These were the words I first heard when I picked up the phone.
“I can’t see my kids and I don’t know what to do. I feel like giving up and I am thinking about killing myself to shut off the pain.”
The matter-of-fact way he said these words told me that this was no veiled threat, but a carefully considered option. Men don’t usually tell you these things unless they are serious.
Suicide is the ultimate in giving up. Men die from suicide at three times the rate of women. More women attempt suicide than men, but men are far more successful at killing themselves. This is a terrible reality.
I asked Paul (not his real name) what the trigger was.
“I was put in jail for spending 15 minutes with my 5-year-old daughter”.
“That sounds a bit rough,” was my response.
“Yeah, I have an AVO out on me from my ex and I miss my young daughter so much. She needs her dad. Our legal system is so biased against men. All men are guilty until proven innocent.”
I told Paul, “I agree with your statement that ‘The legal system is so biased against men’. You would not treat your dog like most men get treated in the current Family Law system in Australia today.”
Dads4Kids has endeavoured to be a voice for fathers and their children over the years. In 2003 we released, in cooperation with many other organisations, The 12pt Plan in Federal Parliament, “to strengthen and support fathers and turn the tide of fatherlessness.”
Point 6 of The 12pt Plan states:
“Acknowledge that after divorce or parental separation, every child has a fundamental right to equal contact with both the mother and the father unless there are proven mitigating circumstances.”
Sadly, this small measure of respite was swept away by Julia Gillard’s partisan Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011.
We did our best to warn the Parliament and the people of Australia of the terrible consequences of the proposed legislation. Interestingly, Maxine Petrovic, a university undergraduate and daughter of a single dad, wrote the submission to parliament for Dads4Kids. The opening letter reads like it could have been written yesterday.
“This submission has sought to outline the many issues with the legislation and the detrimental effects the legislation will generate. As an agency which deals extensively with families going through the pain of divorce, we have seen firsthand the distress and anguish that can arise from a parent being unfairly denied contact with their children as well as the negative effects of fatherlessness on children.
We have combined our extensive knowledge and experience of men, women, children and the Family Law System with widespread secondary research that has provided us with some overwhelming support for our conclusions.
These include studies and statistics from government and non-government agencies, and medical and academic journals. We have provided a list of recommendations for the committee in regards to the proposed legislation. (Read the full submission here)
I asked Paul why he rang Dads4Kids. He said, “I rang the Men’s Crisis Helpline, but it had been disconnected, so I rang you guys.” Thankfully he found a human being to talk to. I think now he is on an upward path.
The very next day, I received a similar call from a single dad with a one-year-old daughter. He had never seen his daughter and he wanted to know if Dads4Kids could help him. It breaks my heart to tell these men that Dads4Kids does not offer any legal help. James (not his real name) said that he just wanted to be a good dad for his daughter.
Sadly, the anti-child, anti-male, anti-family cancer is deeply embedded in our society. It is still multiplying. The prognosis for the host (our society) looks to be terminal, but the team at Dads4Kids is not giving up.
The words of the poem Keep Going by Edgar Guest come to mind:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
And the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are.
It may be near when it seems afar.
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.
It’s when things seem worst that
You mustn’t quit.
My message to single dads is the same as the one I give to all dads. As Winston Churchill said in his famous speech, “Never, never, never give up.”
Our future is our children. It was Maxine Petrovic, the daughter of a single father, who wrote the best submission for justice and children that Dads4Kids has ever made to Parliament. It might be that Paul or James’s daughter will be the Maxine who somehow puts an end to these horrific anti-child, anti-father and anti-family laws.
Appreciate the time with your children while you have them.
Many fathers cannot see the children they love.
The truth remains the same. Our future is our children.
Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.
Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.