Voluntary Position (Finance) on our Advisory Board.

OnlyMums & OnlyDads are a registered Community Interest Company that supports single parents and those going through divorce and separation.  Although we have a great deal of experience helping parents through difficult times, we are primarily a “signposting” service to agencies and others who can help. We have an established Panel of Experts that deals with the majority of our email enquiries on a full range of housing, legal and finance related questions.

We are not involved in any political campaigning, neither are we a research organisation. We receive no public or government financial support. We do believe children benefit if Mums and Dads are able to obtain support and advice (during and after) divorce and separation. We fund our not-for-profit organisation through advertising opportunities on our websites.

You can read more about our work here

Challenging background

Every month we find more and more people are using our websites or contacting us directly for support.  Increasing financial pressure on existing charities like CAB and Shelter will undoubtedly lead to an increasing workload for on-line and responsive organisations like ours.  We have a number of projects and other initiatives that could better support our client group, but that aren’t being done due to lack of financial resource.

What skills are we looking for?

We are seeking to appoint a person with experience in raising sponsorship, advertising and other revenue, as well as to assist us with financial planning and drawing up of regular business plans.  In particular:

  • exploring commercial partnerships;
  • exploring advertising opportunities on our website;
  • securing corporate sponsors;
  • bringing fresh thinking to how we can maximise our income; and
  • writing yearly business plans with revisions as necessary.

 The commitment

  • Our Advisory Board will meet in Central London twice a year and you will need to attend.
  • Occasional telephone support between meetings.
  • Ad hoc email exchanges may be sought between meetings as required.
  • This is a voluntary position but reasonable expenses will be paid.

If you feel you would be interested in joining our Advisory Board we require a brief email sent to info@onlydads.org expressing interest so we can then arrange a suitable time for a further conversation and meeting.

Many thanks

Bob and Rebecca

 

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Pop Psychology For The Panicking Lone-Parent

Top ten easy survival tips by Bob Greig, founder of OnlyDads.

Before men get to the stage where they sit down in front of  their PCs and Google “support for single dads” – and find OnlyDads – they tend to have been through the wars. The emails and ‘phone calls we get prove the point.  And anyway, I know it.  I too typed something like that into my browser seven years ago. Back then all I found was a forum for misogynists and reams of confusing legalspeak.

I’d only got round to searching for external support when I realised that not much was going right in my life. I was facing redundancy, a complicated divorce, a house move, and I had the responsibility of having two girls at home who needed me to be especially strong at that time. Superman, I was not, and yet I delayed crying for help.

Aficionados of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs will understand what I was going through.  I was surviving, fire fighting, postponing – not thinking straight.

This tends to be situation of the most of the men we now deal with via telephone and emails. The building blocks of their personal “hierarchy” are crumbling. For these men, the safety net of a family home and the nurturing capacity of love and companionship and sex is often missing. For a spell, life becomes a precarious state and everything seems to be out of joint, unfocused, basically, a mess.

Many single dads reading this will know narcotics, or booze, or watching telly, or staring glaze-eyed at  porn sites…will offer only temporary relief. None of these pursuits will rebuild your damaged self-esteem. In fact most such activities can quickly turn a precarious existence into something more fragile and damaged and desperate.

Some will find (many for the first time in their lives) that mental health becomes an issue. Anxiety disorders and/or depression may emerge. These can be devastating. They are always bewildering.  Social networks fragment. Friends dissipate. Self-esteem will be quietly replaced with a vague, or sometimes not so vague, self-loathing.

Isolation is the upshot of such a breakdown. Isolation can and does kill people.

So, what follows is written for isolated, doom-laden dads who are finding it difficult to see a way forward.  I hope it offers a sticking-plaster to get through the first few days of the new (dis)order. It’s not a cure, by any means, and it won’t suit everyone – but the easy commandments below have all worked for me in the past.

 

  1. Deal with it – There is a pile of correspondence in your home or car. In that pile there will be at least one letter, maybe several, that you know is there and will be troubling your subconscious more than the others. At times of chaos, correspondence from the Council, Inland Revenue, Solicitors… can accumulate rapidly! Here’s what to do. Open the one that worries you most and write a reply. Tell them you are having a terrible time and that you are doing everything you can do to respond properly. If you are under the care of your GP – mention that too. (and if you are not, go and book an appointment!). And then send the letter! It’s a start…!
  2. Get a haircut – It’s the quickest, easiest, cheapest transformation available. You’ll feel younger, fresher, lighter. People will say positive things about you –  to you. The mirror will be kinder to you. If you’re bald, go and pay for a shave and indulge in the experience.
  3. Do some housework – Take everything out of your bathroom/toilet and get back in there with a bottle of bleach and leave it spotless. There is probably something primeval about this particular tip, in fact I’m sure there is. It’s worth doing. Bathrooms are the easiest room in the house to clean too. This way you’ll really feel own your home. Next day you can do the kitchen, then the living room, garden…
  4. Look good Buy a new shirt. This may sound flippant, or trivial. It’s not. I even suggest buying something that is not your usual style. It will help you feel different, and “feeling different” has to be a good thing.
  5. Friendship matters – Get in touch with a friend (one friend) and thank them for the help or advice they have given in the past. My guess is you will feel you owe a few people a “thank you”. Friends won’t expect or need it, but it will make you feel better, and that’s the point. Start with one though. You will know who.
  6. Mornings and nights – Ten minutes before you head for bed do one or two things that will set the next day up for a positive beginning. I have got into the habit of washing out and preparing my coffee pot – it’s these simple things that take minimal effort but offer pay back the next day. Get a pile of laundry ready for the wash, make sandwiches for lunch, are other obvious suggestions.
  7. Hide away for a bit – Not being too hard on yourself is easier said than done. But do try and realise that you are not alone in struggling through the dark days. “Give yourself a break” has a variety of meanings – they all have merit. My guess is there won’t be one man reading this who hasn’t taken himself out of circulation for a while simply to hide away. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself doing just that. You probably need to as part of the healing process.
  8. Treats – Treat yourself to something. You will have at least one or two things on some mental list tucked away at the back of your mind.  I’m thinking more of purchasing London Calling by The Clash on 12 inch vinyl rather than a Harley Davidson though. Turning a mid-life downer into the full-blown crisis is not recommended!
  9. A good walk – Go for what is known as “a serious walk”.  Philosopher Soren Kiekergaard writes: “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”
  10.  Meaning of life – Take this period in your life as an opportunity to re-evaluate; it offers a time to be honest with yourself, which is not to be ignored. You will have spent years compromising yourself in a relationship that had probably been failing for years. Asking “what do I want?” is a question so few of us ever ask. Now is the opportunity to do just that. The next “phase” of your life lies ahead. Daydream. See what emerges…

Please do let us if you have found other helpful remedies. They will make a useful addition to this particular post.

You may also be interested in reading Natasha’s post called The Mailbox Monster which deals with the stresses of marital law and family breakdown.

Signposting to all the main support services can be found on both www.onlydads.org and www.onlymums.org. Thank you for reading. Bob.

 

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Panic Attacks – They Shrink My F***ing Dick!

The following conversation with a Dad took place last night…

‘…Bob, can I have a word? It’s a bit embarrassing”

I listened – but had a strong feeling that I already knew what I was about to be told.

The man in question went ahead and spoke about his recent onset of panic attacks. “I think I’m going to collapse…I tremble…I get really scared…” The phrases he used were all too familiar. They come straight out of the panic attack lexicon.

I listened and then went back to his use of the word “embarrassing”, and decided to take an opportunity to fess-up about how I too, find attacks debilitating, ‘embarrassing’, and leave me feeling…what’s the word?… humiliated.

I suggested he talk through what happens to him, with the reassurance that there was no need to be embarrassed when talking to me. The language was again familiar. “like a hurricane entering your head, a feeling of dizziness…panting for breath, odd heart beat…and overwhelming fear”.

“I tell you what Bob – these attacks – they shrink my f***ing dick!”

I perhaps need to add that I have known this man for years – he’s the bloke in the pub with the one-liners. Mostly inappropriate, but always apt. He’s the man that makes you snort beer out your nose!

We talked further about the emasculating effect of panic attacks. Our stories were almost identical. I too choose my bedroom (at any time of day or night) as the place of recovery while an attack subsides. I pull the curtains and sit on my bed with my knees pulled under my chin. I try (like the text books tell me) to concentrate on my breathing – but I’m not too good at doing that.  Within half an hour or so of an attack I have this unerring and unwanted need to really look at myself.

I see two things:

First of all I see a Dad. A director of www.onlydads.org with its role of being on the ball and insightful and knowledgeable for others. A man with a house to run, an organisation to run and much parenting to do.

And then I see the reality (albeit temporary).  I see a man tucked up on his bed, out of site of the world. A trembling man. Scared stiff of…well who knows what!?

Yep…I admit it. At such times I’m half a man. It’s an awful feeling. Panic attacks are ego-wreckers!

And yet…

I get off my bed. I take a deep breath – well probably half a dozen – and I’ll pick up some laundry from the basket and get down stairs and put a wash on. Within five minutes I’ll have the kettle on too, and the radio. I’ll go and find the peg bag, get twitter onto the computer, respond to some emails…an hour or so later life will be functioning again. I will be a little bit weaker, and yet in an undefined way, a little bit stronger too.

I have in mind the analogy of stalagmites and stalactites – the constant drip of panic attacks leave a mark. But so too, as more and more come and go and you find yourself working through them, well you may in time, find yourself being built-up again.

This morning, I felt the need to phone my pal. I reassured him that things will be OK…and told him that the best thing of all was that he still had the balls to talk to somebody about these attacks.

The more us blokes can do that (without embarrassment), the better!

______________________________________________

Mind campaign for better mental health and have a wealth of information about panic attacks and other conditions on their website.

…and for any men (or women) reading this who are suffering in silence…my advice is go and talk to your GP. They are the gateway to a range of support options.

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Dads, Divorce and Suicide.

I was really touched by the BBC Newsnight feature last night on rising suicide rates (12 a day) among men in their 40s and early 50s.

There is plenty of evidence showing the impact divorce and separation has on men; we hear the stories daily at OnlyDads. Going from the regime of family home, wife, kids, job…to one of isolation, no home, little contact with children, the onset of depression and/or other mental health issues, redundancy…well, that’s a path well-travelled!

This harrowing journey generally takes between 12 and 24 months to see through and the results are grim. It can happen to anyone at any time.

Many of you reading this will know that OnlyDads extended its on-line signposting service for separated dads when we set up our pilot South Hams Dads Group in Devon.

At our weekly group meetings we offer an open door to dads who, for one reason or another, are struggling. The entry point for most men revolves around a struggle to see more of their children, post separation.

The Newsnight programme reinforced for me the value of what our group does and what it can offer. We all know men don’t talk about “their shit” to their mates or to their colleagues in the workplace. As a species we are constantly told to keep our – pecker – chin – head – spirit – all pointing upwards! It’s hardly surprising that back at the bed-sit, men try to do so, and conquer their sense of failure, through drink, narcotics, porn… or by just crawling into bed!

The very tragedy of these short-term kicks is that they don’t last very long; they lead, in fact, to further feelings of self-loathing and isolation. They should be our road-signs telling us danger lies ahead.

At our group meetings we offer dads space to be themselves. We hear all sorts. As a group we listen. We don’t judge. Sometimes we may chip in with advice or snippets of information. Sometimes we will share our own experiences. But more than all this, we listen. Men quickly find that they can share stuff that they never would with anyone else.

I’m looking back to the work of the group over the 18 months or so. Our core work remains helping dads build a better relationship with their children – often through support and encouragement during their efforts to re-build relationships with mum – but we increasingly talk through the altogether more complex (and interlinked) issues we face: work, isolation, money (or the lack of it) feelings of depression, lack of libido, anxiety disorders, personal failures – some big, some not so, but still important to talk about.

We’ve had a number through the doors – drinkers, hard men, men who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Men who have talked through their suicide feelings and, in some cases, attempts. Worriers – those who have stop socialising. Angry men…we’ve had all sorts in truth – what Jean Genet would have a called “the wonderful company of broken men”.

Good things happen though. Our group sees smiles at our meetings. Laughter too.  Friendships are born – friendships that now flourish outside of the group itself. In short, what our group provides is a bridge for the isolated.

It would be good if every town and city could have a group like Totnes. One could write an essay on the benefits – but dads staying alive, getting to see more of their children, sorting themselves out and dusting themselves off…feeling able to move onwards and in some cases upwards, are prizes within grasp and worth working towards.

We asked the Government (DWP) if they would help us pilot an expansion of these groups, but they didn’t. That said, we reckon if just a couple of local dads got together in any town/city and found a location to meet and put up a few posters, you would find that men would come. We might not have the perfect model – but of one thing I’m sure; it’s better than nothing!

If you want to find out more about the work of OnlyDads, or are thinking of  setting up your own group, please do get in touch. Bob info@onlydads.org  

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Family Law: Don’t “Name and Shame”

It came to our attention over the weekend that a pressure group were talking about a “campaign” that would “name and shame” mums who, in their words, are “contact deniers”.

Stunts like this get dads nowhere and need to be avoided. As any man who has been through the family court system will tell you, courts are very quick to pick up on behaviour that they deem to be in any way unreliable or untrustworthy. We felt it important to state very clearly that such action would not be in the best interest of children, or dads.

OnlyDads asked Chris Fairhurst of Stephensons to set out some of the legal reasons why such action is just not on.

________________________________________________

There has long been a tension between the need for privacy in family law proceedings, especially those involving children, on the one hand, and the call for openness in family law cases on the other, in order to provide transparency and public confidence , especially from those who perceive that the Family Justice system operates in secrecy thereby avoiding the fairness of public scrutiny.

Primarily, the restrictions upon open courts in family cases involving children, are there first to protect the identity and therefore the welfare of the child and secondly the parents, or any other party involved in the proceedings. Until a fairly recent change in the law there were very few cases where the press had been able to report upon such proceedings. This changed from April 2009 following a number of calls from the press and other groups to allow more openness which resulted in changes to court rules allowing the attendance of the public and press in appropriate cases, but even so the details that can be reported are usually limited to the subject of the dispute rather than identification of the parties or any children involved.

I was actually representing a parent in the first instance of an accredited member of the press attending at a family hearing in the Manchester County Court on the first day the rules came into force nearly 4 years ago. Apart from describing the proceedings as “impenetrable”, the journalist didn’t seem to take much from the experience and certainly didn’t return. I’m not sure once afforded the opportunity journalists in general where much bothered after all about the cases involving the majority of individuals, or their children, preferring instead to camp out on the door step of the Royal Court of Justice in London, waiting for the participants in the latest celebrity “mis-match” or “big-money” divorce to step out into the sunlight waving their order.

Those truly interested in cases involving a child are the parents themselves, who will be acutely aware of the particular and unique circumstances of their situation and the complexities of whatever it was that got them to court in the first place.

More changes were contemplated by Parliament to change reporting restrictions but following further consultation have backtracked from this, perhaps in recognition of the difficulties of legislating in respect to the private circumstances of individual families. It now seems likely that proposed legislative changes that were on the statute books, but not implemented, will now be repealed in any event.

A very recent updated Commons Report “Confidentiality and openness in the family courts” sets out the various arguments and why the Government has now pulled back from greater openness since the Family Justice Review was published, stating:-

“this complicated and sensitive area of law” needed to be reviewed carefully, including gathering the views of children with experience of the family courts. Further legislative change would not be brought forward in the near future but other measures would be considered.

We will instead look at measures that can increase the amount of publicly available information about the work of the family courts, including encouraging judges to publish more family court judgments. In particular, Ministers will examine the results of the family court information pilot, which trialled the online publication of family court judgments in an anonymised form.”

That will not satisfy all however, as calls grow louder from some quarters, for parents whom another alleges may be obstructing or blocking contact with a child, to be effectively “named and shamed” in public, no doubt with the assistance of Facebook, Twitter or whichever other digital media might be at hand at the time.

If anyone was thinking of getting involved in such a practice. Forget it. Don’t. Your contact with your child may depend on it. The person doing the “naming and shaming” is usually the one who, rightly or wrongly, perceives they have been wronged. The parent being “named and shamed” faces the upset of public exposure, and most importantly the very child whose interests the parent seeks to protect is identified and made ready for the taunts in the school playground that would inevitably follow.

Children quite rightly inflame passions. Something would be wrong if they didn’t. But families are complex and unique, and things unfortunately don’t always go as planned. If separated parents cannot agree things between them, it is very easy for them to fall into the trap of trying to protect what they believe to be their “rights” rather than those of their child, and this can then ingrain the difficulties and cause frustration. Children have “Rights”, Parents have “Responsibilities”.

The family law system for resolving disputes in respect to children is not perfect, but despite the misconceptions, it tries it’s best to resolve matters for the best interests of the children concerned, taking into account all the circumstances of the family and if appropriate the views of any child. It is rare that any separated parent is permanently excluded from contact with a child, by the court. Although there are still some unfortunate examples of one parent, for whatever reason,  trying to seek to block and frustrate contact with another, if no contact or indirect contact is ordered by a court, it would have to be for very good reasons which the court has decided, with the assistance of expert advice, impact upon the welfare and best interests of a child.

If a separated parent who was not in proceedings but seeking contact with a child, “named and shamed” another parent, they are more likely to alienate the other parent and make the situation even more difficult than they find themselves in already. What parent is going to want to co-operate then?

We have recently seen the consequences of false allegations being shared by digital media and although the libel courts are beyond the reach of most individuals, an allegation to the Police or an application to the court for a Non-molestation Order is not. Further, if such a parent having made such an allegation thought they would then make an application to court for contact, I can’t imagine such behaviour would be ignored by the court, in its subsequent decision-making.

If in court proceedings, such a declaration would put a parent in contempt of court, landed with a probable fine, possible imprisonment, injunctive orders and any decisions for contact with a child far more restrictive than might otherwise have been.

If you are trying to sort out arrangements to see your child it is far better to get proper advice from an experienced Family Lawyer. They will be able to advise you of your options and hopefully assist you in agreeing arrangements for your child with the other parent, without the need of applying to court. It should be noted that if you might need Legal Aid, for most family law cases it will disappear from 1st April 2013, unless involving an element of Domestic Abuse. Therefore, it is important not to delay getting advice if you have any doubts about your situation. More importantly any delay could affect your child.

A local Law Society Accredited Children Panel Specialist can be found here

By Chris FairhurstFamily Solicitor – Stephensons Solicitors LLP

(You can also follow Chris on Twitter by clicking here)

We are grateful to Chris for this article – and we hope any dad thinking of doing a unilateral ‘name and shame’ job will listen to the advice.

Comments are welcome…

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Poems Required for New Anthology

OnlyMums and OnlyDads are going to celebrate our sixth anniversary by publishing an anthology of poems to be called “They don’t fuck you up, your mum and dad

Running our support organisation for separating /separated mums and dads we have learned that each story is individual. That said, the journey into single-parenthood carries with it some common themes.

These themes move through loss and heartbreak and that accompanying sense of hopelessness and bewilderment through to an eventual ending or, epiphany and a new dawning; that life is offering you a “new beginning”.

ALL mums and dads know that this journey is never smooth. It is signposted with moments of frustration; most of us have used the expression, “I’m taking one step forward and two steps back.”

Regardless of where you are in this journey, we invite you to send us a poem for possible publication. We are looking for poems that touch upon aspects of this journey through divorce, separation and beyond…

We ask that only unpublished poems are submitted together with your contact details. Poems should be sent to poems@onlydads.org

Shan Ellis, Poet, editor and single mum of two, will be working with us as our Editor. We anticipate publishing around 80 poems in the Summer of 2013.

 The deadline for submitting your poem (or poems) is 28th February 2013.

________________________________________________

When submitting your poem, we ask you to also send us a signed copy of the short contract below:

The publisher: OnlyMums & OnlyDads Community Interest Company

In signing this contract you are accepting the following terms:

  1. Acceptance of the proof edited piece of work named…………………………………….to be included in the “OnlyMums and OnlyDads Anthology” and credited to the author named………………………………………….
  2. Publication to be exclusive to the anthology for two years, at which time non-exclusive publication rights will apply.
  3. You agree to your work being edited for The OnlyMums and OnlyDads CIC Anthology.
  4. No Royalties will be paid to the Author. Any Revenue received will cover costs and be put towards the furthering the work of the OnlyMums and OnlyDads Community Interest Company (Company No. 8293558).

Signed by the Author ……………………………………………………………………….

Date ……………………………

Contact details:

 

 

 ___________________________________________

Hard copies (together with a signed copy of the short contract above) can be sent to:

OnlyMums and OnlyDads CIC, 21 Crocadon Meadows, Halwell, TOTNES, Devon. TQ9 7LH

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Support Group for Dads

Our support group for dads in the South Hams, Devon has been working towards creating a “constitution” which spells out what we are, and, as importantly, what we are not.

We would be interested in your views – and of course, you can follow our group on Twitter: SHDadsGroup

Overview

A meeting held on Monday evenings where dads experiencing family difficulties (often through divorce/separation) can find support from other dads who are going through the same. As a group we recognise that for many dads, securing a meaningful and ongoing relationship with their children is not always straightforward.

We are a fellowship of fathers. We share our experiences, strength, and hope with each other, so that we may forge and maintain positive and enduring relationships with our children.

We are open to any and all fathers who face issues with parental responsibilities following the break-up of a relationship.

How will we do this?

By providing:

  • a safe space for dads to talk about their emotions
  • a listening ear
  • group and/or individual support and direction
  • company for any dad feeling isolated
  • an arena where men can explore solutions to their particular problems through fostering an attitude of co-operation and mutual respect between separated parents.

Respect

Given the context of family and relationship breakup, this Group feels that respect for each other, ourselves, and the wider family is important.  We try to:

  1. work through problems rather than dwell on them
  2. use considered language
  3. avoid interrupting each other
  4. keep information heard at the meetings confidential

Structure

We see our groups as a “friendly drop-in” rather than a formal meeting, so we tend to avoid paperwork, agendas and the like. That said, each meeting will have one of the group taking the role of Chairman to ensure the ethos of the group is adhered to and a simple structure is followed which enables any dad who wants to speak, can be heard.

Where and When?

Monday evenings at 7.45. We meet at the Red Wizard cafe in Totnes (top of town, next to the Happy Apple). Meetings tend to last for an hour or so. Tea and Coffee is available. Meetings are free, but a donation can be made for refreshments.

For further information, please contact info@onlydads.org

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