The Single Father

 

The legal system and society generally have failed to realise that fathers now take their parenting responsibilities extremely seriously, says Gary McAleer from Dundalk (left), the father of a two-year-old son.

He says there is no reason why fathers cannot be as good at parenting as mothers. "I get on very well with my son but only have access to him for seven hours a week, which I think is unfair." He adds that while trips to the zoo with his son on Friday afternoons are enjoyable, his current arrangements are limiting.

He accepts that in the past men often abdicated their responsibilities, but insists that fathers who care deeply about their children "have always been there and have been mostly ignored".

"People have to ask what makes a good parent - it is not just about someone's gender, there are loads of other things which come into play," he says. He supports equal parenting arrangements and says the place of a father should be underwritten in some way. "Whatever the fashionable view is, I think a child needs both a mother and a father in their life." He says the thinking which has pushed fathers to the margins of the single parent argument has to be challenged. "When I fought for access to my son, many people actually thought it was strange that I would be that concerned about the whole thing."

To the accusation voiced by some that men want to enjoy the easy parts of parenting - like bringing a child on a day out - he has a simple answer. "I am not saying I am the best parent in the world, but surely like everyone else I deserve at least a chance".

He says he has been supported by female friends and relations in the town in his wish to have greater access to his child. "Many women say to me, it is about time men were actively looking to get involved in their children's lives," he adds. "For many of them, used to seeing men with no interest at all, it makes a welcome change."