Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!
~Lydia M. Child
“Hey! Don’t forget me!"
I hear this from dads all the time! Now For Dads is for you!
Welcome, Dads, to Single Moms Ask Sara! I haven’t forgotten you, and to prove it, I now have a section just for dads!
When I started writing about single parenting issues I tried to be unisex about the whole thing. What are the challenges of single parenting? That was my goal. However my girlie-ness kept coming through! All I could come up with was single mom stuff. I thought…"I just can’t be universal. I have no idea what if feels like to be a single dad.”
But you guys are persistent and I am going to give it go! I am giving you your very own just for dads section here on my site! I do ask for something in return though. I want you to ask me questions, and provide me with feedback. If I am off the mark on something, I want you to tell me how it really is from your perspective. Deal? Great! Let’s get started!
“If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right.”
Dads Are Important
The minute my son was placed on my chest after delivery it hit me hard that it takes two people to create a child for a reason, and I only had one. Dads have a huge role to play. Boys learn how to be men from their dads, and girls learn how to interact with men from their dads. When these relationships are off, children enter adulthood with some serious work to do.
For many, many years dads were allowed and expected to be hands off. They went to work, they handled the heavy punishment…and that about covered their requirements. The world has changed for dads. Because most moms work, we have expanded our expectations of dads out of sheer necessity. This, however; is a good thing for dads. Dads have more opportunities than ever before to share in the joys of parenting. They have more permission than ever before to participate in child-rearing and impart their values, their experiences, and to share their love. I would imagine the “old way” was isolating and lonely for dads. Not anymore! You now have the opportunity and expectation to participate more fully than ever! Go for it!
Use Your Words
Men often don’t talk much. Yes, yes, we have all heard that men have evolved to massive levels of communication through grunts, looks, and stances, and this was all needed for centuries and centuries of hunting and warring. We ALSO all know such communication methods are not as effective when interacting with the wife, and they certainly hit a wall when dealing with the ex wife.
In order to participate in childrearing, you are going to have to stretch into unnatural waters and find some words. Plan ahead for this if the mere thought of conversing with the mother of your child(ren) makes you angry, overwhelmed, frustrated, or conjures any other less than pleasant sensation.
Here are some consistent topics for discussion:
Sports and Extracurriculars
Proactivity on your part solves a lot of issues. First, you have had some time to think about what you want to say, and you will come to the table more prepared. Because you are more prepared you will feel less defensive, and you will have given thought to how you feel about the topic. This leads to more productive conversation. Moms feel a great deal of pressure when they have to carry all the information back and forth. It is hard work. For dad to come to the table with questions really helps decrease that pressure, and shows that you have an interest. When you demonstrate an interest, the mom relaxes a bit and doesn’t feel like she has to fight so hard to get you to do your job. This makes her a more pleasant person to interact with. Win-Win for everybody!
Respect the Mom
I know this may be very hard. Maybe the mom did you wrong, maybe you just don’t like her, etc. However, she is the woman who bore children for you, and that deserves respect at least in front of, and regarding, the children. I know a man who referred to his ex wife as The Witch. Yep. The Witch. To everyone, all the time, and in front of and to his children. Recently, a woman was arrested for doing this very thing to the father of her children as the court considered this name calling child abuse. Don’t do it. It serves no purpose other to meet your own needs, and everyone knows that once you have kids…it’s just not about you anymore.
When you are finished interacting with your Ex and want to kick the furniture that is fine. Just pay attention to who is around. My Ex apparently chose to share many details of my life with a woman he was dating. When they broke up, she called me. She called me repeatedly, and she had details. My Ex denied that he said these nasty things about me, but given the level of detail the woman presented, I am not convinced he didn’t make the additional comments. Damage was definitely done to our co-parenting relationship.
Do attend your kids school meetings and events. if you cannot be there, let someone know. There is nothing worse than looking in your kids’ eyes and trying to answer the “Where’s Daddy?” question.
Do raise your children. “Visitation” is really an inappropriate word. You are not “visiting” your kids, you are raising them. You still need to enforce rules, make sure the homework is done, provide healthy meals, transport to and from activities, and teach values and responsibilities. If this sounds less than fun, I can assure you, it is. If you are unable to keep your prearranged schedule, you are responsible for covering the time. Don’t assume that the other parent is available to pick up your watch. Ask, don’t tell.
Do seek information. Most school and sports calendars are online. Find the information you need to be an informed parent.
Do call your kids when can’t be with them. There is no need for dads to limit contact to once a week and every other weekend. Check in.
“He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~Clarence Budington Kelland
Do be consistent. Say what you mean, mean what you say. You are a parent, you are a leader, and your kids are counting on you to be their leader and their teacher, not their buddy. It’s not easy, but I know you can do it.
Do back up the other parent. If bedtime is at 9:30, then bedtime is at 9:30 at your house as well. Kids need consistency and if they start playing the two of you against each other, you are both ineffective. The adults end up frustrated and the kids don’t get the parenting they need. Exceptions happen, and that’s OK. Make sure everyone understands why the exception was made and get back on track as soon as you can.
Do stay involved if you remarry. You are responsible for your children regardless of your dating or marital status. Managing one family is hard, two doesn’t simplify anything. Believe me, everyone notices when you start backing off, missing events, etc. Or worse yet, move away. This is devastating to a child and dumps extra responsibility on the other parent. If you make these decisions, you will need to put in extra effort to be a presence in your child’s life. This is not just important for the kids, it is also very important for dads and the richness of their lives.
Wanna hear it all from an actual single dad? Single Dads is a fabulous place for man-to-man single dad info. Check it out!
What if My Baby Mama is Crazy?
You can only control you. I know there are lots of irresponsible moms in the world and I can’t even imagine how challenging that situation might be. I also know moms who want the child support but not the kids, and they behave accordingly. I encourage you to do your very best in these situations, and consult legal advice as you feel appropriate. The news isn’t always the best for dads, but things are improving every day.
I have heard horror stories from both moms and dads about very underhanded and undermining activity from moms. This is horrible, and certainly not in the best interest of the children.
If this was your experience during your divorce, things have not likely improved post divorce. Get the resources you need to protect yourself, while proceeding with as much dignity as you possibly can, keeping the welfare of your kids front and center.
Eventually, your children will graduate, and after that, you will rarely interact with your Ex. Woo Hoo!!