10 Things All Divorced Dads Need To Know
Except for legal advice and microwave cooking tips, all I heard when I got divorced was how it was going to make me poor and send my kids into lifelong therapy. Neither happened. Here's what I learned.
- •You divorced your ex, not your kidsMany divorced dads disconnect from their kids when they separate from their ex-wives, but the divorce can actually be an opportunity to re-connect with your children — this time on your own terms.
- •The only parenting expectations worth a damn are your ownDivorce freed you from not only your ex-wife’s expectations, but those of your parents, her parents, Dr. Phil, and all those dads you see talking joyously about fatherhood on television. You’re the expert when it comes to your kids. Create your own expectations and standards.
- •There’s no such thing as a part-time dadYou’re either a dad or you’re not. Many divorced dads spend more time with their kids than fathers who are soldiers, businessmen, athletes, and salesmen, but do we question their fatherhood? No matter how much time you spend with your children, if you commit to it regularly and responsibly, you’re a dad. Period. Exclamation point.
- •You are not a babysitterThere’s no need to constantly take your children on expensive adventures, shower them with gifts, or keep them perpetually entertained as if filling a hole in their happiness. They are just as happy to simply be with you as you are to be with them.
- •Your children now have two homes... and two sets of rulesYour kids don’t “visit” you; they live with you. They have one home with Mom and another with Dad. And if they can adapt themselves to different rules between home and school, they can do the same between her home and your home. The phrase “But Mom lets us” carries no weight in your home.
- •You have an “inner dad”There’s an “inner dad” inside you. He’s the one who tells you when it’s OK to let your son stay up late, when it’s appropriate to be interrupted on the phone by a whining daughter, and whether a tense situation calls for stern action or just an all-out, no-shoes family wrestling match. You’ll get to know that inner dad gradually, but with each moment you'll become a more genuine dad — the best kind you can be.
- •Most kids can copeDivorce doesn’t necessarily mean therapy time for your kids. Studies show that many children cope well with divorce, especially if there’s joint custody and the kids are encouraged to express their feelings and fears. When I got divorced, a quick internet search told me I was ruining both my and my children’s lives. But it didn’t go down like that — in fact, I now feel like a better dad than I’ve ever been and I’ve stopped substituting Google for my conscience.
- •You can do what you likeToo many moms and dads feel martyrdom is a necessary part of the parenting process. Find those things that you and your children honestly enjoy together — going to the movies, having cart-races at Kmart, bowling, or impulsively getting pizza in the mid-afternoon. Your children love nothing more than watching you enjoy yourself with them. And it’s way more fun than standing on the playground sidelines checking your email, isn’t it?
- •Your issues with the ex don’t belong in your kids’ livesLike the corn and mashed potatoes on your first-grader’s plate, your parenting should be separated from any conflicts you have with your ex. Children need to know their parents’ love is unconditional and invulnerable, even and especially in the face of something as potentially devastating as divorce.
- •You’ll screw up...and that’s okay.Making mistakes is as fundamental in parenting as making dinner. Own up to them, and your kids will learn that they can too.