Thursday, June 16, 2011

You Have Custody? Chronicles of a Single Dad
By Sho E. Nuff

First off let me just say that the trials and tribulations of a single dad are no more challenging than those of a single mom. However, just as men and women are different, so are the challenges as moms and dads.

For those that have known me most of my life, I have been told that I was built to be a dad - mostly because of my protective nature of people close to me, as well as my desire to nurture, educate and empower. So when I became a dad it was the single most life changing event in my life. Even before my divorce it was decided that custody of my son would be mine, and that decision was mutual between my ex and I. I know plenty of people who are single dads, but I was the only one I knew who was a custodial parent.

I remember when I told my mom what was going to happen. She looked at me like she wasn’t sure she heard me right. “You will have custody?” and I said, “Yes, is that a problem?”

Now I do realize that it's not as common as mothers with custody, but it's not like I said I was getting a sex change. From that point on when I explained to people that I had custody, I felt as if I was spending my time either defending my ability as a dad...or defending my ex’s honor as a mom - mostly from other women who said things like, “Is it because SHE can’t handle it?” or “Well if it was me I couldn’t do that.”

It was as if I was a second class parent, or my ex was an unfit mother. Most of the time I felt like saying, “Well this ain’t you bitch, so keep your fuckin' judgmental tones to yourself!” Alas I didn’t because, well, it's not a good example for my son :-)

I have had to deal with teachers asking to have a conference with my ex and not me, or assumptions that his mother would be going on the school trips and not me. My parents have been divorced since I was like 3, and I spent time living with my mom and my I have seen a man as a custodial parent. Maybe that’s why it's not as hard for me to understand. People get so caught up in what the gender roles are supposed to be that they limit not only the person they are judging, but also themselves. We shouldn’t just enforce equal rights, but also equal roles. Why do you think its so hard for men to teach younger grades without a concern of “appropriate behavior”?

I understand maternal instinct, but some of us have a paternal instinct - and that is just as valid. I understand that there are plenty of baby daddies out there who aren’t doing shit for their kids, but show respect to those who are. Don’t forget my big piece of chicken too.

- Sho E. Nuff


Anthony Otero said...

First Bitches.

Anthony Otero said...

Great Post!

My dad was the custodial parent when I was teenager and he complained about the same things you did. It is like people do not understand that single father homes do exist.

He used to get questions like, "well what about the mother?" There is that constant side eye from people who don't seem to understand that sometimes mother's lose custody to the father and just assume she was a bad mother so you he was stuck doing the single parent role (sorta like how Dallas won the NBA title, but every talks about Miami...).

This is why I will continue to say Father's day become this bootleg day for dad's because the perception that father's don't play much of a role as the mother. I remember several times people saying stupid shit like. "well your mom has to be in your life, after all she carried you for nine months..." Really? So, I suppose that means she automatic becomes the sole parent? *not bitter* lol

It does bother me that we seem to focus more on the dads who are not around and not the single dads who hold it down... (see, what i did there? always a poet)

Good Job, Sho E. Nuff

Serena W. said...

This was a great blog! I know a couple of single dad's or fathers that are the custodial parent and the mother is still in the picture. I truly don't get it when people look at fathers side ways when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

People are extra nosy, they always want an explanation as you stated as to why you are the custodial and not the mom. Quite frankly it's none of their business (sigh).

Keep doing what you are doing. Fathers like you are very inspiring and true blessings!

Anthony from CharismaticKid said...

Well I guess the question they want to know is, why did you guys decide it to go this way?

Anonymous said...

Well stated!!
As a father that is currently fighting for custody in the family court system, I was both inspired and a bit apprehensive to say the least.
Inspired because it gives me hope that there are other Fathers out there that have accomplished what I'm fighting for, but apprehensive of the reservations others might feel.

I’m worried that the residing Judge may not see me as a fit parent, simply because I’m a man. Even though the mother has been deemed unfit by a psychologist, it’s still an uphill battle for a man to prove his “custodial worth” and value in his own child’s life. That seems unfair and unjust to me.

Stef said...

I would never say a man can't be a great custodial parent, but I can't really be mad at the questioning of it since women are traditionally more nurturing and affectionate. I'm not saying ALL men aren't, but I know men who were raised by their fathers who have a certain coolness to them. They tend to not be as affectionate because they were missing that certain something that only a mother can give.

I know not all mothers are loving or stable, and if a mother is mentally unstable, then of course a man should have his child. But if there is a loving mother there who IS mentally stable, why not have joint custody so that the child gets both?

Just my thoughts...

Stephanie said...

@ Sho Knuff Great post.You are correct. Single fathers do not get the credit they deserve.My step-father was a single father to my little sister when our mother died. He faced all of the same issues that you do. Teachers would look at him all cross eyed and ask the same stupid questions every year about where my mothers was and how surprised they were that he was a single dad.Surprised, really. Surprised that a man has taken responsibility for his family. Long story short he raised 3 daughters by himself who all turned out quite well, thank you very much.
On another note I got engaged last November to my boyfriend of 4 years.One of the reasons I fell in love with him is that he is an AMAZING father. I've never been the kind of girl that was baby crazy. I was always concerned that IF my relationship ended any potential father would leave me holding the bag.My mother programmed me to not be a single mother and I took that very seriously. When i see my finance with his boys I love him more and more. He adores them in a way that I've never seen. They are his 1st priority always. When he was divorcing his first wife they had a 2year court battle for visitation.The EX was so indignant to the judge that he gave my EX extra visitation with his boys. Thank GOD that time has past and my fiance and his ex are in a better place now. Recently, she thanked him for being such a great father after seeing what other mothers who have deadbeat dads have to deal with.
Keep doing what your doing. Your a wonderful example of the many single fathers out there.

DMoe said...

Great blog.

In my opinion, the roles fathers play - and their ability to be great AT that role - are largely underrated (until the kid becomes an adult and has some sort of issue that rears its head in one capacity or another).

Hopefully, blogs like this will raise the level of awareness and dialogue on the subject.


The Cable Guy said...

I have joint custody with my ex with our son. I feel that I teach and show him things that only a man can do, but I also feel that he needs certain things from his mother that I can't give. We definitely have to keep it real - we can't do it all, or be it all. Unless the mother is unfit, abusive, not around, I don't think I'd want to have him be with HER all the time or just ME all the time. Every family is different, so I guess I'm with Anthony on the question - what made you decide to go this route?

Midnight said...

I appreciate everyone's feedback oh Sho E. Nuff is I and I am Sho E. Nuff. Its my pen name. To answer the question its pretty simple, my ex and I decided that my son was better off with me. There were pros and cons on each side of who would have him most of the time. Now she still sees him most weekends out of the month but most of the time he is with me. We have joint custody but being the primary parent is still a different kind of responsibility. I later on we decide its better for him to be with her, so be it. Bottom line is we make the choices that we feel are better for our child, not the parent's pride or ego. Think parents would make better choices if they remembered to keep the well being of the child first.

Courtney said...

This may be a personal question, but how has dating been affected by being the primary parent?

I ask because a friend of mine is the custodial parent and he said women didn't mind dating him when the mother had custody, but since he's gotten custody, the women are running away. Has that been your experience, or are you focused solely on parenting that you don't date?

Stef said...

good question Courtney!

Jay said...

Great post.

I think people don't understand when they see a custodial father because there are so many men who are content being good fathers, while not having the kid(s) in THEIR home. Raising kids is alot of work, and it's mainly deemed work that mothers should do. The belief is that it comes more naturally to a woman, so if a man wants custody, something MUST be wrong with HER.

I'm curious how many men want custody because they HAVE to for the sake of their child (ie: the mother is nuts, bad, unfit, etc.) or because they WANT to. Most men I know who are dads, and GOOD dads, would never want the day to day responsibility of having a child from sun-up to sundown every single day. I commend those who want and welcome that challenge.

Jaz said...

Midnight aka Sho E. Nuff seems to MIA :)

Rickey said...

@ sho nuff- great post. veryinsightful.

@ cable guy- I agree I would prefer for my children not spend more time with either parent.

Jaz said...

I'm curious to know how a man would view a woman he is interested in dating upon finding out she has a child, but that the father is the custodial parent. Would a man question what kind of mother/woman she is?

The Cable Guy said...

I have to be honest, if I meet a woman who has a child, and the child she has is a girl and she's not raising her, I'd wonder what is up. If she has joint custody, fine, but if the father has sole custody of the daughter, I'd wonder what her deal is. I know that may not be fair, but I'd need a good explanation on why a man would raise a daughter better than a mother would.

Jay said...

Sad as this is to say, I'd wonder the same thing as Cable Guy. I woudln't discount her, because there may be legitimate reasons why the daughter might be better off with him. But I'd need to hear what they are. I can understand maybe wanting the father to raise hsi son, but a daughter might give me pause. It doesn't automatically discount her as a bad mother or woman, but I can't lie and say I wouldn't be curious as they she would give (or lose) sole custody of her daughter.

Jay said...

"but I can't lie and say I wouldn't be curious as to why she would give (or lose) sole custody of her daughter."

That's what I meant to say - sorry for the typos!

Domina*Tricks said...

It's funny how we wonder what is wrong with the mother if she doesn't have custody, but we never wonder what could be wrong with the dad if he doesn't have it.

There was a woman on the Today Show and The View not that long ago who was chastised for not wanting custody of her kids because she said she never really saw herself as a mother. She only had kids because her ex husband wanted them, so she provided them for him. She wanted her freedom and her career to focus on, so she gave custody to their father and sees them on weekends and holidays. She caught hell for that, but better she honest with herself and give the kids the security and upbringing they need than selfishly have them just to conform to societal norms. If the father can give them the stability and love they need while the mother knows she can't, it's the most selfless thing you can do.

Courtney said...

I guess Midnight is gone so he can't answer my question. But...


I kinda disagree. If a woman knows she doesn't want to be a mother, then she shouldn't have any - not for her husband or anyone else. That should be discussed beore marriage, and if you don't want to be a mom, then don't marry a man who wants kids. If you have them, I think you should raise them. She wanting her freedom and to focus on her career is not excuse to simply "give up" your kids. Parenting is a commitment, and even if one parent is more fit than the other, I don't think you should have them "for" someone else just so they can raise them. What if something happens to their father? Then she'll have to raise kids that she never wanted to have in the first place. How great of a job can she do then? I don't get it. It seems selfish to me to have had them in the first place.

Kids don't ask to be here, so if you bring them into this world, you need to take responsibility and raise them with all your being.

The Cable Guy said...


I don't know about Midnight, but being a single father hasn't stopped me from dating at all. In fact, women tend to like some men with kids because they feel they are responsible and stable and loving if they see you are an active part of your child's life. Once they realize I'm not with my ex, they want to date me more... go figure. Now if I could just get Brooke to realize this, we'd be good! LOL!

Brooke said...

@Cable Guy,

Let's be clear: Just because a man may be a great father, doesn't always mean he'd make a good boyfriend or husband. The two aren't necessarily synonomous. While being a great dad may assume certain traits are present (responsible, loving, stable, etc.) it may be easy to be all those things to your CHILD vs. a woman you'd date. I know several men who are great fathers, but would make TERRIBLE husbands/boyfriends - and I think that's where women can it twisted.

Same goes for women. Just because a woman is a great mother doesn't mean she'd make a great wife/girlfriend. Being a parent may come naturally to some people, but marriage may require a different skillset or type of commitment that DOES NOT come naturally. A woman could probably easily see herself as a mother, but not a wife, same as a man seeing himself as a dad, but not a husband. Very different if you ask me.

Stef said...

Amen Brooke!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading the blogs this week, and it's just so strange to me that being a good and responsible (single) father is worth a week's worth of kudos and misplaced congratulations - giving credit for doing what you’re supposed to do. God forbid you be in your child's life - let's give every man a cookie. This says more about our community than it does any particular woman or man.

Ms. Penn said...


I was hoping he would answser your question about dating too, because I've dated two men who were custodial parents and one didn't want anymore kids cuz his hands were full with his child, and the other was looking to see if I had any maternal instincts so that I could step in to be "mommy" since his child's mother was TOTALLY absent. Both situations sent me running for the hills, so I'm curious as to what his dating experience is, if he cares to share. Maybe he doesn't.

Either way, I think both single mothers and single fathers have their share of dating difficulties that aren't exclusive to gender. Raising a child takes alot of time, money, energy, etc. - some of which a person may not have enough of if they're raising a child alone, or even with joint custody. I can't say I'd never date a man with custody of his child, but I think that's a determination you make on a case by case basis...cuz it ain't easy - especially when you don't have any children of your own.

Brooke said...


The series this week isn't so much about celebrating men for doing what they're supposed to do, but moreso sharing and highlighting different stories/experiences from different men and their take on fatherhood.

Hayden's first blog wasn't about celebrating him for being a present father - it was about the effect fatherhood had on him as a man. His second blog was giving us a funny take on how protective he is of his daughter and what lessons he wants to teach her in choosing a mate of her own one day.

Rickey's post was an open letter to his father telling him how his being absent has shaped him into the father he is today. It wasn't about giving him "credit" for being a dad, but giving him credit for recognizing that he has the power to change and break a cycle that could have easily been it so often does.

Today's blog was about how we view and give power (or take power away from) the different roles mothers and fathers play and discounting one over the other. It's not about "credit" but perceptions.

And I agree, celebrating great fathers DOES speak volumes about our community...and our society as a whole. Single or custodial fathers, gay fathers, teen fathers - they make up a small minority and a quiet fraternity of men who do "daddy things" day in and day out without so much a thought of anyone doing cartwheels for them or giving them a cookie. They just DO. For them, it's as natural as breathing.

Women like to talk about double standards, but honestly, we assume all women are or will make great mothers, while men are considered a "supporting cast" rather than a lead. Our country, let alone our community, assumes maternal parenthood as the norm, as the standard...and it's believed that men don't or can't live up to that standard. That is why I choose to highlight men who are active parents every year, because we don't hear their stories often enough - in my opinion.

Stef said...

Amen AGAIN Brooke - *she drops the mic and exits stage left*

Midnight said...

Sorry I was MIA....had to go pick up my son and take him to the park....

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