Keeping Dads Away from Their Babies

Boston, MA–Background: The Boston Globe recently discussed Fathers & Families‘ shared parenting bill at great length in their editorial A fair role for fathers. While the Globe did not endorse the bill, the editorial essentially agrees with the main arguments behind shared parenting. Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Executive Director of Fathers & Families, responded to the Globe here.

I don’t know if anybody else caught it or thought of it, but I thought this paragraph from the Boston Globe editorial was particularly annoying. The Globe wrote:

“Charles Kindregan, a law professor at Suffolk University, soundly argues that a presumption of joint legal and physical custody could handcuff judges who should be free to consider the best interests of children on a case-by-case basis. ‘You don’t need a presumption when you have facts,’ Kindregan says. The relevant facts include children’s age, temperament, emotional development, and medical needs, as well as how parents get along and how far apart parents live from each other. A judge looking at an infant will have to make very different decisions than a judge looking at a teenage boy.”

In case anybody missed it, what he said is code for “Dad can see the infant maybe an hour or two a week if he’s lucky, and if mom allows it. However, we may be more solicitous of dad’s time when his kid is a teenager. Of course, by then the kid will already be damaged from growing up without a father, but it’s okay for dad to spend real time with the kid, as long as mom is not unhappy about it, and as long as they still live within 1,000 miles of each other.”

The most irritating part of this is the presumption that an infant needs only its mother, not its father. From time to time I get letters from mothers of infant children who are outraged that the fathers want to see the children and — gasp — want to spend some time with the infants in their own homes.

Longtime readers of mine already know what I am going to say. I have been the primary caregiver for my daughter, now almost 10 years old, from the time she was six weeks old. Those first few years home all alone with her, before she went to preschool, were the greatest years of my life. She and I shared everything together, and we were as happy and close as any two people could ever be.

The only downside to it was that I worked in the evenings and my little girl would cry herself to sleep every night because she missed me and I was not there. I still believe that one reason my daughter and I are so close are those special years we had together.

The Globe editorial and the expert it quotes are wrong–there is absolutely no reason why a father should be kept away from his baby or toddler, even if mom and dad are separated.

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