Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant with Major Family Law, the divorce and family law specialists, comments:
I should consider myself fortunate – my father is 82 and was around to get my Fathers’ Day Card last weekend and question my route home from the North – ‘man talk’ involving road numbers. (He is not allowed a sat-nav because he has my mother in the passenger seat.)
When I was a kid, he was pretty much a weekend-only dad because he had what was for that time a long-ish commute, but as that was ‘normal’, I did not feel cheated by it. If my parents had split up, I might have seen more of him than I did with them being together – as it was, whatever time we spent as a family was ‘normal’ so far as I was concerned. From a child’s perspective, it seems that the adaptiveness that we inherit from our humanity, pre-disposes us with coping – we are the children, they are the adults and them deciding schedules seemed the natural order of things. As children, it isn’t really that big a deal exactly how much time we spend with our parents: time playing with friends often matters more at that stage of life.
Very few of my school friends and family had been through a family divorce, so I did not have a ‘yard-stick’ to apply to expectations of time with a father, but it seemed to me that at least one friend from a ‘broken home’ had it good – he saw both parents, had good times with both and he got (what seemed to me) generous financial provision from them. He was not traumatised by it – he had the natural survival instincts and adaptiveness that saw him through – underpinned by knowing that both parents cared about him, even though they lived apart.
That seems the key to successful parenting after parting – letting the children know that the parents are there for them and care, even if they do not wish to live together.
There are some good information courses about ‘parenting after parting’ and Resolution provide some guidance on their website at http://www.resolution.org.uk/afterdivorce/
In my experience of over 30 years in law and more than that of life – I would like to reassure the Fathers out there that splitting up does not mean the end of fatherhood.
Together or apart, you are unlikely to dodge awful cards with cloying sentiment and pictures of cars, golf, football and beer. Get used to it.