I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The truth about daddy day care

July 24, 2008

The truth about daddy day care

Men will soon be given the right to ask for more leave to look after their children. About time too, says Virginia Ironside

Across the land, the bosses of small businesses and heads of major corporations may well be wincing this week – but many families should be very happy indeed. It's the Government that has caused such mixed emotions. Its latest vision for the modern family aims to put fathers back in the picture. When their babies are born, so the idea goes, fathers should be able to share parental leave with their partners, and demand flexible working conditions for years to come.

In fact, fathers have been at the centre of the political agenda lately in several ways – and, for once, we're not talking about Fathers 4 Justice. There has been hand-wringing about how the male children of single-parent black families suffer when there isn't a father around. In schools, head teachers are desperate for more male teachers as role models for fatherless children. And when partners break up, we're told, only 50 per cent of fathers keep in touch with their children, causing untold misery.

But by 2010, the length of paid parental leave could rise by 13 weeks (from the current level of 39 weeks, to a full year). And though the first 26 weeks would have to be taken by the mother, fathers would be able to take over after that, caring for their children full-time.

Inevitably, they will become closer to their children. And even if parents do break up, it will be far less easy for fathers to be completely cut off from their families because they will be far more emotionally attached to them.

But will it ever happen? Will City traders soon stride into their macho offices and boldly announce that, during the coming months, they will be donning a pinny and taking over nappy duty? It may sound implausible, but for the lucky few, flexible working exists – and some of them share their experiences on these pages. There are already hundreds of fathers who, because they earn rather less than their partners, have become house-husbands. Thousands more work part-time, along with their partners, so that they can share the parenting. The pathetic wail of, "I want my mummy!", is already turning, quite often, into "I want my daddy!".

And that's a good thing. Dads are important, and not just to boys but to girls, too. They're often the first men girls fall in love with, after all.

When mothers give birth, their first words to the baby are, usually, "Hello". On meeting their newborn baby for the first time, fathers usually say, "Hello, I'm your dad". Babies take their mums for granted, as their mums take them – they have spent nine months in pretty close proximity, after all. Dads, from the word go, are something "other", and remain an essential contact with the outside world right up until the children fly the nest.

It's dads who tend to let their children take more risks, dads who take them on outings. And although, currently, fathers of children up to the age of six already have the right to request flexi-time, Labour's new idea is to extend this right up to the age of 16, meaning that 4.5 million fathers will have the right to see far more of their children than at present, and hopefully do "dad things" with them, like going camping or playing football, or just tinkering about with old bits of machinery.

But that doesn't mean that fathers aren't just as nurturing when babies are small. Many families share the bottle-feeding, and even the getting-up in the night. Nappy-changing isn't something that a self-respecting 21st-century father should balk at. Let's not forget that, once upon a time, people used to turn and look if they saw a bloke pushing a pram. The family is changing, even if that change seems slow.

But still, women who "get pregnant on the job", as it were, often feel that they are committing career suicide when they go on maternity leave; they fear that their places will be taken by men, or that when they return they'll be relegated to jobs that involve sorting the paper clips. Indeed, some fear that they don't get the good jobs at all. But if men have the same options, and take up the offer of paternity leave, then they'll be at the same risk of committing career suicide, too.

Eventually, we may hope, there will be a level playing-field – even though the alternative scenario, of course, leads to lots of couples having double the reason to put off having children altogether.

Let's hope that we don't wind up with the latter scenario. As anyone who has seen the film Mamma Mia! will know, paternity is an issue that moves us just as much as maternity. The film is about a young woman who, as she is about to get married, searches for the father she never knew. In the cinema, even hardened old blokes get out their hankies, and generally there's not a dry eye in the house. Everyone loves a dad.

There's a complaint that has been going on for years from men who feel that the pendulum has swung too far and that men have virtually no rights when it comes to their children. Finally, it looks as if the tide is starting to turn back, and not to the time when men ruled the roost, were only available to their children when a beating was required, and women were domestic drudges, who had to care for their children full-time, but to a time of greater equality and more shared parenting. Something that seems to me to be of enormous advantage to absolutely everyone.

Cyril Adjei, 40

Some professionals with established careers do manage to balance their family commitments. Cyril Adjei, 40, a barrister from Herne Hill, south London, has not had to change his working pattern severely. As he is in control of the work he takes on, he is able to enjoy time with his son Matthew, 2, and his daughter Esther, who is 11 weeks old.

"I try to get home early as much as I can now, but as barristers can work when cases come in, I'm able to see my children more when I choose," he says. And when he gets home, he mucks in with looking after the kids as best he can. "I'm sure my partner wishes I did more," he adds, laughing.

He also believes that government action alone will not give fathers the freedom to stay at home more often: "It also requires employers and employees to sit down together and be imaginative and flexible in their agreements."

As for fears expressed by politicians about absent black fathers, he is also unsure of what government can do to change the situation. "I'm of an ethnic minority, and politicians don't seem to have any solutions to the issue. But at least it's an area that they are now not afraid to treat."

Paternity stories By Michael savage

Mike Robinson, 40

A flexible working agreement allowed Robinson from Cumbria, to spend much more time at home with his daughter. His arrangement with his employer, a bank, means he can look after his five-year-old daughter, Emily, for two days during the week. He can also arrive at work late to drop her off at school, and leave at 2.45pm, allowing him to be at the school when the teaching day finishes.

"I've got a very good employer that uses flexitime as an incentive to attract staff," he says. He adds that taking such a large role in his daughter's life is a joy. "I know all the names of the My Little Ponies," he says. "I've been able to build up with other parents and teachers at her school. Things often come up at work, but you just have to keep a strict divide between home and the office. My daughter is my responsibility."

He says that other men should ask for a flexi-hours agreement if they want more time with their kids. "The reality is that most flexi-time requests are granted now," he says. "The problem is that people are often too nervous to ask for it in case it backfires."

Bob Owen, 39

Owen, from Dalston, east London, is a self-employed carpenter. He changed his working week so that he could spend Fridays with his two children, Ella, one, and Sam, three. It means his children only spend two days of the week at a nursery.

The change can make a week's work even more demanding. "I'm self-employed, so I sometimes find that I have to squeeze a five-day working week into four days," he says.

Looking after the kids can sometimes be more physically demanding than his carpentry work, but Owen says once he's out of the house, the enthusiasm of his children gives him plenty of energy. And looking after the children has changed his social life, too. "I've met lots of new people and gone to new places because of my days off with the children, like spending time in the playground," he says. "These are things I never thought I would be doing five years ago.

"There's still not many blokes out there, to be honest," he says. "It's always good to see another dad in the playground and I always try and go over to say hello."

Paul Knight, 47

When Knight, who lives near Yeovil in Somerset, separated from his wife three and a half years ago, he made the decision to give up some of the responsibilities of his business so he could take a bigger role in the life of his son, George, six, who has special needs. "It really freed me up to have a much greater role in my child's everyday life," says Knight. "I was able to do things like pick him up from school, as George goes to a local primary school very close to my home.

"It was a great decision, but it has been at a financial cost as my first priority is to be available for my child. If I didn't do what I did, I would only be able to see him every other weekend, which I didn't think was in his best interests."

Knight believes the decision has given him a much tighter bond with George. "He's certainly benefited from my input and the time we spend together," he says. "It's very rewarding, especially when you have a child with special needs. That sense of wanting to be involved is very strong. And when he does well, it is a wonderful feeling."

As a more flexible working regime has worked for him, Knight says he would accommodate a similar arrangement for either of his two employees, though it would be a struggle. He said the biggest difficulty would be the culture. "People want things straight away, and wouldn't always be understanding if a small business said it would have to fit work around family commitments. Most people are understanding, but some still think men should put their business or career first. For me, George is the priority and I wouldn't change what I've done for the world."

Bob Owen changed his working week so that he could spend Fridays with his two children, Ella, one, and Sam, three

Bob Owen changed his working week so that he could spend Fridays with his two children, Ella, one, and Sam, three

    Family's peace pact survives final hearing

    Note the meddling by the government agents from the Office of the Children's Lawyer. Where were they many years ago when this all started? What kind of incompetents do they have in that agency? Why are they not in private practice where the real money is?MJM



    An Ontario Court judge ended a poisonous case of parental alienation yesterday by ordering that two Brampton boys be removed from a foster home and reunited with their mother and eldest brother.

    "This matter is deserving of a decision today - these boys are going home to their mother," Judge Steven Clark declared.

    He said that a compromise brokered by the eldest brother, a 19-year-old known as P.F., was likely to be the only chance to end 10 years of bitter warfare that had prompted a judge last fall to order that the two boys be sent to a deprogramming centre.

    Under the agreement, the 12- and 14-year-olds will go to the mother's home and cannot be forced to take treatment for parental alienation. The entire family will take voluntary counselling, and the boys will be permitted to see their father on terms approved by their mother.

    Judge Clark's ruling ended a day of intense conflict between Ontario's Office of the Children's Lawyer, which had adamantly opposed the deal, and lawyers for the family.

    In a stinging submission, OCL lawyer Sheila MacKinnon had condemned P.F. for refusing to consider changes to the deal. "Is this a sign of someone who is mature and responsible and wants to have his brothers reunited ... or is it sour grapes?" she asked.

    P.F.'s lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, insisted that while the arrangement was not perfect, "it is something indigenous to this family. They did it."

    Marvin Kurz, a lawyer for the mother, warned that any tinkering could destroy the deal: "This was the most delicate of operations. This is like reversing an ocean liner in a very narrow strait."

    Judge Clark rejected the OCL's proposal to tighten up the agreement and force treatment on the younger boys.

    "This is an extremely, extremely difficult case," he said. "What we are dealing with here is the human condition, and what we need is action, not words. What weighs heavily on the court and on everyone who has made submissions here is that there could be irreparable harm, no matter what decision is made."

    The case reached a crisis point in December, when the younger brothers refused to go to the U.S. therapy centre and were committed to a hospital psychiatric ward. The Catholic Children's Aid Society later seized the boys and placed them in a foster home.

    The deal to break the logjam was reached at an emotional meeting between the parents, P.F. and their lawyers last Saturday, but nearly unravelled over the OCL's opposition to it.

    Judge Clark praised P.F. yesterday for his overall diplomacy, but warned him not to rigidly oppose the OCL. Ironically, the young man had left the courtroom minutes earlier to avoid being late for a new job. His mother, from whom P.F. had been severely alienated until several days ago, had also left to drive him to work.

    The only family member in the courtroom, the father, said in an interview: "This was the only possibility at this stage. I don't think it was optimal. It was the best that we can get. The most important thing was that the children start to see somebody from the family. The children should not be in that house-prison."

    The emotional, day-long proceeding began with a strong pitch from a senior OCL administrator, Dan Goldberg, to have all the lawyers and family members connected to the case ordered by Judge Clark to cease speaking to the media.

    However, Judge Clark refused the request, commended press coverage of the case and said that it had raised important issues for the public to consider.