DOES IT MATTER?
This is a foreward by Liam O'Gogain from 2002. In reality how much has changed for Fathers since?
As chairman of Parental Equality I welcome you to our website.
Parental Equality is celebrating 10 years of work in support of shared parenting issues since being founded in 1992. In those ten years there have been enormous changes in Ireland.
We now have legalized Divorce, some 40% of births outside of marriage, a substantive increase in family Law activity (20% of all civil legal actions) and a huge industry of professionals who eke their living from the fallout of family separations.
Technology has been a central driver in change. Mobile phones are now standard. Being on the web as you are now is increasingly the norm. The Freedom of Information Act now allows a citizen to have access to information which was at best a black art in the past.
The landscape against which support groups such as PE operates is also greatly changed. Whereas at one time voluntary groups were all well meaning unpaid caring people who did their best with very little funds and no one expected miracles form such groups, there has been a huge shift towards a Professional Voluntary sector with over 70% of workers in this area being paid. Unfortunately funding for these salaries (often from taxpayer’s monies) is concentrated on those groups within the Golden Circle of political correctness This process has raised the expectation of callers to the various services. Callers expect helplines to be 24/7/365 and they expect a range of supports without having to contribute for these supports. Parental Equality is largely unfunded. We get some small grant aid which could not even support the maintenance of this website. For most of our work we rely of the incredible level of commitment of a small band of doo-ers who have risen above their own personal problems and reached out to help others. On your behalf I thank all the PE volunteers and wish for them and their children good health and happiness.
Parental Equality have been at the leading edge of promoting change in the family law system and in challenging the culture of “Sole custody to the Mother, with subservient and controlled access to the Father”. This discriminatory approach to parental roles has led to a colony of single parent families, led almost exclusively by mothers, where children have very little experience of enriched relationships with their loving fathers. The Irish State has now become substitute father to countless thousands of children, with spiraling costs to the exchequer (and thus the taxpayer, due to single parent welfare payments), as a direct result of a policy of isolating and demonising men in general and in driving fathers away from their children in the event of relationship breakdown.
The sobering fact is that within 2 years of relationship breakdown, some 50% of fathers lose contact with their children. At the same time the level of male depression, male suicide and societal violence, infanticide etc., is on the increase.
It seems apparent to me that the government Family Social Policy of the last two decades has as one would say “added to the problems rather than contributing to a solution”
Parental Equality believe that when relationships break down the default solution should be one of shared Joint custody with equal social, tax, educational and welfare supports for both mothers and fathers. PE have living working models to prove that a policy of true equality which treats mothers and fathers with Parity of Esteem as parents and which supports shared parenting as a core value creates a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN outcome:-
- Children Win by retaining and developing deeply loving and engaged relationships with both their mothers and fathers and their respective extended families. This removes the longer term trauma of future reconnections with their father and his families. It also removes the need for the children to take sides and provides greater security for their upbringing.
- Mothers win by not being left as sole custodians and effective sole guardians of their children’s welfare. Mothers sharing parenting experience the same opportunity for personal development and for career opportunity as the fathers of the children. The level of stress is reduced for mothers by not having to pursue fathers for maintenance, which mothers often say re-enlivens the bitterness and arguments and prevents them from moving on. The culturally enforced martyrdom of single motherhood and the stigmas which are sometimes attached with sole parenting are removed. In this environment, if single mothers meet other single fathers it is likely that those fathers have themselves an involved commitment with their own children and therefore any new relationship is more likely to be based on an equality of expectation and resources.
- Fathers win by having parity of esteem as parents. Instead of trying to deal with the emotional trauma of expecting to be treated as second class parents, subservient to the whims of the mother and often repositioning their expectation of themselves and their engagement with their children, fathers can plan to rebalance their career and family life commitments for the benefit of themselves and their children. By having equal access to state child benefits, equal and positive support from the statutory services in dealing with the whole range of parenting issues, fathers will experience a release of loving energy which recognition of their role will bring and this energy will be positively available for their children.
- Grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins will all win. No longer the embarrassment of children and their grandparents and cousins etc, when they meet in the street, in school etc. The present discrimination in favour of maternal grandparents and extended families, while isolating the fathers side of the family will no longer be necessary. Grandparents who are generally completely innocent and often unaware of the parents conflicts and who end up cut off as result of family separations can now be assured of secure long term relationships with their grandchildren. In this space grandparents can provide the wisdom and ease of age, the vital linkages through the family genealogy, and a comforting ear for the problems of growing children.
- Society wins by the maintenance of the familial and communal bonds which shared parenting brings with it. Families are best able to impart communal values and to maintain a sense of good behaviour and to look out for their own, instead of abdicating to the state the day to day responsibility for their children. With a reduction in the exchequer spending on maintenance, the consequent reduction in spending on adversarial court hearings and costs of social workers reports etc, the taxpayers monies can then be directed into productive family support, which can benefit children and their parents.
In conclusion, The philosophy of building a shared parenting culture is about improving the Quality of Life for all of our citizens. There are those who, I believe, because of their baggage or blindness, or because of the toxic incentives which encourage them to stoke the male-female divide in order to increase their own financial gain from the hurt of others, will continue to say that Joint Custody and shared parenting cannot work. Because of the huge investment in the present model of sole custody-feckless father-martyr-mother metaphor, these people do not want change even if it’s for the better. Using vast sums of taxpayers funds they carry out and use research results not as a learning and discovery tool but rather as a way of buttressing their prior prejudices. To those who say that shared parenting cannot work I say “Get out of the way of those who are actually doing it successfully”.
If you would like to be involved in building solutions for our children’s futures, then I encourage you to become involved with us in Parental Equality. Whatever you skills there is something you can contribute and remember:- PE needs you and can only develop with your participation. So let’s hear from you.
Liam O Gogain
11th June 2002