Splitsville: Public Shaming Isn’t Going To Solve Co-Parenting Problems
Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.
Sometimes, relationships don’t work out. There can be any number of reasons. You grew apart, you grew close to someone else, you grew to hate the sound of their voice… More serious issues might be at play. Whatever the cause, I’m so sorry to inform you that not every couple rides off into the sunset of happiness on a unicorn under a rainbow made out of color-cooridnating leprechauns. Try to not to succumb to shock here, I have more important things to share with you.
If you’re a parent and your relationship doesn’t work out, let’s just say that your life got a whole lot more complicated. Suddenly, you have an ex that you still have to speak with on a weekly basis. You don’t get to burn his pictures and pretend he doesn’t exist anymore. You have keep talking to that person, working with them, trying to make decisions together that greatly impact the most important thing in your life, which is hopefully your child. Your going to be partners, long after you stop being partners.
This is why it’s such a double-headed sword when parents take to the internet to bad-mouth their ex’s. Now don’t get me wrong. We all have a personal story to tell. Throughout the process of writing these posts, I’ve shared some personal details about my daughter’s father and some of them aren’t always flattering. I’ve tried to be honest and discuss my situation to facilitate discussion about parenting after divorce or separation.
With that being said, I feel like there’s a big difference between explaining the struggles that effect single mothers or opening up about a particularly difficult time in your co-parenting relationship, and all-out shaming your ex on the internet and calling them a terrible person. One writer, who is obviously going through a very emotional time, decided to take to Tumblr to call out her baby daddy, who happens to be much older than her with a successful career and a child from a previous marriage. Alana Joy is pregnant right now, and her ex is completely ignoring her calls and avoiding all communication with her, the woman carrying her child. After weeks of trying to get ahold of him, she decided to write an open letter that included lots of things like this:
“It infuriates me to see you acting like none of this is going on. It infuriates me that you think you can just ignore all of this. Your public face is that of a good father, a standup part of the community, a successful executive who cares… but really you dumped me a week after I told you I was pregnant and have willfully decided to be a deadbeat in every way possible.”
Don’t get me wrong, from the sounds of Joy’s story, this guy sounds horrible and irresponsible. I can only imagine the pain and frustration she’s going through right now. I know how hard it is to be pregnant with a man who doesn’t seem to care about the life growing inside you and it’s absolutely awful.
However, I question the motives behind this new tendency to publicly-shame deadbeat dads. I wonder what women really want to get out of publicly insulting the fathers of their children for not paying child support or calling on birthdays. (And if you don’t think this is a trend and Joy is just the tip of a big, ol’ iceberg, check out CrappyDads.com.)
If your goal is exact some sort of revenge and shame from your ex, I suppose that this a legitimate way to achieve that end. You can ruin a person’s reputation on the internet by yelling from the rooftops (or your Tumblr) about how horrible they are. If that’s what you want to do, this course of action makes sense.
On the other hand, if your goal is to ever have a functioning relationships with this person ever again, you might be going about things the wrong way. if your ultimate goal is for your child’s dad to be an involved part of their life, public shaming might not be the best way to go. In the case of Alana Joy, her child is now going to be born into a stressful and difficult situation. Before that father ever meets his little one, there’s going to be animosity.
Even when things get difficult between two parents, I always kind of assume that most adults want their children to be happy. We want our kids to know both parents and to have healthy relationships. Sometimes, people choose not to do that, and I think it’s sad and unfortunate. Sometimes, reconciliation and happy endings aren’t possible. But if there’s a chance of moving on past the hurt and building family relationships, public shaming and insults ruins any opportunity at all.