I was having a conversation with a mother the other day who had just separated and wanted to go for 100% custody of her two girls. My first response was, 'Is he a bad father? Is he an alcoholic, drug-user, or violent? 'No', was her answer, 'he just won't bring them up as well as I would!' What could I say? What should I say? 'Does he love them?' Her answer was, 'well yes of course he does'. Insert face slap right here (mine, not hers).
So what if he can't cook very well – there is youtube.
So what if their pony tails aren't perfect when they go to school (there's the vacuum cleaner – yes I'm serious!)
So what if they have a stain on their t-shirt when they go to the shops.
So what if his house isn't as neat and tidy as yours.
So what if they eat McDonald's once or twice a week.
What they do need, according to Steve Biddulph, psychologist and author of Ten Things Girls Need Most, is warmth, gentleness, a sense of fun, affection and for him to be interested in her and encouraging of her. 'Being a good dad is not dramatic or heroic; most of the time, it's in the ordinary things. He shows up. He keeps his promises. He is strong, not in the sense of muscular strength, but being true to his word, reliable and there. How he treats her mother, of course, is another way she sees his attitudes to the woman she will become', Steve reflects.
Let's put the shoe on the other foot. He goes for sole custody because:
• you won't let the kids climb trees
• you are always saying you need to lose weight (filling their minds with poor body issues)
• you won't let them have a nerf shootout inside, worried they will break something
• you won't let them choose their own clothes as you can't stand pink, frills or sequins
• you won't let them wear mismatched socks
• you make them eat gluten-free pasta and kale because you're on another health kick
Need I go on? What's the difference?
If you bring your girls up well, they will know what is right and wrong, good and bad. So before you go for sole custody (which is unlikely to be successful if he's a good dad), buy him Steve's book, tell him he's needed, tell him there needs to be a routine, and let him have the chance to step up.