In 411 BC, ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes staged Lysistrata, a story about a Athenian woman who ends the interminable Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta by convincing the women of Greece to withhold sex (and seize the treasury) from the men, who of course make all the decisions about war and money.
Powerful and possible message that women can change the world with our pussies?
Disturbing fact: the majority of fathers who are not in romantic relationships with the children’s mothers, are not actively involved with the kids. In fact, Pew found that a full 78 percent of dads who live separately from their children, see the kids less than once per week.
That means that just 22 percent of dads who do not live in the same house as their kids are actively involved.
That is bad.
It is also complicated.
One of the most posts on Wealthysinglemommy.com is ‘The real reason your ex doesn’t see the kids’ about the so-very-common and heartbreaking reality that men are systematically marginalized in family courts — and parental alienation, a form of abuse in which one parent turns a child against the other parent, is shockingly common. Read more: Parental alienation resource center.
It is bad for the kids, of course, because they miss out on a close relationship with their father.
It is bad for the moms, who do not enjoy the emotional, logistical or time-off afforded by a co-parent. This, too, hurts kids, who then are more likely to have an exhausted and stressed-out mom who is worried about the effects of an absentee dad on her children.
Absentee fatherhood is bad for the dads, too. Whatever the circumstances are, they miss out on parenting, close relationships with their children, and the pride of knowing they are upholding their parental responsibilities.
The more men do not step up and father their children, the worst it makes it for all men and fathers. This becomes the norm, a horrible norm, and men are not given the benefit of doubt in family court, in society or on the playground.
Further, the fewer active dads around, the fewer active dads our children see — and as a society we stand to have this trend perpetuated forever and ever.
Bottom line: Absentee fathers are bad for everyone, including society itself.
Listen to my Like a Mother episode about this topic:
If you read the comments in ‘The real reason your ex doesn’t see the kids,’ you will hear all kinds of stories — heart-breaking stories from guys claiming their devotion to their children, but forced alienation by unjust courts and vindictive mothers. There are also stories from moms who claim it is for the best the dad is not around, because of abuse, addiction or roller-coaster inconsistency. Incarceration is another common reason fathers are not active in their kids’ lives.
Of course, every case is different, there are plenty of grey areas, and it is true that sometimes parents are best not involved with their kids.
But this is what I will tell you, and you, woman, know to be true:
If some crazy person or circumstance stood between me seeing my kids often, I would fight like mighty hell to change that.
I would fight because I want to be an intimate part of their lives.
I would fight because that is my moral obligation as a mother.
I would fight because I would need my children to see me fight for them. Because I would worry that my not fighting would be even more painful for them than not being involved every day or every week.
I would fight because fighting for my relationship with my kids would be fighting for all parents’ relationship with their children — and against a messed-up court system, or insane and malicious parents who try to keep the other parent away must not be allowed to persist.
And so when you meet a man — a nice and hot and successful or funny and thoughtful and sexy man — and he says he has kids, and you find out he doesn’t see them so much, and he tells you all these reasons why, what do you do?
Do you excuse him? Blame the system/judge/bitch ex/his job/society for his absence?
Do you tell yourself, ‘He will be different with any kids we have together — because I will change him.’
Do you think, ‘It is just a fun fling. His personal life is his business.’
If you care about those kids he doesn’t see — care as a person, a woman, as a mother (aspiring or actual), a member of society, here is what you do:
You will not see him.
You will not respond to his texts.
You will not fuck him.
You will know that if is a bad dad to his current kids, he will be a bad dad to future kids.
You will say: “It makes me uncomfortable that you don’t see your kids.”
Or: “Frankly, I don’t like the fact your kids are not your priority.”
You will not listen to his excuses.
You will just shut that down.
And you will encourage your girlfriends to do the same. And your cousin and sister and colleagues, too.
Before long, you and me and all of the women of the world will be like Lysistrata and her fellow women, changing the world with our pussies.
And that is good.
Should you date a man who doesn’t have equal time with his kids?
Bittersweet success on the good-dads, equal-parenting and dating front: a new-ish friend came to dinner the other night. While this sexy, successful, late-30s, never-married, no kids, NYC woman brought and I drank rose’ and my kids inhaled the Magnolia cupcakes she brought, we chatted, of course, about dating.
My friend recounted a recent horror story …. after a fantastic first date and fantastic follow-up texting, a potential romance went down in flames. Not only did he fail to mention until date No. 2 that he was a father, he bragged about his every-other-weekend, Wednesday dinner schedule with his kids as being a really involved dad.
Background: this woman has never heard my platform about my call to expect men to be equal parents. From what I know, she doesn’t have any personal ax to grind re: divorce, single dads, or parenting.
Over their Mexican dinner she told him:
“First of all, you hid the fact that you are a dad. I don’t care that you have kids, I care that you lied. Second, every other weekend is not an involved dad. That is a part-time dad.”
This as a huge win. Without any baggage on the subject, she just got it, and she called him out on it, and women, moms, kids and fathers are all better for these sorts of stances.
To this, I will hold myself to a higher standard in what I will tolerate in dating, and actively tell men who fail their children that I will not date them. I recently saw for a few months a man who actively bragged about his professional success, filled his Instagram feed with pics of his shopping sprees, luxury travel, videos of him training at a high-end gym with a sexy personal trainer, and pricey downtown dinners. He also spoke lovingly about his teenage daughter, an affection that resonated with me as very authentic.
However, this man’s very expensive apartment (waterfall wall in the lobby, all white walls, natch, and the requisite bachelor’s modern, black leather couch), had just one bedroom — a room he would lend to his daughter when she visited every second weekend. Not only could he not be bothered to take time from his fabulous life to actively co-parent his kid, he chose many material indulgences over making room in his home and life for his child. What did this tell the girl about her father’s devotion to her? What did this say about him as a man?
This one was not a long or serious affair, and I called it off with: “We’re not a romantic match” then unfollowed the buffoonery that is his social media.
Next time I will follow my friend’s lead, and I suggest you, do, too.
Say: “I can’t be involved with a man who is not an equal parent to his kids.”
You will hear him out when he tells you about unfair family courts, and malicious exes, because those are real and powerful things. But if he has not or does not actively fight to be an equal parent, you’re done. And you tell him.
And I, his kids, your kids, all kids, women, men, fathers and mothers and society, we all thank you.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.