”

  13. Well said original poster and well said Dolly. I myself stay at home with our 2 and 4 year olds–I’m married, and regularly engage with other kids in play publicly, for whatever reason they tend to gravitate towards me–why should I refuse them just because some people are suspicious by nature? I don’t think twice about being stern with mine publicly when I need to either.

    Keep.at it dad. That you are indeed the dad is all you need. The schizoids suspicious of all men are little peons not relevant to life, they’re idiots not even worth acknowledging much less editing your parenting based on their stupid gazing.

    LRH
    Android VM

  14. @ Emily WK & Brian:
    As a mother who stays home with the kids AND homeschools them, I can honestly say that I do “need a break” from the kids from time to time.
    I COMPLETELY agree that parenting is a shared experience (regardless of gender or anything else). But, just as people “need a break” from their paid jobs, parents who stay home with their kids “need a break” as well. It just so happens that taking 5 minutes for yourself isn’t as easy since little ones aren’t so good at understanding that concept. So, yea, sometimes the other parent does take the kids out in order to provide that needed break.
    I also agree completely that the expression of a parent “babysitting” their child(ren) is ludicrous. More often than not this happens with the father in our society, and I’ve heard fathers themselves say this. I always want to ask them, laughingly, if they’re getting paid for it.
    However, to state that you’ve taken your kids to give your spouse/partner a break shouldn’t be seen as an immediately demeaning statement. All parents need breaks from their kids.
    Personally speaking (and this is all becoming more and more irrelevant to Byron’s wonderful post) – since I stay home during the day I consider my husband “on-duty” in the evening. Of course I’m there too and we parent together. But during the years of diapers and etc, it DID give me a break from being at beck-and-call 24 hrs a day and it ALSO gave him the wonderful opportunity to bond with his children in those moments. – But that is what personally worked for us, and each family must find their own balance.

  15. Dear EmilyMK, I’m afraid that it’s natural for the OP to sound a bit defensive – as a fellow father who works two jobs, I am cognizant of the fact that my wife does the lion’s share of the child-care, and would probably have phrased it similarly as “giving her a break” when our roles are reversed – that is, when I stay at home and watch the kiddo while she goes out and does things. Also, I probably would have been similarly hurt at a negative reaction to what I saw as an honest description of our familial roles. Naturally, my wife and I (and probably the OP’s family as well) know that other arrangements exist, but this is what ours looks like. I do however take the point about well-meaning but boneheaded people who see a man out with a child and are like “Oh, how nice to give your wife the day off.” Feminism fail.

    Regarding the original topic, I take my 1 1/2 y/o with me many places, and I have never gotten anything but “Aww” type looks from strangers at seeing us playing, holding hands, etc. If someone gave me the suspicious inquisition that is described here, I would have a very hard time not telling them to get lost.

  16. I totally agree that it shouldn’t be seen as immediately demeaning, which is why I phrased it how I did. I think I could have been a little better in the phrasing – I was trying to indicate that the first comment made me think it was that kind of situation, which made me sad, not condemn him as one of those fathers who says he’s babysitting.

    And yes, I agree that parents need a break from their kids. We trade off so that each of us has time by ourselves to pursue our own hobbies and interests. And it’s always a minefield to talk about it.

  17. Well said, mamataney. To say my husband “gives me a break” sometimes (well, that’s more past tense since the kids are older now, and they’re more companion than responsibility most of the time) is not to imply that it’s some special favor that he does. It just describes what’s happening at that moment. And “babysitting” your own kids is ludicrous.

  18. And it’s always a minefield to talk about it.

    It’s only a “minefield” when people make unwarranted assumptions. Saying that I’m “giving my wife a break” is actually showing her a great deal of respect. It acknowledges the fact that, as a stay-at-home Mom, she has a difficult, full-time job; from which she deserves breaks. She ends up doing the vast majority of the work, as she is the one that is physically there, while I am out earning money.

    So, yes, when I take my kids out, I am “giving my wife a break” from a stressful and largely thankless job. And, frankly, it’s pretty offensive when people read between the lines and assume that I’m just begrudgingly “allowing” my wife some free-time, before I go back to ignoring her and forcing her to bear my children like some kind of caveman; thank you very much.

  19. I am so sorry Byron! Its awful to ever feel that way! My dad was always taking us places and doing stuff with us as kids (my mom worked nights, so during the day my dad was the one we went to) And we are FIVE GIRLS! imagine a man alone with all those little girls! the horror! Keep up the good parenting! Much support your way!

  20. >>but there’s just a small chance that guy isn’t a child molester or the orphan catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” or a serial killer looking for the next ingredient of delicious kid soup. <<

    actually, as most people capable of rational thought should agree, there's an almost infinitely huge chance that that's not the case. Just look at actual annual abduction figures (NOT the horror stories you see every other night on TV!). Yes, rarely as that happens, children get abducted by strangers, and yes, every single case is horrible beyond words and breaks my heart too. But this climate of fear where every middle aged (or even younger) adult male who comes within five feet of a child, even his own daughter, is seen as a potential child molester has got to go. It is not just an insult to single dads (like myself), it is an insult to common sense.

    I'm 37, divorced, and have joint custody of our seven year old son. He comes to visit me every other weekend, and being that I am single, most of the time, he gets to spend Saturday afternoons with just me in amusement parks, playgrounds, and shopping centers. And I am sick and tired of all the accusing and skeptical looks, especially from those paranoid young housewives in playgrounds, who can't get their heads around the fact that this man sitting on a bench watching a bunch of kids kick a ball around is not a sexual predator, no, he's just a dad who's keeping an eye on his son.

    I just hope this cultural climate of sexist anti-male discrimination will one day go away and people in public will take me for what I am – a dad who, despite a not always friendly divorce, takes an active interest in his son's life and wants to make the most of the 48 hours or so he gets to spend with him every other weekend.

  21. Byron,

    I’m also a divorced father, lucky enough to have a balanced custody arrangement so that half the time, I’m a single parent. (Which does help me better appreciate a typical mother’s role.) The only elements of creepiness I’ve noticed is that my daughter (almost 16) and I both get weirded out when someone assumes she’s my girlfriend (or even wife). Um, no. That’s one reason she never rides in the front passenger seat.

    Without diminishing the annoyance of accusing and judgmental glances, the best solution is probably to ignore them, in a deep it-doesn’t-matter kind of way. Because it doesn’t, right? Even in the unlikely event that someone tried to report you as a child kidnapper, your kids would quickly straighten that out. (Although mine would probably delay for a moment, stroking their chins and thinking evil thoughts.)

    Shrug off those glances as best you can, like water off a duck’s back. More focus on your kids and an air of confidence are the most powerful deflectors of suspicion, anyway; people read too much into nervousness.

    However, when my daughter refuses to go shopping with me but still wants me to pick up some bras for her, that’s still weird. I can either risk the awkward looks at the store or insist that she shop for herself (or with her mom).

  22. It’s absolutely craziness how weird society has become about fathers! Fathers are the first to be called “dead beats” when they don’t take enough interests in their children, but be careful – too much interest and they just might be a perv.

    My husband and I have been dealing with this our whole marriage. I remember when my oldest was just a baby and my husband went into the pediatrician’s office to get a copy of a shot record, the office staff had to call ME to verify that it was okay! Last time I checked, my husband and I were partners in this whole parenting thing; he has just as much “say” in things as I do.

  23. I will address both issues the article and the giving mom a break. First, I am very active with my oldest daughter in her swimming. I am the swim parent and my wife is the school parent. I go to about 97% of the practices and all the swim meets. My wife comes to very few swim meets because with a younger daughter it is just easier not to go compared to having to entertain a 2-6 year old in a hot pool for 5+ hours.
    I am sure since I am a dad around children all the time in their swim trunks that there are people who think I am a perv. To that I say whatever. I love being a part of my daughter’s life in this long journey.
    I take my children often out of the house to give my wife a break. It is something that needs to be done to keep the sanity in the house. My wife loves her quiet time and I love that I have a close relationship with my daughters.

  24. Nothing wrong with saying the dad is giving the mom a break. That is what we call it when my husband takes over the childcare 100% and get the heck outta dodge to go do errands alone or go to a doctor’s appointment or go for a Mom’s Night Out. I don’t get out alone super often so I appreciate when it happens. There is a big difference between him helping out at home which is pretty much always does and him taking over 100% of the childcare alone so I can be totally free. One is much harder than the other and I appreciate that.

  25. It’s terrible how often men are judged for being around their own kids. My kids just finished swim lessons, and my toddler loved one of the grandfathers who took his grandkids to the pool for lessons at the same time, as he brought crayons and markers for his youngest granddaughter, and allowed my daughter to draw too. Usually he was the only man bringing kids in for lessons. Drawing is one of the few things that gets my youngest to sit still for very long at all, so I really enjoyed the time she wanted to spend at his table.

    I know it can be awkward for stay at home dads to take their kids out. Two of my brothers-in-law are stay at home dads and both have made references to the challenges of not being accepted by the moms at the park.

  26. Sorry, all – I didn’t mean to start an argument. Sometimes I forget that not every family has the luxury of allowing one of the parents (in our case, the mother) to work full-time with the children.
    I can see how “giving my wife a break” could be demeaning if we were like a majority of families, where both couples work, and by not explaining that, I deserved a bit of a rebuttal.🙂

    To boil it down, when I leave my primary job, I get the chance to “check out,” if you will. My wife will never get that chance unless I insist that she goes out some personal shopping or time with her friends, or unless I take the kids out for a bit. I couldn’t imagine being on the job 24 hours a day, and try to do whatever I can to help.

  27. Happy to report that my husband takes our son to a variety of local playgrounds after work every day and he knows far more neighborhood moms (dads, too, though fewer are at the playground at that hour) than I do! He has only once expressed discomfort with how he was treated– and that was because he was reluctant to help a little girl pull her pants back up after she’d pulled them down herself. As the only other adult there, I think he wound up watching baby sister while the mom dealt with the underwear & the embarrassment was his alone. He often tells me he plays tag or catch or otherwise helps out with other kids. This just seems to be how it’s done around here.

    In our neighborhood — admittedly mostly affluent — we often see dads with kids of all ages, and often other races. It’s obvious which men at the playgrounds are dads! Very rarely there’s been someone who raises the hair on the back of my neck…I’ve never done anything about it other than maybe pay a little more attention to where my kid is, as opposed to daydreaming! I’ve seem some curious looks at out-of-the-ordinary-pattern families (we are one, being at the distinctly elder end of the parenting spectrum), but nothing hostile, and though I’ve overheard some friendly questions, no nasty comments. I’m afraid my response to something like that would probably not be repeatable in public. Good grief. Manners?

    It has never crossed my mind to think the dads at the swimming pool are pervs. Jeez.

    Though I will admit I’ve hung out a little longer than I otherwise would have keeping a subtle eye (at least, I hope it was subtle…I tried) on a situation I wasn’t sure about. Fortunately it’s always become apparent all was well…not entirely sure I know what I’d do otherwise! But I hope other members of my community do the same thing…because looking out for each other is part of what makes a community, right?

  28. Here is one vote from me, for Dad’s to take their daughters shopping.

    One of my favorite memories was/is going to Macy’s with my Dad, when my DAD took me shopping for clothes to wear to my MOM’s law school graduation. She had to stay home and finish studying for exams. Why is this a favorite memory? Because I got to spend time with my Dad, doing something I enjoyed.

    Or when my Dad took me to the Farmer’s Market or the Flea Market, all great memories. Spend time with your kids, Dads!! Ignore those ugly looks from strangers; we, your children, will look back and thank you for it!

  29. I agree 100%, taking offense to the statement “giving my wife a break” is most certainly a case of someone making a mountain out of an anthill. Enough! Clark Cox got it exactly right. But if the argument is over, then forgive me if I’m re-starting it, just chiming in that one of my main pet peeves is when people make something out of nothing like that.

    Iva @ This Side of Perfect I couldn’t agree more. One of my main gripes is the whole “dead-beat” dads thing, in terms of dads being called that if they aren’t willing to dress in rags and live in a burning barrel so their kids & mother who never lets him see his kids are living in opulence. One attorney actually tried to argue with me–no I wasn’t going through such a thing, but the topic came up–that a man’s obligation with regards to child support & his right to see his kids are separate. I disagree 100%. A man–or woman, if the tables are turned–should NEVER be compelled to shell out $500 or more every month for kids that they are not allowed to see even when the dad has made it clear he wants to.

    That’s ridiculous. If you’re giving up that much for said kids, you sure as heck ought to have PLENTY of access and say-so in how they’re raised. If the phrase “with rights comes responsibilities” is to be believed, then the reverse is also true–with responsibilities come rights.

    Jonas You tell them about it!

    LRH

  30. Anyway, back on topic — I just want to say how badly I feel that men like Byron have to put up with this. And I wonder what kind of mindset it comes from — when I see a man out with a child or children, in a setting where you might expect a whole family to be there, I *instinctively* think “Single Dad, or maybe Mom is off doing something else.” I’ll admit that I tend more instinctively toward single Dad just because of the context and my own habits — it would be rare, for example, for my husband to take my kids out to eat without me, though of course there is absolutely nothing questionable about doing so.

    But the idea of “perv grooming kids” or whatever it is these people think doesn’t even occur to me — and the thing is, it never occurred to me even back before I started reading Lenore’s stuff and realizing how overblown the whole perv thing is. It just doesn’t seem like that would be how a *normal* person would think. What is it with people?

  31. Aren’t there laws regarding “falsly accusing” someone of a crime?
    These people aren’t busybodies, they’re criminals and a really good lawyer can prove it. And isn’t it about time!
    AARRRGGGHHHHH!

  32. This makes me so grateful to be living in Chicago. In my neighborhood, we see nearly as many dads at the park as moms – all colors and creeds and incomes. My little guys have been helped out by teenage boys watching younger siblings when they’ve wanted to try something they aren’t quite big enough to do on their own yet. We even have 2 male sitters on our go-to babysitter list. I know that if society doesn’t get this weirdness under control, my own boys are going to be considered pervs until proven innocent as they get older, especially as their skin is not lily-white; but my husband and I are doing our darnedest to be part of the solution.

  33. @Emily – sorry, but I my reaction was because I think you were the one that was nasty to Nicolas. You completely took his comment and twisted it and blew it out of proportion. And if you don’t wish to be part of the problem, do not read into simple comments and try and find some sort of ridiculous fault. And pulling a racial card on me? Where did that come from? You might as well Godwin this while you’re at it!

    That said – you’re point is valid regarding why these prejudices exists – in part. However, we know that the number one reason is the “male sexual predator” that is so prevalent our media. Not because a husband and father has his kid alone.

  34. I just had to respond this this story!

    First of all, I think it’s fantastic that Byron is out with his children to give his wife a break, and no, I don’t think that statement is in any way offensive. I’m a stay at home mother, and I regularily ask my husband to take the kids so I can have a break.

    Contrary to the feminist ideal, the reality is that quite often women are responsible for the lion’s share of the child care. I think this is more a product of the traditions, expectations and gender roles hanging around from fifty years ago than any real desire for most men to be uninvolved with their children. Most men I know who are fathers, at least outwardly, seem to be extremely involved with their kids, excellent caregivers and rolemodels and are usually readily available as the masculine side of the parenting partnership.

    I was raised by a single father, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I love my mother dearly, but she just never had much of a maternal bone and so I’m glad that in the divorce things worked out they way that they did. My father raised my brother and I singlehandedly, financially and otherwise, from the ages of 2 and 4, and did a fantastic job, in my humble opinion.😉 He held down a full time job, ran a side business, and still managed to raise us well, feed us, keep a roof over our head and clothes on our backs, provide us with some savings for post secondary education and still spend time with us after school, every weekend, and family vacations during the summer!

    I’ve never discussed with him whether he ever had moments during those years when he had the “look” and the uncertain attitude from other parents about whether or not he was legitimately there or not, but if he did, it never stopped him. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if that attitude had been more prevalent in the eighties when I was growing up, as I think it was much less socially acceptable to be a single father even just a couple of decades ago.

    I think the primary way to change this prevailing attitude from some parents, and especially women (I’m ashamed to say) should be for father’s to just mentally “flip the bird” to those people that choose to be rude according to a parent’s gender. After all, the more father’s that are out there alone *gasp* with their children, the more commonplace it will become and the less it will be noticed as out of the ordinary.

    Kudos to ALL of you father’s out there, single or otherwise. You must know how very VERY important you are to the proper growth and well-being of both your sons and your daughter’s, and how much your children will appreciate you for bucking the trend, going against the grain and all of that, and spending time with them, alone and as a family!

    Sorry about the long LONG post.

  35. Personally, when people look at me like I’m some sort of perv because I’m having fun with my kid, or even smiling and being playful with a kid who keeps looking at me and smiling, I just call them out. “Is there a problem?”. Most times they turn away. Sometimes they speak up…bad move. Because I usually end up putting them in their place and make them feel like the ignorant, self centered, paranoid, perverted thinking people they are. The good thing most of the time, is that the parent(s) of the child, never minds. And even tells the others to mind their own business.

    @Emily: this is the internet. Unless someone blatantly makes derogatory remarks, don’t read between the lines. 9 out of 10 times, you will always mistake them, and end up looking sheepish. I didn’t see anything wrong with what Nicholas said. Maybe he’s the only bread winner in the family, and his wife is a stay at home mom. Which would mean she takes care of their kids full-time. He could be busy with work most times. So when he has time away from work (trying to make the effort to take time away from work), his comment of “…try to give my wife a break whenever possible”, is pretty accurate. There is no other way one can say that, given that scenario. I understand your all for women’s lib. But don’t get blinded by your beliefs. Some people take it way too seriously, and forget to use common sense. ie. helicopter parents. Different situation, still same mentality. It’s all about keeping an open mind, and not be so judgmental before you have all the facts.

  36. Nicholas Semrau said:

    …and by not explaining that, I deserved a bit of a rebuttal.

    No, you didn’t. You didn’t need to explain anything. Emily jumped to a false conclusion, which is really pretty ironic given Byron’s story in the first place…

  37. Stories like this make me glad that I’m not in the States anymore. That craziness hasn’t come to Germany yet. My husband works from home and is the primary parent at home. I work full time. My son has had his friends sleep over while I was at work (I often work the late shift) and my husband was home with the boys. My son’s friends like coming over to my house when I’m at work because it’s like a “guy’s day” for them. None of the other parents seem to care. They are happy that somebody is with the boys. My son has also slept over at friends’ houses where only the father was home.

    When my son was younger, and had babysitters, his favorites were always teenage boys. Male babysitters were more interested in things that he liked to do: have Yu-Gi-Oh duels, talk about sports, collect Pokemon cards, or simply go outside and kick a soccer ball.

    My husband often takes my son out skiing with his friends, mainly because he’s the parent who can keep up with them. When my son was younger, my husband was the one who took him and his friends to the gym or playground. Again, the parents were happy that their kids had an adult nearby in case of an emergency. People over here don’t think anything of a man out in public with a couple of kids.

    My son has also gone skiing with his friends’ fathers. The thought never crossed my mind that the other dads were perverts who were grooming my son. The dads tend to be the ones who are better skiers who do more of the “crazy” things that boys like to do. When my son is with his friends and their fathers, my thought is that he’s with other men who are good role models for how a man should be. My feeling is that the more male role models my son has, the better a man he will be when he grows up.

    A little off topic, but what is the feeling toward male teachers in the States? Two out of the three teachers who are my son’s all-time favorites are men: his geography teacher from last year and his math teacher this year. In fact, my son is talking about wanting to become a teacher because of those men.

  38. Thank you for writing this article. The more people become aware of their prejudices the easier it becomes to overcome them.

    My husband should totally sympathize with the Byron or would if he were better able to read other people. He has adult ADHD and Asperger so he doesn’t pick up on all the nuances of non-verbal communication all that well, but as a part-time worker while I am a full-time nurse, he’s the one that provides the bulk of the childcare for our 8 month old little boy. Sometimes my husband brings our son to my work for lunch visits and the looks people give him as he carries our boy into the building are downright hateful. It makes me sad to think until I reach my arms out for a hug and kiss these people are judging him so wrongly. You’d think even if they are so judgmental against men caring for children, they would use some sense and think a hospital of all places would be the last place some perv would take a child they had abducted. I’m glad he doesn’t notice or at least when I mentioned it he claims he hasn’t noticed but at the same time, I worry if this is how people are behaving around the hospital, what must he (and our son)be going through at McDonald’s, the mall, the play centers and baby supply stores? What could happen if one of these busybodies takes it upon themselves to “rescue” our son or worse?

    (Of course he’s a big guy with a sweet smile and some of the best and strongest protective parent instincts I’ve ever seen, so I’m sure things would go the worst for the busybody in the end.)

  39. Anyone ever think that the dads say they are “babysitting” because they don’t have the right words to say what they are doing? Society has, up until fairly recently, assumed that all the child care was done by the mother. A man, until recently, was looked down on if he wanted to spend time with his kids. And I mean recently. Golly, it has only been in the last 10 years that they had changing tables in men’s rooms. (I have a friend who when his now 20 year old was a baby was told that “yes, you actually have to go stand in the rain outside the car and get the baby wet in order to change his diaper, because here at the home improvement store we will NOT tell women that you are in the lady’s room changing a diaper and will not stand in there with you.” So the fact that men might not have the words to say that they are in charge right now….stop bashing them for it.

    As to the original poster, I think that he is great for getting custody of his kids. It sounds like he is doing a great job of getting everything done, despite the stupid people around him.

  40. Male teachers in the states…well, they tend not to teach the younger kids, and tend to get all the “problem” kids in the elementary grades because they are “male” and can “handle them better.”

    Personally, our favorite teachers tend to be male, but we are in an Alternative Learning Environment school so it is not the same as a regular class. Much more fun overall. At our school the parents pick the classes, so kids are not assigned to teachers. Overall in the US, there are few male teachers in the elementary grades, due to tradition, pay, and perhaps in some part, prejudice that men can’t deal with young kids well unless they are the problem kids.

  41. It is articles like this that make me worry about being a single man without kids. My cousin’s second child was just born; I am the godfather to their first. Since I am a 30some year old boy, I plan on taking the kids to see all the cool animated movies (which I would be seeing anyway) once they are old enough. Even now sometimes I get strange looks from parents sitting alone in a movie largely directed at kids. (The fact I dress like a biker does not help, but it’s fun to feak out the squares).

    If a father cannot take his kids out without getting strange looks, I worry if I’m asking for trouble for wanting to take some younger members of my extended family out.

  42. “Aren’t there laws regarding “falsly accusing” someone of a crime?”

    Only if you take it to the point of filing a false report with some authority — e.g.. the police or regulatory agency.

    As it should be. People should be allowed to say stupid, obnoxious, paranoid things to one another. They should also know better.

  43. One of my most vivid memories in the months after my parent’s divorce when everything was so chaotic was my dad taking my shopping for my birthday. He wasn’t coming to my party, so he took me shopping and wrapped up what he’d bought me, so when it came time to open that present at the party, I though of him and for a moment it was like he was there. I look exactly like my father, and this was 25 years ago, so nobody thought anything of it. Or else, I didn’t notice.

    Then there’s my husband who got horrible looks and comments when I was washing our baby’s binky off after it fell on the floor in the grocery store. She was pretty upset, and he was trying to comfort her as best as he could without her binky, but some old lady was like, “Where is that baby’s mother?”

    Like a kidnapper is going to stand in the middle of a grocery store with the screaming baby he’s taken.

  44. I find it fascinating that both Nicholas and I understand exactly where we talked around each other and are comfortable with it, and still people feel like they need to let me know that I was wrong and jumped to conclusions.

    Hey, thanks! Please, make the focus be on me and not on the kind of person who would ask Byron where his children’s mother is. Let’s talk more about how my questioning Nicholas is a bigger sin, and infight amongst ourselves.

    How productive.

    Nicholas, thanks for understanding. I’m glad we talked about this, and I hope that the moment wasn’t lost.

  45. Yeah it is a total concept of the past that only men can do the child caring stuff. The men on my mom’s side of the family have that ideal. My uncle ran out of the room when I changed their diapers even if they just were pee diapers. Yet, he claims he wanted children. How dumb! They were all shocked when I told them my hubby changes diapers and gives bottles, etc.

  46. Excellent article. Fabulous point that men are dealing with being ‘watched’ so much. Shame that the forum leads to arguments. Becomes like reading a soap opera.
    I think Byron handled it well and with grace. Even when we’re ticked off, an amenable response usually is well received and might even shame the other person into thinking their assumptions are not always valid.

  47. The BBC showed a documentary last year called ‘A Century of Fatherhood’, which you can see on youtube, starting with this:

    It’s absolutely brilliant.

  48. My word. When I was a little girl, my father would take my sister and I out for walks, our grandfather would take us on outings when he and my grandmother would visit, it was perfectly natural. What is wrong with people?!

  49. Great reminder! When my husband and I divorced and I started dating again, I wouldn’t even let my boyfriend be alone with her in any way for a whole year. The notion that all men are pigs was pretty well ingrained in me, I must admit! But really, so few are, and the ones I’m hanging out with are even less likely to be.

  50. Byron, I❤ you. Keep being an engaged father and everyone else can get over themselves.

  51. When a father says that he is babysitting his children, that leads to the above attitude where a man with a child is seen as an aberration. When a father is just “helping out” when he engages in parenting, that leads to the above.

    That always drove my husband mad when the Monsters were small. “Oh, you’re helping out! How sweet!”, people would say. He would sort of glare, but not react. That changed one afternoon when Elder Monster looked at one of those fools and said “He’s my DAD, and he’s HANGING out with me because he LIKES TO!” And that was the end of him not reacting.

    My niece was visiting over the weekend, and she kept pestering Uncle for piggyback rides at the waterpark. He got a lot of glares and stares, this Arab-American fella with the cute little Swede glued to him, even when she yelled “Giddyup, Uncle!” Instead of laughing with the guy making goofy fun with his niece, people acted like he was Satan incarnate. It’s all nonsense.

  52. Don’t worry about it Emily; I wasn’t offended, Live and let live, you know what I mean?

  53. Peggy: Honestly even though I don’t believe all men are pervs or anything, I actually think not leaving a child alone with your boyfriend for a long time is a good idea. There have been child abuse and murders and molestations from the mother’s boyfriend. Some men will actually seek out single moms with kids in that way. It actually falls into the “Molested by someone the family knows” category. Even if the guy is perfectly nice it makes good sense to not trust him with your kids until you really really really get to know him well and that takes time. I think you made the right decision in that regard and if something ever happens to my husband and I start dating again, I will use that approach.

    Even without molesting or murders, its not good for young children to have men come in and out of their lives regularly just because the mom dates someone. I have seen it happen with my single mom friends and their kids and it really heartbroke the kids when the boyfriend they liked a lot just stopped coming around because they broke up. The kids didn’t understand.

    There is a big difference in trusting your spouse you have known a long time with their own child and leaving a boyfriend you just met a couple months ago alone with your child.

  54. Terrific post, and well expressed. This struck so close to home. I chose not to be a biological father, but my partner and I were foster dads and “big brothers”.
    There have been more comments made and minor confrontation than I care to remember over the years, especially, as the OP alludes to, in grocery stores and underwear isles. Typically one or the other of the kids would respond by calling me mom (I look like one of the guitarists from ZZ Top) and the person would tut-tut and go away.
    But one confrontation truly stands out. Years back, we attended a child-friendly Halloween party hosted by a friend, with our youngest little brother, then 12, in tow. Most people there knew us, but one woman marched over, clearly angry, and said “How dare you bring your toy to the party!”.
    Our toy.
    It rarely happens, but I was struck dumb. A few beats later, I got my breath back. “If you truly believe this child to be in danger” I said to her, “you need to phone 911 now. It is your legal obligation in (this province) to report suspected child abuse.”
    She became embarrassed and muttered excuses, then disappeared. The “toy” in question just made a face at her back and spent the rest of the night in the swimming pool.
    But I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had actually said.
    Of all the ignorant and prejudicial things people have said over the decades, this incident stands out for me. Because it wasn’t misguided concern for a child that motivated her attack. She wasn’t concerned for our little brother; just about such a thing being displayed in public. We had offended this woman’s sense of social propriety.

  55. When my daughters were young, we did a lot of things when their mother (my first wife) was busy. Of course this was 40 years ago, before the various media went “loco” and needed bad things to fill a 24-hour “news hole”. One time I took them to San Francisco on the train (I worked for the railway at the time), and we stayed overnight in a hotel on Powell St. I just about had to get some safety harnesses because they liked to hang out the window watching the cable cars. Nowadays I’d probably need a notarized affidavit from their mom that it was OK for them to be out of town with me. We went to various sporting events as a threesome and even “camped out” in a caboose at the Railway Museum.
    Many years later, long after the girls were grown, I was talking to a colleague about the upcoming weekend. He told me “I’m taking my daughters fishing,” and I commended his plan and said something like, “Years from now, when they’re grown women and you’re old and retired, they will look back on these fishing trips as fond memories of their younger days.”

  56. Just a little bit about going down the underwear aisle – if you’re talking about your 13 year old buying underwear and/or bras, don’t go and stand in the aisle with her. Stand outside the aisle and/or go do something else. By the time I was old enough to buy bras, I didn’t particularly want my dad to watch me choose them. It’s nothing to do with pervert paranoia, it’s just something I didn’t want to share with my dad (or in fact any man related to me).

  57. Here’s some advice for those that truely want to protect kids: If you think you are witnessing a case of child abduction… ask the d*mn kid what’s wrong in a friendly manner. You’re still sticking your nose in someone else’s business but keeping it friendly. Don’t just jump to an immediate accusation. Half the time the kid shrinks back onto the father/responsable male they are acompanied by looking for protection from this stranger talking to them (aka you). The rest of the time they get quiet and start looking around to see who’s talking to them or just keep crying ignoring this friendly stranger who probably isn’t about to buy them the candy they are crying for. Any of these reactions is perfectly normal and signs of a healthy situation. In the case of a real emergency this gives the kid an option to say so. You can always follow up with “poor dear must be sleepy” or some other FRIENDLY comment and may actually start a nice conversation with a gentleman who is simply dealing with a stressful situation.

    Likewise, parents teach your kids the right things to say should someone try to mess with them in an inapropropriate way: “Help, this isn’t my mommy/daddy!” or “I don’t belong here! Where’s my mommy/daddy!” These statements indicate a more distressing situation and are calls for help not just a cranky tantrum from a bad day or missed nap.

  58. Totally infuriating. Byron, if you ever get the “are-you-are-perv” evil eye (or question) again, just think of all the folks over here at free-range-kids who think THEY are the creeps! Sometimes it helps to know you’re “not alone” when someone’s being cruel to you.

  59. What is wrong with people that they would give a Dad being with his kids a crazy look?! Like I said, when I see a Dad with his kids I smile. So many Dads are not around for various reasons or are not involved with their kids. Nothing makes me happier than seeing an involved Daddy. I don’t get why people would give them mean looks. Maybe they are jealous because their Daddy never played with them.

    One time one of my sons thought he was about to be kidnapped. It was pretty funny. I took my other son to the bathroom nearby and left other son on the playground. He was only about 20 feet from me. There was a wasp flying around him and a nice grandmother that was there with her grandson tried to pull him away from the wasp. I walked up about that point and my son had this horrified look on his face and he was about .2 seconds from freaking out. I think he thought she was kidnapping him. The grandmother was so embarrassed. She explained about the wasp and I can tell she was worried I was going to freak out on her since my son was about to freak out. I just laughed and told him it was okay and he calmed down. I guess its good to know if someone did try to kidnap him he would fight back.

  60. @Cheryl.

    You just reminded me of a one of my husbands many hero moments. Bub was 9mo and we were at the theatre in Sydney as my brothers musical was about to begin … And I smelled poo! Hubby did took bub and changebag only to find the only changeable was in the female toilets. So in he went and changed her.

    A couple of women went in while he was there but no one cared or commented. (cheers all around for being sensible people).

  61. @justme I’ve done that about 3 times.
    1. Woman was dragging child from store. Child was screaming No, No, No and most importantly not addressing the woman by any name. I walked up and said to the child Are you alright. Kid stopped stunned. Then I said “Who is that?” kids said my mom. I said alrightly then. The Mom winked at me and the kid walked out with her. I heard the Mom saying “See you didn’t get what you wanted, and that woman nearly called the cops thinking you were being kidnapped.”

    2. 2 Women were chasing a kid in a parking lot. They grabbed her and put her in the car. She bit one, kicked the other and scrambled out the other door. I punched in 911, walked over and yelled “Little Girl are you ok.” The kid stopped in her tracks. I asked who the women were she replied Mom and Ms. Something. I asked are you supposed to go with Mom and Ms Something? She said yes and got in the car. At that point I realized that they had an Autism advocacy sticker on the car. The Mom thanked me for being concerned. (I have to say on that one, I made note of the plate number just in case.) I’ve seen Ms Something at the store with several different kids at off peak times. I think she is some type of parent support or therapist working with children in the area.

    3. Driving down the street. I see an older boy dragging a smaller boy down the street. The smaller boy is screaming help and seems to be fighting the younger boy. I stopped and got out of my car. I yelled are you playing or do you really need help? They both stopped, and said we are just playing. About that time their Dad came around the corner of the yard. I explained that I was just making sure they were just playing, because the boy was yelling help. Dad thanked me and suggested that they save help for real problems and yell I’ve been captured or something.

    I’ve been bullied to the point my pediatrician was ready to call CPS due to the injuries. (He ended up threatening to report our districts’ administrators for failure to protect) Which is what made me stop for the 3rd incident.

    I will always stop and try to access what is happening if a kid is screaming no and not addressing the person just screaming and being dragged. A schoolmate was rescued from a kidnapper, because two older ladies asked her if she was ok. (she was screaming no at him). That stayed with me.

  62. gap-runner, on July 9, 2011 at 01:40 said:

    Stories like this make me glad that I’m not in the States anymore.

    uhhhhh….the author of this story is from Australia, unless they’re calling Australia “the states” nowdays.

  63. Nicholas Semrau, on July 9, 2011 at 09:54 said:

    Don’t worry about it Emily; I wasn’t offended, Live and let live, you know what I mean?

    You are a nice guy, Nicholas. Your wife sounds like a lucky girl, and your love for her is precious.

    You may not be offended, but many of us were. Frankly, I cringe at such self centeredness. “Giving my wife a break” implies a break in her routine – not her forced enslavement. Give ME a break!

    I was a stay at home mom for 16 years. My husband worked overtime at a blue collar job for me to be able to, once going 10 months without a day off just so I could stay home with our kids.

    I love him and bless his hard working little heart to this day.

    He got up at 4:30 A.M. to scrape mountains of snow off our roof in sub zero weather in Minneapolis before working 8 hours out in that sub zero weather, his mustache and beard a frozen block of ice when he came home. The weather reports warned about keeping pets indoors so their eyeballs wouldn’t freeze, yet my husband was out there every single day. For us.

    He mowed the lawn, fixed flat tires and cars that wouldn’t start. I don’t ever remember him cooking a meal, cleaning toilets or washing dishes – all things being EQUAL, don’t cha know – but then I’ve never once changed a tire in a driving rain storm or dug trenches to install a sprinkler system.

    There wasn’t much time left for him to “give me a break”. I could have used it, but “breaks” were rare, usually once a year on mother’s day. My “break” usually consisted of lying on a blanket by a stream, reading a delicious book while devouring a huge bag of chocolate ALL BY MYSELF while he took the kids hiking.

    As a mother, I feel the most loving gesture I ever gave my children was to always show them the love and appreciation I have for their father. He has certainly given them the same gift.

  64. Jonas, I think that passage you quoted was meant to be facetious.

  65. I am Australian. I saw this on my ‘handheld’ just as I was leaving for the farmers’ market, my Saturday morning pleasure. It made me very aware of the (large number) of dads out and about with their child/ren, with no mother in sight.

    I regularly see dads pushing strollers, carrying babies in slings or accompanied by a couple of kids of various ages. Yesterday I also watched the reaction of others to the dads. I have to say everyone was basically getting on with their business and letting everyone else do the same. I didn’t sense any anxiety, disapproval or negative stuff of any kind.

    When I have noticed reactions it’s usually about dads’ (suspected) lack of skill at parenting. As an example, some time back I watched two senior members of the female tribe watching a dad with a preschooler in a supermarket and commenting to each other on his unskilled management of the child’s at first request for a sweet and later screaming tantrum over same. The first response was the standard dad one – ‘no’! After the child had escalated hostilities to a certain point the dad gave in. The women’s comments to each other were ‘He was always going to say yes, why didn’t he just say yes first off’. Indeed. And they most emphatically did not let the dad know that they were rating his parenting.

    The discourses are out there ‘all men are pervs!’ and this gets rolled out at various times and by various people (It’s the kind of judgemental nonsense beloved of sanctimonious busybodies).

    Hand on my heart, I do not believe it forms part of the standard repertoire of Australian’s responses to each other.

  66. @Catherine

    As fellow Aussie I agree with your closing remark. That stands for most of what I read in this blog. I can see the US and media influence in our country and take this blog as a bit of a warning. I have a bit of a “Fight it now before we end up in an equally non-free range country” attitude.

  67. @kherbert
    Thank you for those wonderful examples of how to get involved and still keep things friendly! It shows more concern and less judgement of doom than the agressive accusations that could cause a real abductor to grab and run. It’s important to ask the child what is happening. Kids know if somthing doesn’t feel right. Likewise, the adult feels more like your concedrned for the child rather than being agressive to them.

    Likewise, all three of your examples provided the parents with an opening for a teaching moment. “You see, crying like that made that nice lady worry about you. You shouldn’t scare people acting like that.”

  68. I am a single father and have been the main custodial parent since my son was 9 months old. He is now 14.

    We live in one of the most affluent sections of Los Angeles California and my son is a straignt A student.

    We are doing well.

    Except that each and every time we went to the park I was given “the look” and only once in 14 years was a discussion had with me. I was not allowed a report card at public school, I switched to private.

    I was spy’d on at private school by the moms and teachers for my ex who enrolled the school moms in her attempt to regain custody, this went on till my son was 12 and she left town with her new millionaire husband.

    I have seen it all and been though it all, why? I simply love my son and wish to help him with his homework. He needs the help and my ex is too lazy to do it.

    I am also very intelligent and socially aware and have made a study of the matter.

    My conclusion is that this is just another battle in the war against fathers. Men gladly and foolishly embraced feminism. Women selfishly and wisely fought agains male encroachment on the female spere of child raising and this post reflects the current front lines.

    This problem is getting worse because women are not so quietly fighting every attempt by men to have meaningful relationships with their children. It’s simple selfishness, power madness and vindictiveness.

    The young moms are doing what women do well which is to “queen bee” and exclude unwanteds at the park. The government addicted to the never failing female block vote acceeds to all demands of the gynocracy no matter how luney or detrimental to he children.

    Since more men are taking a role in their childrens lives women are ramping up the action. Soon men will be accused of child abuse for taking their children to the park until laws are passed then men will no longer take their children to the park.

    It won’t work. You can kick men out of relationships and make marriage a mine field but men naturally love their children.

    And we all know alternative family forms mean any form that does not include a father. Nice try getting a single dad to say…oh, yeah, that’s me, alternative family. The silence of men is all we’re allowed to say.

    By the way, though most men care too much about sleeping in their beds to admit it, most men on here and everywhere else think exaclty like this.

  69. @FriendofPeter I don’t know how you were legally denied a report card. I know in the past I’ve made copies so that both parents could get a copy. The only time I “denied” a parent a report card was when they failed to come to the required conference. We are required to meet with parents face to face at least once a year. Unfortunately for some families that means holding report cards hostage.

    I have a friend who knew that his x wouldn’t make sure he saw report cards. So he had it put in the custody agreement that he had a right to these documents. Then he went to the school and showed them the papers and gave them a stack of stamped self addressed envelopes. They sent him copies of report cards and progress reports.

    I’ve also know of situations were the teacher kept 2 folders for the child. This meant making a copy of every single thing the student had graded. One went home Wednesday (normal) and the other went home Thursday with the other parent. That did cause a huge blow up when one parent decided to punish the child by not signing the field trip permission slip. The other parent did sign it and the child went.

  70. I find it curious that we as a culture accept the neurotic projections of people and their politics as somewhat valid.

    To say “I am giving my wife a break” does not translate into your own personal experience or politic. Yet we are quite comfortable to project our myopic little bias’s like we are heroes saving the world.

    I could fully understand responding with what that statement may mean to you in your own experience. Doing this may further a discussion that may contribute to a better outcome of understanding, it’s a responsible step forward.

    But projecting your experience in judgment on another person has become a social disease of very poor communication skills and even less common respect. Are we so childish that we must project the disdain of our experience on anyone we see fit, requiring them to answer for what we cannot and will not resolve in ourselves.

    If this is representative of empowerment, why do I as a man and a father and a person have to be your empowerment therapist.

    I have an autistic son that I took swimming every Sunday. In the play ground outside he was trying to engage some older boys in play. I was standing chatting with their mother (who for some reason unknown to me needed to know if I was the father or the grandfather)
    Her son ran up to report that my son had asked him or had said to him “touch me”. Two words that immediately came under neurotic scrutiny. I however knew exactly what he meant, those are the words he uses when he wants to play tag and informed her of such. (my son has not developed full speech)

    The next week I was greeted in the pool by a councilor, who introduced herself and spent the next two and a half hours observing me at play with my son. What was the charge or crime? Sick little dark images in the minds of family members trying to be heroes in a dark neurotic culture of victims.

    We see only what we want and we project that on anyone who comes close to representing our experience. They become guilty of our sick little images, because we are to empowered to resolve them.
    Sick sick sick.

  71. Lack of respect for fathers is just one of the many outcomes of feminist indoctrination and feminist government policy. When feminism delivers the final deathblow to fatherhood, what will thinking women say? Whatever you may say, don’t claim you weren’t warned.

  72. Donn, that post had nothing to do with feminism and a whole heck of a lot to do with drug addiction. And a whole lot to do with social workers who have not been trained in the signs of drug addiction.

    That said, sometimes the system is stacked against fathers. But had I been that father, I would have been talking to the lawyer a whole lot sooner to protect my kids. I would have had a recorder in my pocket and had it going in a loop so that I could have taped a whole conversation where she said she was going to kill the kids. Then, kids and I would have been out of there. No waiting 17 years.

  73. Cheryl W, sorry but you are absolutely dead wrong. In most cities in North America we have the Duluth model of domestic violence. It presupposes that only men are violent and that any man who attempts to garner assistance from any social network including family doctors is understood to be using “the system” to further bully his partner. Do the research, you will discover that I am 110 percent correct. Regardless of any tape recording that is the position held by professionals in our wonderful system. The Duluth model trumps all other training including drug rehab. Sorry but that is the facts.

  74. No, that’s not the facts Keith. I work in the criminal justice system and we frequently represent women charged with domestic violence against their men. I frequently represent clients who have custody of their children over the mother because the mother has been deemed unfit, usually due to drugs. I have male friends who have had courts grant them custody of their children in a divorce.

    I’m not saying that the system treats men and women equally. Men are more likely to be viewed the aggressor. Women are given preferential status as it relates to children in family courts and CPS. It is much easier to get charges dropped against the woman than a man when the injured party changes his/her mind about prosecuting (which happens in about 99% of domestic violence cases). “Battered man syndrome” doesn’t exist although it is assumed in most cases that the woman victim who changes her story or asks for charges to be dropped is doing so because she suffers from “battered woman syndrome” (rather than she’s a lying POS). But men are far from completely powerless in the system.

  75. “But men are far from completely powerless in the system.”

    …no. Not buying that. Not at all.

    Men are pretty much powerless in the system. Only rarely, when the woman really REALLY is a screw up, do men have any “power”, and as soon as the woman makes some lame attempt to clean up her act she’s quickly forgiven.

    I know at least three men who pay child support to the mother while the children are living entirely with him – who say it’s “worth it” to them just to know their children are safe and well cared for. She’ll take the children back if he doesn’t pay out, which is how “the system” works.

    That’s not a system that gives even the tiniest bit of “power” to men.

    I don’t know ANY woman who walks on egg shells, completely alters her lifestyle or lives in fear of her children’s father because he has “power” in the system.

    I DO know men who have given up everything in their lives to be “allowed” the small time to be with their children – and they live in fear that will be snatched away at the slightest provocation.

  76. And I witnessed a judge slap down the mother and tell her that she was alienating the child’s affection for his father and if she didn’t stop she was going to loose custody. (And was actually in the courtroom and read the court’s order stating as much so I am not relying on a one-sided version of events from my friend).

    I’ve seen a man get sole custody of his child simply because the mother wanted to move out of state and the judge refused to allow her to take the child away from his father.

    There are good judges and bad judges. There are good decisions and bad decisions. There are differences from state to state. So we can play tit-for-tat all day with some examples coming out on either side. Women definitely have the advantage but the sweeping view of Keith’s that men are just doomed is not true.

    The men that win fight back; they don’t just sit back for 17 years (and continue to produce children with a nutcase) and let things happen. My friend in example 1 let his ex run him through hoops for 2 years. He finally said “enough,” hired an attorney, sued for custody and got a very reasonable visitation agreement that involves no hoops. My friend in example 2 hired an attorney and got an order preventing his ex from removing the child from the state the second he got wind of the thoughts of moving. The gentleman Donn posted about eventually fought back and won.

  77. Sorry Donna I have no doubt that there are anomalies, but balance doesn’t exist. I have researched the effects of the Duluth model of domestic violence. I live in Canada where it’s application is much broader and applied much longer. In my case my partner simply asked me to leave and I agreed and did,. At that point I had no legal recourse to see my own son. There was not one institutional support mechanism to support me in even seeing my son. It all led to a confrontation. I won’t even detail it any further because much like the system you will fill in the blanks regardless of what I write. Contrary to popular belief the system promotes hostility and I for one see no point in hostility. Because of your exact words the “tit for tat” factor. I have no use for it, it resolves nothing and acts as a great vehicle to impose misery. My interest is in my son, not the ongoing drama of conflict. But there is truth in what you say a father must fight to have any rights at all. Personally this culture has become so pathologized and pathetic it’s not even worth paying your taxes or getting out of bed. Unfortunately I’m stuck with this creepy culture because I’m a citizen.
    I for one don’t understand why I have to pay strangers all my money just to see my children. The end result will be that I let go, I just have no more will to fight. I won’t even come within a 100 feet of my son’s mother. In the past if she came towards me I locked myself in the car. Till she finally got the message. I’m 5 ft 10 and weigh 220 lbs. Trust me I can protect myself, point is I shouldn’t have to.

    “the sweeping view of Keith’s that men are just doomed is not true.”

    I think statistics speak for themselves, I think most men know the score. I think men know the game is rigged and are just opting out all together. For me I’m inches away from letting the state pay my bills. They can throw me in prison, there is really nothing out here worth the effort. Without access to my kids it doesn’t matter where I’m sitting. You can offer all the counter argument you like, trust me if your hands were tied the same way, your tune might even be worse than mine. Again, research the Duluth model and it’s application, you will find it a very destructive social device with no grounding in constitutional law. But hey believe what you want, I walk in my shoes, always entertained by the narrative of my experience offered by everyone else.

  78. I got to say I think Keith has a point. I have seen good men get screwed out of seeing their kids by the less than great mothers. Heck, my own husband knows the score. He knows because we have discussed it that if he ever leaves me, I could make his life a living hell and his relationship with his kids would be destroyed if I wanted to do so. It would be easy. I am the stay at home parent. I am the parent that handles everything. I am the parent they are closest to and the most knowledgeable parent about childcare. I would get full custody easily enough should I seek it. Then I could turn them against him if I wanted to and unless he got concrete evidence I was doing so, there is not much he could do about it.

    That’s just the way it goes. Thus why I warn men especially DON’T have kids with a woman of bad caliber or who you do not plan to be with forever, because she can and will screw you hard about seeing your kids if you split up. Use protection!

  79. When my husband was last in the UK and visiting relatives, he was out with his brother in law and his nephew. They were approached by police and questioned as someone had reported that it was suspicious that two men were out walking with a 7 year old boy – how sad that a visit from Australia from an uncle had to be seen as something dirty by outsiders. My husband is a loving and doting uncle and was quite annoyed at being questioned.

  80. These stories make me glad I live in an older city (Buffalo). Sometimes it feels like my city is stuck 40 years in the past while the rest of the country has moved on, but there are definitely positive sides to that as well. People here for the most part retain a traditional neighborliness (we aren’t called the City of Good Neighbors for no reason). I have *never* experienced the kinds of comments or looks talked about here, and I go all sorts of places with my son – playgrounds, museums, markets, swimming lessons, parks, etc. We ride my bicycle together to the park or zoo, with him in his child seat. Perhaps I’m completely naive about people’s attitudes, but I doubt it. Most of the time I get smiles and friendly comments, if anything.

    Even though many families have moved out to the suburbs, in my city neighborhood I still see plenty of kids playing by themselves on the sidewalks or yards, or riding bikes around the neighborhood, or playing hockey on the side streets. I’m very glad I don’t have to live under the paranoid hyperscrutiny that so many others apparently do.

  81. Like I said, Donna – I don’t know of ANY woman who alters her lifestyle one iota, or lives in fear of false accusations or anything else because men have any “power” in the system to disrupt their “choices”.

    I don’t know of any woman who is forced to pay for children they CHOSE to bring into the world , much less didn’t have a choice in parenthood,or threatened with prison if they find themselves unemployed and can’t pay up. Does the term “Welfare Father” even exist? Because “Welfare Mother” is almost a given.

    Even women who don’t know who their child’s father is are not threatened with forced labor or prison to pay for the child. WE tax payers pay for thier “choice”, until they are able to find or force a man to do it.

    Mothers can simply drop unwanted kiddoes off at the firestation and walk away from any obligation. Is this “power” EVER extended to FATHERS who never wanted the obligation in the first place? Where is their “power” to do THAT?

    Men are ALWAYS 100% responsible – no matter what. Women are only “responsible” by choice. Men incarcerated wrongfully for 20 years have been slapped with child support arrears once they were exnerated and freed…not even being wrongfully imprisoned for a lifetime released him from his “obligations”.

    How many women has this happend to? EVER?

    I don’t know of ANY woman forced to pay for children that she later learned were not hers. Paternity fraud does not affect women. I don’t know of any woman “tricked” into a lifelong child support obligation whether or not the child was hers to start with.

    “Maybe” rarely a man could falsely accuse a women of sexual abuse or domestic abuse. I’ve never heard of it, but no doubt being “in the system” you have …it happens fairly routinely to men…men you say have “power” in the system.

    The ony way women are getting “screwed over” by the system is if they are mothers of sons or “second wives” clubbers.

  82. I could make his life a living hell and his relationship with his kids would be destroyed if I wanted to do so. It would be easy. I am the stay at home parent. I am the parent that handles everything. I am the parent they are closest to and the most knowledgeable parent about childcare. I would get full custody easily enough should I seek it. Then I could turn them against him if I wanted to and unless he got concrete evidence I was doing so, there is not much he could do about it.

    Geez, Dolly.

    Your husband must feel like the luckiest guy in America.

    ….not.

    I hope to God you are”just kiddin'”.

    …someday, some woman will be saying these words to YOUR son…and she may NOT be just kiddin’.

    This is the legacy you are cursing your own son(s) with. The fate in store for them…and the woman in his life may not be as ‘benevolent” as you are.

    At least you better hope your future Daughter In Law “allows” you in his life, as well as your Grandchildren. If you think your husband doesn’t count that much, look at how much less his mother does.

    Why would you teach your sons to accept, and even expect such utter disrespect and abuse?

    Do you not love them? Because if that’s your idea of “love”, it’s a terrible pity.

    Your sons are not capable of loving their own children as much or as freely as their mother? Your son(s) is unworthy of “equal” love from his children? Just the partial love parceled out and monitored by the (hopefully) “wiser” mother of his children? Love that can be yanked out from under him at the first whiff and whim her judgement decrees?

    Because we are not talking about other people’s sons here…we’re talking about Y.O.U.R.S.

    My son in law is in Afghanistan while my daughter is home with us, pregnant with their second child. There is no “I’m doing you a BIG FAVOR” attitude going on with his children. No “I’m the IMPORTANT PARENT, Daddy’s just here as long as he cooperates with me” messages to his children.

    Are you the sort of person you would want to be married to? If your partner made these threats and statements regarding your relationship, would be OK with it?

    Dolly’s husband:

    I could make her life a living hell and her relationship with her kids would be destroyed if I wanted to do so. It would be easy. I am the provider. I am the parent that holds the purse strings. I am the parent they are obligated to and the person most capable of providng for them. I would get full custody easily enough should I seek it. Then I could turn them against her if I wanted to. They know who pays the bills and which side their bread is buttered – I taught them what’s most important. MONEY. She’s a penniless loser, and I’m the bread winner.

    BTW, Dolly – PAS is denied by most feminist groups, and not recognized in most court systems.

  83. Sgtmom: Way to not read there. I said I “Could” do those things. I am sure I “could” if I wanted to. Doesn’t mean I would. I “Could” jump off a bridge, but doesn’t mean I am going to. Jump to conclusions much?

    I am raising my sons to beware women who might try to trap them and to be smart about protection and DNA tests and all the good stuff. Because I know that they very easily “could” get roped into a situation like this and it will suck for all involved.

  84. Sgtmom: You owe me an apology for getting so insulting with me when I am on the same side as you!!!! Hello!!! I think men should have equal rights when it comes to their kids and making decisions on whether they want a baby to be born or not or being able to sign away their rights etc. My POINT was that as of right now, that is NOT the case. I was agreeing with the posters saying men are at a disadvantage in our system and gave an example of how I could screw my own husband if I wanted to. I stand by it would be easy and totally possible. He would have to pay me alimony too.

  85. Gee, Dolly. If I told you I “discussed” with my children I could get away with chloroforming and duct taping their mouth’s shut so they couldn’t cry out and disturb my partying or drown them in the bath tub and blame it on post partum depression or my father sexually abusing me would I demand an apology from critics who thought I was out of line? I mean, after all, I just said I COULD do that….doesn’t mean mommy WILL do that! Jump to conclusions much?

    You forgot to “discuss” with your husband you could shoot him in his sleep or run over him with the Mercedes with the kids in the back seat and claim he was abusive and get away with it too.

    “I just said I COULD do that, dear…doesn’t mean I am GOING to” isn’t a very reassuring commentary from one’s spouse.

    If we were on the same side, this statement would read “I could NEVER, NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES do something like that – it would NEVER cross my mind to even speak such an unspeakable thing”.

    Yikes!

    I’ve reread your statement twice now, and didn’t see any indication this was said in jest.

  86. “I would like to think that couples share childcare equally”

    If both are working the same number of hours outside the home and earning generally comparative incomes, I’d like to think so too. But just as often, one works more hours outside the home and earns more of the income, and thus it makes sense that the other would and should devote more hours to childcare. On average, men choose to work more hours outside the home than women, but this is not always the arrangement.

    I do the lion’s share of the childcare and housework while my husband does the lion’s share of the income earning, and even I say I’m “giving my husband a break” when I “let” him go out with the guys on a Saturday afternoon and I field the kids alone. I wonder what that says about my expectations…

    You know, growing up, I spent a lot more time out and about with my dad than with my mom. Not sure why, but he was more involved in the out of the house stuff with kids than she was. I’d go weekly grocery shopping with him as a girl. I don’t get the idea he was ever looked on as potentially perverted those 20-30 years ago. Why the shift, especially when dads are presumably supposed to be MORE involved with their kids now than in the previous generation?

    But I also wonder if people aren’t taking offense and assuming judgment where not judgment or offense is intended. If someone actually says something to you like – hey, what are you doing with that kid! (as in this original story) – that’s one thing, but if you just assume that some “look” means some judgmental thing – maybe it doesn’t. I give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time.

  87. Right, Sky, there’s no reason couples “should” share childcare equally — if some other arrangement is agreed on as more workable for them. The clearest example is a stay at home parent — the couple has deemed that it works better for one spouse to do the lion’s share of childcare and household work, and the other has the lion’s share of income generation. That’s not inequality — that’s division of labor.

    But even in couples where both parents work, some arrangement other than 50-50 might be deemed desirable for some reason — one might do more of the childcare, and the other do more of something else. As long as it is an agreement based on what works for the couple, nobody’s idea of what “should” be “fair” matters one whit. Childcare is not inherently oppression, so there’s no reason it should be deemed a greater “burden” than anything else that is required to be done in a family. Same goes for any other kind of necessary household task.

  88. Try being a widowed dad with three kids.

    I let my kids go to the park by themselves (shock I know). When I do come to pick them up, I inevitably see 15 kids with 15 moms with death glares directly on their kids. I show up, and it’s like when you see a school of thousands of fish that all move at the exact same time. EVERY SINGLE MOM takes three or four steps closer to their precious spawns.

    I’ve even been toldf by one lady on a bus that I shouldn’t lie to my kids about their mom being dead, as she must have a good reason for leaving them. “Yea, it’s called dying from cancer.”

  89. StgMom,

    True women don’t have to worry about false accusations.

    The term “welfare father” doesn’t exist because “daddy” has walked out on most of those families. “Daddy” ain’t taken care of his kids. “Daddy” is off making babies with his next woman. That’s why my clients have 20 kids by 40, many the same age and not twins, and make comments in court like “I love my children and ALL dey mamas.”

    Are the men who are so hell bent on not having children using condoms or abstaining from sex? I believe they know where babies come from. I feel bad for men like a friend of mine who lived with a woman on the pill for a few years and had numerous conversations about not wanting kids which was fine until he wanted to break up and she stopped taking the pill without telling him. Men who simply fail to take their own precautions and she then refuses to get an abortion, not so much.

    Did the men who pay support for years for kids not theirs create the problem themselves? I feel bad for the guy whose wife/long-term partner cheats on him and he finds out when the kid is 10. The guy who trusts some woman he just met and doesn’t ask for a paternity test when she says he knocked her up again, not so much. Unless the man and woman are married, the man cannot be forced to pay child support without a paternity test (married men can still demand one) and the State will pay for it. I’d never fork over the money without the test.

    If a woman’s child is not living with her, SHE is obligated to pay child support. If the kids get welfare wherever they live, the State collects. If she’s in prison for years, she’s obligated when she gets out. Women are seen in could support court and jail for owing support. More men are seen but see paragraph one.

    Yes, women (and men) can dump a child at a safe place with a few hours of birth. Otherwise she’s kinda stuck with the kid unless she goes through the adoption process. Men can simply walk away. Even if they are required to pay, nothing else is legally required. He doesn’t have to lift a finger to raise the child he helped create. A woman can be charged with abandonment if she leaves her kids with her mother (and hit up for child support). A man can dump his kids whenever he wants, as long as he pays.

    In other words I’m sympathetic to men who get screwed by women they had every reason to trust (long-term, committed, exclusive relationship). I have little sympathy for men who are forced to lie in the beds they made with their own bad choices.

  90. It’s a neat package of hatred and vitriol Donna. I’m curious can you give an example of any of your claims that could be easily viewed in the media. Or in the public consciousness. Or is this outlook just your very special view of insight with your very special eyes?

    Are you actually honest with your representations or are you offering your own version of bias, bigotry, and misandry. Is there a special man in your life that is special because of who he is instead of who you say he is. Or do all men square down to your very special hatred for them.

    I have a metaphor to describe special people like you.

    You plant a fruit tree and tell the tree it will receive no water until it bears fruit and you only water it by the amount of fruit it bears for your benefit.

    It’s your special view of humanity, enjoy it, nobody else does.

  91. Sgtmom: You are a hypocrite. So you just came up with the scenario that I could “Shoot him in his sleep or run over him with the car with the kids in the backseat”, right? YOU came up with that. So apparently your can think up horrible things to. Anyone with a good imagination can think up horrible things to do to someone and play it out in their head. You just did! LOL! Yet, I am the one being called bad for something YOU just did as well! LOL!

    Pot calling the kettle black dearie.

  92. ps- Notice I am not accusing you of being a horrible person and your spouse being oh so unlucky to be married to you or your future DIL being oh so unlucky to have you as a MIL just because you thought up a horrible scenario of shooting a husband in their sleep or driving over them with the kids in the car. You know why??? Because I know you wouldn’t do it nor did you say you would! You just said you could. Which is a true fact. Anyone CAN do anything, but it is what they Do that really matters.

  93. Folks, the lack of civility demonstrated in these comments is sickening. I’m truly disappointed even though I know I shouldn’t be.

  94. Dolly, dear – I said those words to Y.O.U. I would no more discuss how I “could” ruin my husband’s life with him anymore than I would discuss how I “could” ruin my children’s life with them .

    I didn’t “think up” those horrible scenarios – I lifted them directly from the news…in which case each and every woman got off scott free.

    At no time did I say you were “bad” for “thinking up” such things. Speaking for myself, I would no more say something like that to my husband than I would say something like that to my kids – implication being my husband’s feelings and trust in me is as valuable as my children’s are.

    Listing all the rotten, dishonest things I “could” do to my employer – but of course WON’T – somehow doesn’t seem like a good tactic to reinforce what an outstanding employee I am. My husband seems happy enough not knowing all the heinous ugly things I’m not going to do to him.

    Does that make sense?

  95. Donna-

    It’s 2011.

    If a woman does not want to be a mother, she simply chooses not to be a mother. Done deal. No one but her has the right to say otherwise. Not society. Not her family. Not the father.

    The women, and she alone, determines life or death. Abort or Child Support. A decision millions upon millions of woman make each and every day. Exclusively, unless they choose otherwise.

    Not one man in existance is allowed any such choice or say so.

    That would be murder. That would mean prison. That would be a crime.

    A woman cannot be forced against her will to spend 9 months of her life carrying a baby to term…but each and every (identifiable) man will spend a minimum 18 years of his life paying for her choice, if that is, indeed her choice…and he will be forced to work, or go to prison, to pay for her choice.

    Because he has no choice. There are no exceptions.

    ‘Cause men are bad, and women are good. Irresponsible men with multipe children in the world they can’t pay for are evil. Women with multiple children by multiple fathers are not irresponsible. If they can find out who the father is, they can get him to be responsible. Otherwise – it’s welfare Mom time. No men lose their jobs, or lose their wives, lose their health, or find themselves with children they want to care for but are unable to. No. Men just walk out. Men are just plain bad.

    I’ve never heard of a father being allowed to give a child up for adoption if they can’t or chose not to support it.

    I HAVE heard of women being allowed to give up children for adoption without the father’s permission, and the father having no say so in the matter. Even fathers who plead and beg to keep their children. Children are always better off with mothers or adoptive parents.

    I have heard of men being tricked into signing away their parental rights – yet still forced to pay child support.

    How many women has this happened to?

    I have heard of paternity fraud, with men being forced to pay child support for children that are not their own – even after DNA tests prove the child is not theirs.

    Never hear of that happening to women.

    Men are ALWAYS villians, and women ALWAYS victims in “The System”, Donna.

    It’s what happens when women aren’t allowed “equality”.

  96. More dads need involved in their daughter’s shopping to help offset the poor fashion decisions taken by girls especially in today’s fashion set of sexualizing clothes. Most girls and even moms really don’t have a full sense of how their male counterparts think, and how could they? They’ve never been male right?
    Dads, speak to your daughters and wives about the truth of how guys think, what happens in the body chemistry when a female wearing something alluring goes by. Perhaps, just maybe, if enough people at least make an attempt to avoid the clothes that make daughters look older than they ought, and certainly more ‘showing’ than they ought for any occasion, maybe those designing the clothes and stores selling them will feel the pinch enough to supply some more modest choices.
    here’s to hoping.

  97. LA, I hope that they start making modest dresses quickly because my 11 year old won’t wear pants and SHE doesn’t like to dress immodestly. It seems that after 6T, the makers assume that the kids want to dress with belly buttons showing. The only way that I can afford to keep my daughter in the dresses she likes is to buy holiday dresses when on sale the next season, and to get them second hand. Apparently most girls who go to church no longer wear dresses there, so it is getting harder and harder to find them. Fortunately, she is learning to sew.

    I remember a couple of years ago a back to school sale at someplace like Sears, Kohls, or Macy’s. It had a girl in a tight-tight tank, short-short plaid skirt, high heels and fishnet stockings. Yup. To me is seemed like one of those outfits that are dual purpose – go from school to the corner without changing your clothes! My daughter on the other hand, really liked the school uniform dresses listed way in the back! (We homeschool, no uniforms unless we want them.)

  98. Someday, some post here won’t end in ridiculous off-topic rants and arguments. Or even on topic rants and arguments.

  99. Nilzed, there is nothing “off topic” or “ranting” about the marginalization of fathers.

    When I was growing up, my mother purchased my clothes. I didn’t have a job until high school, and I was not allowed to have any say so in whether or not I wore fishnet stockings.

    Neither did my mother. Mom spent the money, but Dad earned it. Even if I COULD have convinced her to allow me to buy street walker clothing, she would have answered to my father before I did.

    I always encouraged my daughter to be close to her father, to ask his opinion and honor his wisdom, so dressing like a tramp was not an issue.

    Not that mothers are weak or foolish, but they are “too close” to the problem . I remember not being asked out or being “popular” because of my strict upbringing and out dated “church lady” clothes. Even thought I appreciated it later, I still remember the hurt and confusion of being “the nice girl” when “the bad girls” were all off having fun.

    Can’t say I wouldn’t have gone against my better judgement if my daughter was begging and pleading. I’ve over ruled my husband’s clouded judgement regarding issues with my sons.

    It’s why children benefit from BOTH genders, and BOTH parents.

  100. I absolutely feel your pain on this issue. My father ended up with my sister and I when my mother ran off. He was a single father (of two girls, age 3 & 5) at the ripe old age of 22. This was the early 80’s, so he had it harder and easier than you, in some regards. He was in a lot of uncharted territory for a Dad (he led our Girls Scout troop, for example). However, I really feel like there was far less speculation of him being a potential perv. If anything, because he was a young and caring father, he seemed to be a magnet for the bevy of single MOTHERS at our school (again, the early 80’s, it seemed like a lot of my friends had single moms and “weekend” dads). Keep up the good work!

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