This morning I opened my inbox to find a breathtaking piece about the NHS removal of the word dad from its Ready Steady Baby Guide after a complaint that the word was discriminating against same sex couples.
Now I might be mistaken, but when we talk about same sex parenting, are we talking about men as well as women, or are we just talking about lesbian couples here. Because forgive me if I am mistaken, but unless men who are bringing up baby in a same sex parenting relationship have also chosen to ditch the word dad in favour of male mother and partner, are they not also going to be left feeling that they too are invisible in this generic guide to parenting?
It may not be fashionable but I am going to say it anyway. The other half of the genetic code that causes a baby to be born into this world is provided by sperm and sperm can, currently, only be produced by men. That makes men in my book, dad. I come from a time when donor children were only just starting to arrive in the world, I had many lesbian and gay friends in the eighties who decided to be mum and dad together. The children of those friends strike me these days as being wholly rounded and capable human beings. They are aware of their genetic identity, they know that they have a mum and a dad, they know that their birth was the result of a decision together to make that happen. Those children were brought up by mum and her partner and dad and his partner, the result was that the children enjoyed multiple attachments and strong relationships with significant other adults in their lives. No-one considered that the existence of dad was in any way offensive and certainly not discriminatory.
These days, it seems, there is not only an increase in same sex parenting, but also, alongside that, an increase in the desire by some same sex couples to eradicate the fact that the child ever had or ever will have knowledge or access to the other half of their genetic identity, their biological dad.
In a world where too many fathers are already being pushed out of their children’s lives by divisive and discriminatory legislation, this seems to me to be a deliberate act against the child and its right to know its origins. As such, this action by the NHS is tantamount to madness. It might offend some lesbian couples that the word dad is used in this guide, I am offended by the madness that enables the presence of the other half of a child’s genetic heritage, to be wiped wholesale from such a parenting guide.
Elsewhere, the twittersphere has been alive with kind of anti male vitriol that usually emanates from the venomous threads on Mumsnet. The target of the attacks is the character Tyrone Dobbs from Coronation Street who is, by all accounts, experiencing violence at the hands of his partner Kirsty. Reading some of the hundreds of tweets about this which were brought to my attention via Manchester Survivors reminds me just how acceptable hatred of men is in our society. The fact that the character Tyrone is being hurt is made fun of, laughed at, justified and glorified, the fact that this is coercive, directive, domestic violence is constantly challenged. Just like the people who refuse to accept the stats on DV against men in the training that we deliver, the underlying theme is that a man being beaten up or hurt or even killed is somehow not real domestic violence. If a man is experiencing domestic violence he must deserve it, if a woman is experiencing it, we have to believe her. What hope for men in this situation when such levels of discrimination fly freely through our social media?
Finally this week, having spent the last two days working with the most amazing group of parents, I thought I would share with you the impact of all this hatred and all of this determined eradication of men and fathers from the world.
In a two day workshop for FNF on parental alienation, I lead a group of parents experiencing alienation, through a journey of understanding, learning and most of all sharing. I am honoured to have had the privilege of working with each one of those parents, each of whom shared their stories, their journey and their deep and abiding love for their children. Most of the parents in the room were dads but we had mums too, two of whom were alienated just like their male counterparts. During one part of the weekend, one of the women in the group shared with us the fact that she had been alienated from her father for many years by the actions of her mother. We sat in absolute silence, as she told us of the impact of that upon her heart, her soul and her very existence. Caught between two parents at war, a mother who could alienate and a father who could not get over what had been done to him, her experiencing of reuniting with him was made difficult because he was still stuck in the pain of the past. This adult child, removed from her father by the actions of her mother and the support and the sanction of state legislation, told us that today she doesn’t have a real relationship with either her mother or her father. Her anger with her mother at what had been done and her father’s inability to recover had made things too difficult.
The impact of what we have done for the past forty years and what we still continue to allow to be done to our children in the removal of their father and the acceptance of the hatred against men was present in that room. I grieve for this adult child, made orphan whilst her parents are still living and for all of the children for whom a father, in name or in flesh is seen as unnecessary. How long before we recognise that the wilful and determined eradication of dad in children’s lives, is nothing short of abuse?