Your children look to you for so much. You provide them a roof over their heads, food on their tables, clothes on their backs, and books in their backpacks. You teach them and guide them through their development. You let them know what is right and what is wrong and create a sense of home that they can rely on.
Whether you are single, married, or divorced, all of the above can be true. You can be the parent that your children need you to be, regardless of your marital status. However, if you are a divorced father, not everyone may believe that you can provide more than just the financial responsibility of child support.
Distrust and disrespect
It may surprise many who have never gone through the divorce process, but if you go through a divorce, your co-parent does not necessarily have the highest opinion of you, making ironing out the child custody agreement and parenting plan rather difficult.
This level of disrespect can transfer to how your co-parent handles drop-offs and pick-ups of your children. They may not have faith that you will be able to successfully handle parenting your child during your allotted parenting time. You may be looked at solely as the person who pays the child support.
More than child support payor
For many, this is an unfortunate reality based often around the heightened emotions of the divorce experience, as opposed to your proficiency as a caring and active parent. You are not being seen as someone who can create an additional home for your shared children or someone who can be relied on to provide the necessary lessons and discipline that children require. In their eyes, you become a checkbook, and checkbooks are not parents.
If you still care about how your co-parent sees you, this can be demoralizing. Despite the problems that may have existed in your unhappy and dysfunctional marriage, the understood end goal should be to do whatever is in the best interests of your shared children. The fact is, your co-parent viewing you as nothing but the one who pays the child support is not a sentiment that should exist in the orbit of the children.
You are more than your bank account, and you should not be made to feel otherwise. Your children benefit from having access to you, just as they benefit from having access to your co-parent, despite how you may be viewed in their eyes.
Psychology, Public Policy and Law study
A study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law examined infants and toddlers and the effects of frequent overnight parenting time with their fathers. They found that children are in a better position when having such exposure to their fathers.
“Not only did overnight parenting time with fathers during infancy and toddlerhood cause no harm to the mother-child relationship, it actually appeared to benefit children’s relationships with both their mothers and their fathers,” said lead author William Fabricius in a news release. “Children who had overnights with their fathers when they were infants or toddler had higher quality relationships with their fathers, as well as with their mothers when they were 18 to 20 years old than children who had no overnights.”
Arizona State study
Researchers at Arizona State University observed whether it is the quantity or the quality of parenting time that is more important for a child’s outcome, as well as whether parenting time should be limited in families where there is high conflict between divorced parents.
The researchers found that when a father has too little of parenting time with his child, it creates a long-term risk in the physical and mental health of the child. The researchers also found that both the children and noncustodial fathers observed want more time with one another. They also noted that even if a divorced father and mother have frequent conflict with one another over parenting and other issues regarding their child, the child still is better off spending as much time as possible with both parents.
These studies highlight not only shared parenting as functioning and cooperative concept that benefits the children, but also the importance of one another’s place in their lives. You, as a father, provide so much to the physical and mental well-being of the children that it should be nearly impossible for you to be seen as just a child support payor.
By the same token, you should show the same respect that you would hope your co-parent would show and not undermine your co-parent’s place in your children’s lives. As challenging as they may behave, they still are important in your children, and you need to respect that for their sakes.