Actor Peter Facinelli (Twilight, Nurse Jackie) says that his divorce from 90210 star Jennie Garth has made him “an even better father.” My guess is that there’s a bit of haughty derision that follows reading that sentence, and it falls to me to try and understand why.
Not long ago, when actor/comedian Steve Martin announced he was becoming a father at the age of 67, I asked why our society screams out for men to be more active fathers, and for more men to take seriously the role of fatherhood, but then turns around and lays a smackdown on people who display true passion and excitement about it when their version of fatherhood doesn’t fit our specific cookie-cutter.
Peter Facinelli, for his part, told The Huffington Post last week, “Co-parenting has been great. I’m able to have the kids every other week and in some ways — a lot of ways — it makes me an even better father. I get to get up and make them breakfast, make them lunches, take them to school and I have the full responsibility of all three girls for the whole entire week, and I bond a lot with them that way.”
Look carefully at the way that’s worded. You’ve got a Dad who talks about how he’s “able” to have the kids every other week, and how he “gets to get up”. My very strong hunch is that plenty of parents look at what he said and thought, “Hmph – just try it three hundred and sixty-five days a year, pal – it ain’t all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.”
I’ve even seen some of the more vicious commenters suggest that Facinelli is “not a real Dad.”
If your family has endured a divorce and you’ve experienced co-parenting first hand, you know that the challenges can sometimes balance each other out, or may even be greater if Mom and Dad can’t be effective at truly putting the children first. The rules are often different between Mom’s house and Dad’s house, and that can create an entirely different set of challenges – toss in some angst and acrimony and it gets even tougher. It’s tough on the kids, having to adopt two different lifestyles, and it’s tough on the parents, trying to navigate the differences and come from a place of understanding instead of trying to have their version of “home” be “the winner”.
I wonder if some of the Judgy Judgertons who condemn Peter Facinelli’s parenting aren’t simply deflecting their anger about the circumstances that ended his marriage (which I won’t repeat here, because quite frankly, it’s none of my business, nor is it any of yours). Because to me, any time a man talks about how excited he is to get up and make breakfast and lunch, and how psyched he is to bond with his daughters, that’s a win for parents everywhere.
If one is truly putting the kids first in a scenario like this, it means putting all the relationship stuff aside, completely. Because the kids have enough to deal with, without someone putting the same Band-Aid on the same wound and ripping it off over and over again, just because their parents lack the maturity and control to actually move forward.
However, I recognize that perhaps I live in some kind of Utopian dream world where people are actually supportive of one another, and where we admire people who try to do the best they can as parents, despite the “other stuff” in their lives.
Wouldn’t you like to live there too?