Friday, February 1, 2008

DNA Magazine - "Deserving Dads" by Robbie Fells

Don’t let the excitement of becoming a father cloud your vision and enter an arrangement you might regret.

You’ve recently met your co-parent mum. She’s a single lesbian and you say to yourself, “Our kids would look gorgeous. We share similar views about parenting, neither of us believe in private schooling and we’ll work out the rest… I’m going to be a dad!”
Well, I did become a father and have an amazing three-and-half-year-old son that my partner and I parent five days a fortnight and during the school holidays. The rest of the time he spends with his mum and I pay child support just like any separated couple. But five years on, the person my partner and I had our child with is still a stranger.

Not everyone’s co-parenting experience has to be rocky, though. I’ve come across a range of co-parenting situations, some that work well and others that don’t. So what are the ingredients for success?

1. Think about the level of involvement you want raising your child. Be honest with yourself and be clear about this with the co-parent.

2. Do you expect to make decisions about the child’s welfare with the mother? Do you share decision making with your partner as well? What about the birth mum’s partner?

3. Are you matched in your views on raising children?

4. How do you relate to one another? Are you friends? Do you avoid conflict or deal with conflict together?

A lot of co-parent dads accept what they think they deserve rather than what they want. What a lot of gay fathers think they deserve is grounded in religious guilt, societal attitudes about homosexuality and a belief that gay people aren’t supposed to have children anyway, which can lead to an “I’ll take what I can get” mind-set. This is counterproductive. Remember that you have the ability and the right to be a great father.

The best co-parenting arrangements I’ve seen are those where the dad/s have limited involvement during the infancy and the mum/s determine when time with Dad occurs. The most common contact in the early years is visiting the child at mum/s house with overnight visits occurring once the child is around school age. If this does not meet your expectations then it’s helpful to discuss this with the mum/s. Don’t tiptoe around your needs.

Most arrangements I’ve seen have had changes to original agreements at some point. If you don’t have the ability to resolve conflict then you may feel compromised as a result of expectations not being met, so it’s important to find a match that meets your expectations.
While difference is great, there are some fundamental issues that need to be the same. For example, if your co-parent does not want the child immunised and you do that’s a recipe for disaster.

If there is unresolvable conflict you need to identify it before entering into the relationship and find a more suitable match. However, you still need to be able to bounce back from conflict. As in all relationships, regardless of how long you’ve known the co-parent, conflicts still arise. You need to be able to discuss these rationally and constructively, keeping in mind what is best for your child.

Your dreams do come true when you see your child for the first time. I believe it takes a village to raise a child, not just one or two people, so co-parenting can be an ideal situation.

Just remember not to rush in to being a father. The excitement of the possibility is intoxicating and can lead to poorly thought-out decisions, which can have dire consequences. Think about what’s best for yourself, your partner, the co-parents and especially your child so you can make the reality of fatherhood an amazing, rewarding experience.

[Link: Original Article]

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