It is easy to forget that many men with mental illness are fathers, too.
Social worker John Clark only came to recognise the effect depression was having on his parenting 12 months into his illness.
“I avoided the kids by getting up after they’d left, and getting home late at night. I tried to stay in bed on weekends. They were too much for me; too many words, too boisterous, too active, too demanding,” he said recently.
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In a patently cynical attempt to relive its past glory, the Gillard government this weekend used Fathers’ Day to announce that it will extend parental leave to dads.
Back on Mothers’ Day in 2009, the Rudd government won almost universal plaudits by announcing an 18 week paid parental leave scheme. In the lead up to the 2010 election the policy was still seen as such a vote winner that Tony Abbott flagged his own extravagant six month scheme, reversing his previous conviction that parental leave would be introduced ‘over his dead body’.
More than a year later, this latest addition of paternity leave - essentially feel-good middle class welfare in search of an evidence base - shows just how anxious to revive its flagging popularity the government has become.
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It hasn’t been a good week for disaffected fathers. Most weeks aren’t. Since Mick Fox disrupted half of Sydney to protest his custodial battle, we’ve seen the shocking case of Paul Rogers, who fatally gassed himself and his daughter Kyla, while the awful case of Ramazan Acar goes through the courts. Read the gruesome details if you dare.
As we all know, custodial battles over children are the common thread in these and many similar cases. But why do men snap? At what point does frustration boil over into mass scale public nuisance… or even to murder?
Let’s take a small picture view and a big picture view. The small picture, with a focus on the ass that is family law, comes from Barry Williams, president of the Lone Fathers Association. The wide view comes from social analyst Richard Eckersley, who regularly measures Australia’s pulse through a thing called the Wellbeing Index.
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In the wake of this week’s public parenting spats, here’s a timely word of advice to those who feel the urgent need to pass judgement on others’ parenting skills: Pull your head in. Seriously, just back off. No one cares what you think. Especially us parents.
See, here’s the thing. Unless a kid is subjected to an unimaginably cruel form of care worthy of Community Services’ attention – like being forced upon the toddler beauty contest circuit, or made to watch Elmo’s World – then the rest of the world should butt out.
If you’ve been asleep all week, here’s what went down. First, some radio lady with a single letter surname bottle fed her baby while she crossed the road. Like that was somehow worse than half the tasteless stunts she pulls on radio.
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‘Delighted when hubby hung his first load of washing on the line,’ noted a Facebook friend. ‘Less delighted when I realised he didn’t use pegs.’
A domino run of comments followed, with women chortling over the guy who didn’t turn the iron on but flattened a shirt with it anyway, and the time a friend bet someone a bottle of Moet her partner wouldn’t notice if she didn’t wash his clothes for ten days.
As far as short cuts resulting in more work go, the non-use of pegs is right up there with the least thought-through of ideas. My 12-year-old did the same thing with her sister’s Pumpkin Patch bikini recently (last seen in the dog’s mouth, as he belted gleefully behind the pittosporum hedge).
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