I have a pet peeve, one that probably bothers me more than it should. It's one of those things that is more of an indictment on our society than anything else. Over and over, though, if I'm in a conversation with someone who doesn't know me well, when I talk about my daughter, they ask whether I have full custody of her. Their assumption is that, first of all, I am divorced (I'm not -- I'm a widower), and, second, they are surprised that I WOULD have custody of my daughter (as opposed to her mother, who I guess they assume must be a better parent than her father). I get it. I do. When half of all marriages end in divorce, the chances are probably pretty good that, if I'm no longer married, I'm probably divorced. However, it's always a surprising shock when I tell someone that I'm a widower. This is still a rare thing, I guess, for someone under the age of, say, 60. What bothers me even more, though, if one assumes I AM divorced, is the surprise that a father would have custody of his daughter over her mother. I KNOW there are divorced fathers out there who aren't deadbeats, and who even have custody of their kids. But the percentage is higher for divorced mothers to have custody.
So there are a few things going on here, and I'm going to be making a few generalizations for the sake of my argument (it's my blog, after all). First is the problem of divorce in our country. I actually did try to look up the statistics on divorce at the US Census, but got way too overwhelmed by them, so I'm sticking with my marginal knowledge of the subject to say that divorce is a problem. And by problem, I mean the frequency of divorce. I'm not going to get into the rights and wrongs and justifications of divorce, however I don't think anyone would argue that it's not a negative thing. I don't think anyone enters into marriage believing it will end in divorce. But there are a lot of them. My father is one of eight children and my mother is one of 3, and while my parents are happily married and never divorced, there are seven divorces among their siblings. I have 30 first cousins, and of the fourteen who have married, some multiple times, there are twelve divorces. I would say this equates to a problem, and reflects marriage in the US.
Second, there is the likelihood that after most divorces, if there are children, the majority of cases result in the children ending up in custody of their mother. Given that the father is traditionally more career oriented than the mother, and the mother is traditionally more likely to be home with children than the father, one might think that a father having custody of his children is the exception rather than the rule.
So, after saying all of this, I'll return to my original pet peeve. When someone hears that I was but am no longer married, they assume that I am divorced. Because this is thought of as being a negative thing, without knowing any of the details, they are left with a negative thought about me. Then, when they hear I have a child, and that child actually lives with me (and not her mother), it's assumed that I must be an exceptional father rather than the typical deadbeat dad, which I guess would be a positive, though this also infers that my "ex-wife" must have been a pretty lousy mother if she doesn't have custody of her kids. Is it any wonder this might bother me?
Anyway, when I share with them the facts, they immediately feel awful that they've made these false assumptions, which makes me feel awful that I've had to correct them after they wrongly assumed I'm a divorced deadbeat. So the easiest thing is to not say anything, which is usually the case. So, if I then have a conversation much later that results in us talking about me being a father, or having been married, etc., and I have to tell them about my "situation", they become uncomfortable that I've brought it up, as if it just happened last week instead of ten years ago.
So I'm not sure if any of this makes any sense. It's way past my bedtime, I'm tired and fighting sleep, and I'm trying to finish this up for my blog tonight, and my thoughts are all over the place. That said, please have a nice evening, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!