Being a single dad is a complicated, wonderful thing. Let me explain…
Like most single dads, my marriage ended in divorce. Despite our differences, we agreed to both put a ton of effort into keeping our two children informed, and gently taking them lovingly through this extremely difficult process, so as to minimise the potential damage done to their mental health. Divorce can ruin a child in many ways (a 2017 study found that children living in intact, nuclear families are about half as likely as children in step, blended, or one-parent families to have a mental disorder or need psychological help)
Am not sure I entirely agree with that study, but there are tons like it, it’s a hard truth that divorce ain’t great for your children’s development or their future ability to be good humans and stay out of trouble, BUT there are so many ways to mitigate these issues.
Anyway onto the subject in hand, being a single dad.
Well it’s tough, really REALLY tough, lets go over a few myths:
MYTH 1 — “You only have them every other weekend — it’s a doddle”
Erm, come visit me on the Monday after I give them back, I spend the morning in tears. I am an emotional wreck all day. It’s like having your heart broken twice a month.
MYTH 2 — “It’s like a little holiday, you go and do some cool stuff, spoil them with treats and generally get to be the good guy”
Erm… I have no idea what their ‘daily’ routine is, I cant spoil them, it’s like having a foreign exchange student to stay, you have to find out what they want to do and get them to understand what you ACTUALLY do. You have to give them a great time, but also respect and perpetuate the life and environment created by their primary carer. You cant go buying them a £250 bit of Lego. It’s simply not fair on them, your ex partner, their expectations or their understanding of entitlement. Spoiling kids because their parents are divorced ain’t cool at all. Being a ‘cool’ dad is hard, buying them cool stuff is just a fucking cop out. It’s like buying flowers for your partner after a row. It’s a gesture, not a fix.
MYTH 3 — “You get to be the good guy, their mother has to do all the discipline and the hard stuff”
Erm… Well with maximum respect to all single mums, as your job is one of the hardest jobs in the world™, but I have to maintain an equilibrium that changes monthly. I am not there to see their ‘real’ lives so I make a bunch of stuff up. I do, however, do the discipline, but I have the respect to call their mother, for ‘alignment’ and discuss appropriate punishment as they need a consistent message. Good cop/bad cop is not an option here. Have you any idea how humiliating it is to ring up your ex-wife to ask for parenting tips? But if you are a good single dad you will do that, as you put your kids before ANYTHING. And their mum knows best. Suck it up and when they go home, have a cry and a drink and know that you are doing this for the greater good.
Ok well here are a few tips for being a decent single dad:
They have a lovely life with their mum. Your job is ‘literally’ not to fuck that up. Be cool, just be kind and take an interest in their life.
See them as often as you can WITHOUT disrupting their daily routines.
Speak to your ex wife/partner — no matter what your relationship is like, you maintain a friendship and a positive front, you do this for your children’s positive mental health, it’s bad enough their parents divorced, but the least you can do is to be parents with a united front, and maintain a shared commitment to love, honor and develop them into good humans.
Try to use your weekends as an opportunity to teach them stuff. I take mine to galleries and museums, and for long interesting walks
Dont buy them a bunch of ‘things’. It’s counterproductive and they wont like you more for it. Children are smart and need attention and love, not huge expensive gifts (cool trainers are the exception, cos all kids deserve good creps)
Try to learn what their ‘routine’ is, and ask them what mummy does, food, tv time, video games etc, just try to slot yourself in nicely. This is not a holiday, it’s daddy time and should be enjoyed with the same structure and methods that they find familiar.
Don’t get them junk food takeaways, or let them sit in front of the TV. Remember, you are damaging their mothers valid efforts to bring them up properly. You are not cool, you are a divorced middle aged dad, literally a walking midlife crisis. Just rock your cargo shorts and crocs and deal with it.
Give them as much love as you possibly can!. There is no such thing as ‘too much’ love. There is such a thing as too much attention, and that leads to possible narcissistic behaviour. It’s important to learn this critical distinction.
If you have boys, teach them how to be a better man, how to be a good man, how to look for signs of toxic masculinity and address them. Your children will forever look up to you as you are, and will always be, the most important man in their lives, and the biggest influence on their perception of maleness and understanding men. Thats a huge responsibility, that you took on when you inpregnated a woman. Dont like it? Then pay your child support and fuck off.
Be kind. It’s the most important thing you can teach them. Don’t shout, don’t hit, just love them and remember, their parents split up and that broke their little hearts a bit. You can fix them, or you can let that wound fester
Good luck xxx