Friday, 21 December 2007

21Dec07 - Just Dads

As a father most things happen at a slower pace. It takes me longer to consider the consequences of current events and it also takes longer to accept the reality of any given situation. From reading the accounts of other fathers in my situation I know that this is not unusual. It is difficult to be fully involved in all that goes on with Lucy's life partly because there is so much and partly because a lot of it happens when I am not there. Unfortunately by the time you realise that you have become too detached you have already missed too much. The natural response for me was to make sure that I could maintain some kind of stability and that meant working. By default this means that the majority of the organisation and care of Lucy could not be my responsibility as I wasn't here to do it. It is a "Catch 22" situation. I don't believe that this is any different for most fathers thrown into life with a disabled child. Some fathers are able to choose to give up work and become the carer and other fathers do not have a choice and continue to work but forgo the chance to be really involved in the changes that will happen whether they are there or not. I still don't think there is a right and a wrong way to do it because whatever choices you have there are no right ones. I believe we as fathers are simply driven by necessity to provide for our children in the best way we see possible. When all the options we have can't provide what we need to offer, we opt for what we think is the best of a bad choice. I would guess in most cases going back to work is the most common choice and therefore Mother's are left to attend appointments and arrange all the cares. Consequently public services become used to dealing with Mothers and probably public services become Mother orientated. Occasionally Fathers get an odd free day and are able to attend an appointment or a therapy session but this is an exception to the norm and is largely treated as such. So when arrangements are made it is always with the Mother and the Father at most is considered as back up. Unfortunately this circumstantial exclusion of Fathers is overlooked and it seems to be accepted across all the services that provide care and support for disabled children. Father's rarely benefit from any direct support and are largely left to their own devices. At first I also accepted that this was just the way it had to be and just got on with doing my bit not considering what the consequences might be. I think it is easy for men to accept their responsibility if they believe that they are fulfilling some kind of role that is worthwhile and that by doing this their partner is free to fulfill another role that they are not responsible for. It took me too long to realise how wrong this is. There can be no defined roles. Who would then choose to be the Mother who has to deal with the emotions of accepting the role of manager, carer and therapist? When you finally realise that you are not as involved as you want to be, or should be, because you don't have the time or because you have a full time job it is really too late. However unless you are able to commit the time to get involved, you never will be and all the support services will continue to concentrate on their main point of contact which is usually the Mother. Fathers will continue to be treated as "Just Dads" and Mothers will continue to be overwhelmed by a continuous avalanche of appointments, advice and duties. Left for too long this division of roles which is accepted by public support services, can lead to other difficulties. Again this is a common theme for couples like us. I find this so frustrating but up to present I have not found a solution. I believe more focus should be put on support of the family unit rather than simply focussing on the care of a disabled child and the child's primary carer. I wonder what the real consequences of this lack of care have been?


Anonymous said...

You obviously feel it more that other dads with all the additional arrangements, appointments and organisation that goes with Lucy. Johann, having to use up some leave, took a few days off last week and went to James' end of term carol service at the church. Of a school of about 100 kids he was one of 2 dads there. The other dad said to him "it's quality not quantity that counts". Very true.
So although you don't have the amount of time that you would like to spend being involved with Lucy, I'm sure you more than make up for it with the quality, and maybe for now, that's all you can do.

with love
Susan and the VHs

Anonymous said...

Well said Susan. You both certainly do give quality care to Lucy and Josh.
Love you all lots
Mom & Dad T