Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



On the Other Side of the Fence

Yisroel Besser

It’s easy to pity divorced mothers, often considered the victims of abusive or unsustainable marriages. But where do the fathers — shunted aside, separated from their children, living in substandard apartments, choked by child support and alimony — fit in? In a family-focused society, where parents and children are expected to interact in keeping with scripted mores, divorced fathers say it’s rare to find someone who will listen and validate their loneliness.

Monday, December 22, 2014

“If you think making time to learn with your children is hard, I don’t feel bad for you. Sorry. I just don’t.” Yaakov spears a potato and pops it in his mouth, the force of his movements the only indication that he’s seething inside. He speaks in measured tones, with practiced calm. “You know, I read something in an article recently that really resonated. It said that the studies that focus on the relationship between fathers and their children post-divorce discuss how the loss of contact negatively impacts the children. But they don’t talk about how the fathers themselves are managing. Kids need their parents — but it’s also true that parents need their kids. So of course I’m shattered inside. I’m being deprived of the most important thing in my own life.” The Lakewood coffee shop is boisterous and noisy, a good place for a personal conversation where everyone else has better things to do than eavesdrop, but Yaakov keeps turning around to make sure no one is listening. “I’m a freak,” he says without mirth. “I’m used to people looking at me. I’m divorced. In the frum community, that means that I have three heads.” Yaakov is one of several divorced men I spoke with, suffering through the pain and humiliation of being disenfranchised from their children and marginalized by a family-focused community. Much has been written about the struggles and challenges of divorced/single mothers, often considered the victims of abusive or unsustainable marriages. But where do the fathers — often shunted aside, living in substandard apartments, choked by child support and alimony — fit in? Who’s out there to listen, to validate their loneliness? Standing in the parking lot, leaning against the fender of his small Civic (“I borrow a minivan whenever I have the kids”), Yaakov continues: “Let’s face it, the frum community is biased against divorced men. There’s a stigma. The sympathy is always with the mother, she’s a victim, nebach, poor woman, she was married to a no-goodnik. He was abusive, he had anger-management issues, he’s a bum. He’s the bad guy.” Yaakov says his story isn’t unique. “Divorce happens. Sometimes it’s his fault, sometimes her fault, sometimes it’s everyone’s fault, and sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Regardless, they both have a right to rebuild their lives. True, the woman is weighed down with children or financial pressures, but the man carries a heavy load too, the most painful being all the negative assumptions. Women get invited for Shabbos meals; men get looked at through narrowed eyes. “So, if you’re trying to tell the story of the frum divorced male, that’s it. Everybody looks at us funny.”

hTo read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"