I was writing, with the television going in the background. On came a commercial — I forget for what — that began with, “Every mom is a working mom.”
It was a cute little sentiment, meant to say something with which no one disagrees — or could disagree — without facing serious social opprobrium. It’s supposed to make you think of moms as unsung, hard-working heroines, sacrificing their happiness for the happiness of their children and families.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are mommies like that. But there are — ready for this? — likely more daddies like that than there are such mommies.
But you’ll never hear such tributes for daddies — except for a week or two each year around Father’s Day, and nothing so effusive — as you’ll hear for mommies all year ’round.
I’m a single daddy. When my kids were growing to where they are now (21 and 15-years old) my now ex-wife (10 years divorced) spent day after day after day after day — for 15 years — doing anything she could to get out of doing anything at all having to do with actually being a mother.
My ex was incredibly imaginative at finding ways to get out of making the actual effort necessary to be a mother.
After we were divorced, she did the same thing, and despite our officially 50-50 custody arrangement, the kids lived with me, as they do now … while I paid (and still pay) child support to her.
And why all this effort to get out of doing what it really takes to be a mommy?
Simple. My ex is a drunk. She spent decades devoted to one thing, and one thing only: figuring out what it would take to get her to her next magnum of wine. She became incredibly good at that single pursuit … and not very good at anything else.
She used to drink nothing less than a full magnum of wine every day — seven days a week, 365 days a year. Sometimes more. For years.
Now she can’t do that anymore, as her doctors recently have told her that if she takes another drink, she’ll die.
Now, mind you, in the 10 years since we’ve been divorced, she’s done the following:
- Violated every directive of the divorce decree — hundreds of times (her direct quote to my son: “Oh, that’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”).
- Failed to show up for arrangements that she had set up with our kids the night before. Hundreds of times. Each time she was unreachable, and each time she claimed to have been “sick.” Hundreds of times. She was sick alright. Hungover. The kids used to joke about it: “We have [some arrangement or other] with Mom, so let’s go do something ourselves, because she won’t show up…” How sad is that?
- Failed to pay for any of the 50% of stuff — Half of all stuff — sports stuff, gloves, spikes, shirts, uniforms, sneakers, shin guards, knee pads, elbow pads, bandages, braces, other stuff: PSAT and SAT fees, lab fees, insurances, field trip fees, transportation fees, lunches, clothing — she was legally obliged to pay for, as outlined in the divorce decree. To the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars.
- Many times, the kids had said to me — on the rare times they stayed at her place — that there was nothing in the refrigerator except a “big bottle of wine.” So, as typically happened, I’d go to her place, pick them up, and feed them.
Now, mind you, I didn’t really mind all this, as there’s simply no greater thing than being a daddy. Nothing more fascinating, exciting, stimulating, exhilarating, exhausting, tiring, challenging, knock-the-stuffing-pride-confidence-and-arrogance-out-of-you, as being a daddy.
I did mind the theft of all the money, because it was their inheritance, pure and simple. But, I loved all the extra time I was able to spend with them.
And I did mind the distorted picture of women that my kids were getting from their deadbeat mom. I’ve spent years combating that perception, and have largely succeeded. I think.(1)
I spoke with a friend who is a family law attorney. He told me just to suck it up. That I could even document thoroughly (as I have) all the stuff that I know, and in Connecticut a judge still likely would somehow decide in my ex’s favor. He advised me just to shut up and wait ’til my son turns 18-years old to stop paying her — just as it says in the divorce decree.
I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being the only one to take any real responsibility for my kids — at any level.
Under the heading of “making lemonade from lemons,” I got to hear of all their triumphs and tragedies. I got to go to the emergency room with them with their broken limbs (see here). I got to go to all their sporting events (Tennis, Softball, Volleyball). I took all the home movies of his concerts; her awards ceremonies; his awards ceremonies; her graduation ceremonies; her military decoration ceremonies; his and her fill-in-the-blanks. I wouldn’t trade all those memories for a trillion dollars. (aka: a month of the Obama Administration’s deficit. 🙂 )
While she, my ex, lay flat on her back snoring away in a drunken stupor.
My daughter once told me that she has never once had a deep, meaningful discussion with her mother. Not once. She and I have had hundreds. My son has told me the same thing.
Now, you may say to me that it was just my ex doing, or not doing, all that, but I used to talk with a friend at work, and she told me all about the “Martini Mama’s” in her neighborhood.
When I asked her what she meant, she told me the same story as I just told you — about dozens of women in her affluent Connecticut neighborhood who simply couldn’t wait for their husbands to go off to work, while their kids went off to school, so they could just drink themselves silly each day.
Now look, you and I know that there is more behind all that than just irresponsible mothers, and upstanding, hard-working fathers, coming home to their sozzled wives, then making dinner, tucking the little ones in at night, telling them bedtime stories, singing them lullabies — as I did thousands of times — but not all that much more.
There is a truth, a real truth: “Every dad is a working dad” is probably a lot more true than “Every mom is a working mom.” At least in the Northeast.
Furthermore, I understand full well that these women are broken women, and deserve our prayers and our love. And I pray for them, and for my ex, as I have thousands of times. Ask my children. We’ve often prayed together. It’s generally off-the-cuff, and goes something like this:
Heavenly Father, I’m not worthy to come before you in prayer, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
Father, I know You know how I’ve sinned, and how I’ve fallen short of how Your son Jesus Christ commanded me to be, and I ask you to forgive me. I also beg you to give me the strength, courage and wisdom to understand Jesus’ Word, to follow His way, to resist the temptation to stray from His path, and to be the man, and the Christian, You want me to be.
Heavenly Father, please give strength and wisdom to all those who suffer today, that they may see Your love and glorify You. Please give them peace and healing.
Please grant that same strength and wisdom to those who abuse drugs or alcohol and who need Your strength to defeat those powerful enemies that afflict them.
Please also give that same strength and wisdom to all mothers and fathers, that they may endeavor to the best of their abilities to be the best mothers and fathers they can be.
And, finally, please grant that I might have Your help, Your strength and Your wisdom, to be the best daddy I can possibly be for my kids. To be a good daddy for my kids.
We ask also that you will bring healing to all who are sick or injured, and that you will soften the hearts of all those who are planning cruelty to anyone.
In Jesus Christ’s name we pray.
That’s — roughly — a prayer that you would have heard at bedtime at our place. As I might have mentioned elsewhere, my family’s evening prayers were mostly off the cuff.
Bottom line, as mentioned above: “Every dad is a working dad” is probably a lot more true than “Every mom is a working mom.”
Forgive me, all those women who read this, but I simply have never encountered a man who even had the option to act as the above-described “Martini Mamas.”(2)
(1) There are several fundamental understandings I’ve obtained over the years about life, that I’ve taught to my kids over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Here are some of them:
- Everything — good, bad or indifferent — is a way to be closer to God.
- I love you more than I’ll ever be able to tell you. However, I’ll never tire of trying to tell you.
- You don’t have to do the same stupid things I did when I was your age.
- I’ll always tell you why I tell you something. Or, I’ll tell you I don’t know why, and I’ll get back to you. I’ll never say to you, “Because I said so.“
- Ladies first.
- One person is like no other person. Never lose sight of that.
- The Golden Rule!!!
- I know more than you, and I’ll always know more than you, because I’ll always be older than you. Learn from my perspectives so that you can have a better life than I’ve had. So you can be a better person than I’ve been. Do this with other older people when I’m gone.
- I’ll never lie to you. You should expect this from all other people, but, realistically, you cannot. Therefore, always trust others … but verify (h/t: Ronald Reagan)
- See # 1.
(2) None of this should remotely lead to a conclusion that I have anything less than complete reverence, respect, love, fascination … awe, for all that the terms “woman” and “womanhood” encompass. It’s just that today’s society has a sick, twisted, warped vision of women, that would transform them into wacked-out versions of stereotypically bad, or ridiculous, men. It’s all a bunch of hogwash!
In very real terms, a real woman is loving, tender, caring, nurturing — all the things that are so reviled today, that are also absolutely necessary for the continued survival of … men. And of mankind.