Parenting after divorce means making your kids a priority
I Am A Single Dad.
There — I’ve said it. Single Dad.
Before we discuss what I am like as a single dad is, let me start with what I am not.
The stigma of being a single dad
I am not a Deadbeat Dad. I don’t avoid child support payments.
I am not a Swinging Bachelor Dad. I don’t act like Hugh Hefner, driving around in a red sports car and swiping away on Tinder.
I am not Mr. Mom. I don’t have a series of comedic misadventures and hijinks.
I’m a regular dad who loves his kids. I just don’t live with their mother. And there are millions of us regular single dads out there.
As a single father, I could dwell on the financial and legal bias that was directed against me — but that’s not the point. In the legal system, I was cast as the Big Bad Wolf and treated as such. But once the legal jousting is done and the lawyers march off with their car repayments — courtesy of the feuding parents — what becomes of the father?
Generally, the mother gets custody of the children. And some people think the father goes on his merry, happy way.
That isn’t always the case.
The commitment required
When I became a single dad, I had three-year-old twin boys.
Double the trouble — I heard this all the time. So I was thrown into the deep end of single parenting.
The moment I had children, I automatically became less selfish. My children were my number one priority. I would do anything for them. This certainly couldn’t change now that I was separated — I had to lift several gears. I was determined to be as dedicated as any other father.
I work full time. I take my children to school and pick them up. Cook them dinner. Make their lunches. Wash their clothes. Weekends are spent chauffeuring them from football to cricket to athletics.
Cleaning up after them. Helping them with their homework. Taking them to parties — you can always recognize the presents from my kids as they are wrapped as if a one-armed drunk did it on a roller coaster — but at least I try.
I’m not listing anything that other parents aren’t doing. But I do it by myself. Lots of us do this — and by us, I mean single mothers AND single fathers. Men do raise children by themselves. And do all those fun and not so fun and damn annoying tasks I’ve just listed. And are great fathers.
I decided to leave my high paying job due to the extensive office hours and began my own business to enjoy more freedom. The hours are still long, but I determine when and where those hours are worked, which allows me more flexibility to fit in with the needs of my children.
Financially this decision wasn’t great — especially after I bought my lawyer a new car as mentioned above — but it’s best for my children. My perspective has changed. Being there to pick my boys up from school and play football with them is more important than sitting in an office making money for a big global corporation.
Once dinner is finished, and they are showered, and in bed, then I resume my work. It’s often a long day, but I wouldn’t change it. Well, maybe I would change my cooking skills.
I’d like to believe my boys think I’m a good dad and love spending time with me. Just like I’d like to believe they think their mother is good.
At times our maturity levels are on par. And I tend to play Good Cop to their mother’s Bad Cop. But I guess that’s me compensating for not seeing them every day.
Lessons I’ve Learned
- Co-parenting is hard. The key is good communication.
After a divorce, the last thing you want to do is see your ex all the time. However, you are stuck with them for life, ‘til death do us part. I describe my relationship with my ex as businesslike. Communication is to the point, factual and about boring details. Pick up times, feedback from school. Keep it short and unemotional.
- We all hate drop-offs. Let’s not make it awkward.
When my time comes to an end with my boys, and I drop them off, I always feel like crying. It’s heartbreaking knowing that I won’t see them for a week. Life goes on for them. Without me. However, I try to make the pick-up and drop-offs fun and not make it too awkward for my children. Don’t just sit in the bar and beep — walk to the door and greet them. Same for dropping off. Cry after they leave!
- Don’t be critical of their mother in front of them.
This was hard. To be honest, I hated their mother, and many things annoyed me. But I would never say anything bad about her in front of the children. It was too hard to be enthusiastically positive, but I was always neutral. I was Switzerland
- Don’t overcompensate. Don’t buy affection.
For the first couple of years, I spoiled the hell of out the kids. Birthday and Christmas presents were expensive. Special treats every weekend I had them. I wanted to prove I was the best dad even though I wasn’t with them every day. After a while they expected big, expensive things all the time — but I didn’t need to spend money on them to buy their love.
- Kids’ time is kids’ time.
When I have time with my kids — it’s all about them. I may be given front row seats to see my favourite band in concert. Or to my best friends birthday. Doesn’t matter. If my children can’t go, I don’t go. I have enough time without them to sacrifice even more time away.
- Be consistent.
Initially I was Good Cop whilst their mother was Bad Cop. I wanted them to see me as the fun parent, and they took advantage of this. There can’t be Good Cops and Bad Cops — just parents with consistent rules across both households.
These are the rules I try and live by as a single dad. And by doing so, I have a new title.
I am the World’s Best Dad. My sons got me a mug saying so … so it must be true.