I have very few peers who were raised by both parents. I have many peers whose fathers were at best absent, and at worst abusive. Though truly, abandonment leaves scars nearly as readily as any other kind of abuse does.
Most of us struggled through our parent’s divorces as kids. According to statistics divorce is as prevalent now as it was when I was a child. However, there is a new pattern emerging in the current generational trend.
We are witnessing a new generation of fathers. These fathers are writing a new story about what happens after divorce. The fathers of generations X and Y are doing their part in authoring this new ending-as-beginning; they’re sticking around to create new post-divorce family format.
This isn’t always an easy task. After all, divorces happen for a reason. Couples grow apart. But impressively, these dads working with their baby-mommas to make it possible to co-parent with as much peace and agreement as possible. And in some cases raising their kids on their own. Or stepping in as Dad to their kids-of-spirit, if not of flesh.
This is the “New Dad”.
Divorce is a more acceptable option for our generation than it was for our parents’ generation. the ending of the first marriage (once jokingly called a “starter marriage” by a friend), feels almost like a rite of passage into true adulthood.
Staunch “family values” types would likely cite this as a proof of a cultural failing. I prefer to look at the positive side, and say that perhaps because divorce has become more culturally prevalent, and over time more socially acceptable, it’s become a less destructive option than it once was. And as it always has been, divorce is often the right choice. It certainly was in the case of my mom and dad, and in the case of my former husband any myself.
Thankfully, in the case of me and my former husband, there was no long, drawn-out court case. There was no disagreement over custody. As a generation born in the midst of the divorce boom, we knew deeply that divorce is potentially much harder on the kids than it is on the adults involved.
Out of this awareness, our generation has learned a couple of things; there’s no shame in calling it quits before a functional relationship with the ex is out of the question. And, the needs of the kids should always out weigh any pettiness on the part of the adults.
The New Dad is a product of the divorce boom as well – whether raised in a “broken” (I greatly dislike this vestigial word) or not, our generation has been instructed by cautionary tales, and by witnessing models of what did, and what did not, work for us and our peers; the children of divorce.
Many men in our generation were raised primarily (if not exclusively) by their mothers. While this is not in all ways a good thing, there are positives that are present.
While the absence of a father figure in a man’s life can lead to confusion about what it means to be a dad, or even a man, there are a few elements of a generation of mother-lead parenting working in the positive direction, and producing some really beautiful fathering by the men of generations X and Y.
By and large, men raised by their mamas have a lot of respect for the work their moms did to keep them happy, healthy, and taken care of growing up. And, using the lack of a stable, positive father-figure as an example of how NOT to parent, these New Dads are making new choices.
The New Dad is nurturing, involved, sensitive and engaged with his children. After a separation, this New Dad works hard to create a healthy co-parenting relationship with his ex. In the best case, this manifests as a sense of extended family. In less ideal circumstances, it comes down to putting aside disagreements with the ex in order to create the most positive co-parenting relationship possible. Or even in some cases taking responsibility as a single parent, a role that few men were ready for in the generation preceding.
In the absence of his own positive father figure, the New Dad has the opportunity to start over with a clean slate. And with that slate in front of him, the New Dad is taking out the sidewalk chalk and sitting down with his kids to draw a brand new image of what being a father means.
Here’s a shout out to all the New Dads; Happy Father’s Day, and THANKS FOR BEING YOU!