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Posts Tagged ‘stepfather’
Like a lot of books for and about stepmothers, books for fathers and books about fatherhood can be a little…trite. And Hallmark card-ish. Or lite. They’re either “funny” or “self-help-y.” Which is fine, if that’s what you want. But if you want a really comprehensive, comparative look at fatherhood, if you want answers to the questions, “What happens to men when they have kids? How does it actually affect them?” you will love a book called Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior. Don’t be put off by the wonky title. Yes, it’s wonky, but this book is also accessible, fun, and fascinating.
Did you know that becoming a father changes a man’s biochemistry (yep, testosterone levels go down, oxytocin levels go up), rewires his brain, and alters his immune system and his emotions? Sure, a lot has been said and written about the important impact fathers have on the lives of their children. But until now, no one has considered at any length just what the impact of becoming a father is on a man.
This book considers a wide swath of fatherhood–everything from the sperm donor to the stepdad to the gay dad, the divorced dad, and the dad in traditional hunter-gatherer societies. Did you know that men in the U.S. and Western Europe are just about the only ones who “roughhouse” with their kids? That man in Japan spend an average of 20 minutes per day with their kids, while among a tribe of foragers called the Aka in Central Congo, men spend a full fifth of their time in close contact with their kids?
Everything you never knew you wanted to know about fathers is here in this book by anthropologists Kermyt G. Anderson and Peter B. Gray. Check out my interview with Dr. Anderson in the Huffington Post, and purchase Fatherhood: the Evolution of Human Paternal Behavior from amazon.com or your local independent bookseller.
Hi Readers, You know how I love Martin Babits, L.C.S.W., and author of The Middle Ground: A Couple’s Guide to Renewing Your Relationship (http://www.amazon.com/Power-Middle-Ground-Renewing-Relationship/dp/1591026628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256606628&sr=8-1). Marty is a divorced dad, and here’s what he has to say about a recent very important project–building a wall in his apartment once things got serious with his partner. The wall is going up today! Read the piece–and then leave a comment letting Martin know what you think of what he’s doing:
It’s been four years since the divorce that ended my 27 year marriage. How and why it happened is a story I’ll tell you some other time. My son, knowing that it is not even a remote possibility, is rooting for his mom and I to get back together. He has tried to persuade me to limit the length of my dating to six weeks per dating partner. “After that,” he counsels,” you’ve got to find someone else and start again., dad.” So now that I am having a relationship with a woman, a woman I am crazy about, and have been seeing for well beyond the six week stint that he approves, I get considerable bristling and growling in response to mostly everything, mostly everyday. He avoids her at every turn. Before she’s been invited into the picture in any formal sense, he’s invited her out.
You should know that, up to now, I’ve had no privacy in my post-divorce living space. My bed is set down in a combination living and dining room area. It’s large enough to separate into two rooms but I haven’t built a divide. Why didn’t I put a wall up? Probably because I’ve felt guilty about not being able to shield my son from the pain of the divorce. So with no wall, I’m on 24/7 call. I’ve been focused on making him feel how important he is to me. Whenever I think of moving on, the following question dogs me: “How can you bring a new person into your living situation (my son lives with me) against his vehement opposition?” This is where I have been stuck.
Wednesday Martin, like the good friend that she is to all her readers, helped me reason this through. Reason, not as in Archimedes’ principle, I’m talking about heart-reason, emotional logic. Stepmonster helped me understand that by living without a private space for myself, I was sending my son a confusing and essentially untrue message: that time was standing still. Also, he had a room with a door. Was I telling him – by my actions – that his needs trumped mine? That’s not how I want him to understand me; it benefits neither of us. We both have to learn to take care of ourselves.
Children of divorce, probably universally, harbor fantasies of their parents reuniting. Having no wall invites him to misinterpret what I am doing and feeling. It is of form of colluding with him by allowing the fantasy of parental reunification to comfortably flourish. As his dad, I realize that he needs to accept that the ending of my romantic relationship with his mother has already occurred; it is a fact rooted in the past and not to be revisited. The inevitability of my son’s need to grieve the losses he has experienced as a result of the divorce – and the fact that the divorce marked the finale of his childhood – amount to a double assault on his sense of security; two tough blows, two rough psychological truths that he must learn to come to terms with. Maturation is dotted with traumatic interludes. Failure to grieve brings on failure to thrive.
So the wall that marks my readiness to move forward in my life, to re-establish my need for privacy and the prospect of a life – or at least a significant portion of a life that is uninterrupted by my son and intentionally kept separate from his experience – is now appropriate. Maybe the wall is a way of walling out the past from the present; or at least walling out the predominance of the past in the present. Stalling on the wall registers as a vote of no-confidence in his (and my) learning to handle the changes in our lives. Seeing it from this vantage, I am tempted to erect a series of walls, one for each developmental juncture – in my son’s and my own past – that needs resolving. But, of course, I know the bulk of this work gets done internally. So, it’s one wall to represent them all.
Have you heard about the movie Orphan? And the soon-to-be-released Stepfather? Check out my latest blog post on psychologytoday: