When families are split through a divorce, and young children are involved, the first priority must, of course, be the kids. However, while the children’s welfare is paramount, the feelings of the father seem to be often completely forgotten. It’s just taken for granted that dad will be OK on his own and somehow he won’t miss his children. Let’s put that record straight, because I can tell you from bitter experience that the hardest part of a divorce can be not having the children around.
When my marriage broke down, it was taken for granted that it would be me that left the family home. In fact, I took it granted too, and packed my bags! I then found that, whilst I could cope with going through a divorce, not seeing the children every day broke my heart and it almost broke me too.
It’s now over five years since my own divorce and I now live far enough away from my kids that popping in for a quick visit in just not a possibility. I have therefore missed out on a lot of the growing up of my children, but the most important thing is, I’m still their dad and I know that they feel that way too.
If you are a divorced dad and just learning to live without having your children, here are ten things that I discovered about being a divorced dad.
1. It bloody well hurts
This is a message to all wives, ex-wives and mother-in-laws; men are not all thick skinned, hard men who have no emotions! Divorced dads miss their kids more than you could ever imagine. They miss the news about school, the first boyfriend or girlfriend, and they even miss not being able to be there when a child has cold.
2. The pain doesn’t go away, but it will get easier
I’ll be honest; the first year without my kids was hell. I did everything I could be with them as often possible and I virtually bankrupted myself paying for hotels and travelling to see them. The pain of being parted from my kids is still there now, but, over time, I promise you, it does become more bearable.
One of my biggest fears, when my wife re-married, was that another man would be bringing up my kids and he would become the father of the house. Whether it is because blood is thicker than water, or the sensible way my ex-wife appears to have dealt with things, the man who now lives with my wife is just mum’s new man, he is definitely not dad.
4. Your kids will notice your absence, but not as much as you fear
Your children are more resilient than you think, so don’t get uptight when it seems that they don’t miss you as much you miss them. If you keep in regular contact and always be on the end of the phone when they need you, they won’t miss you as much as you thought. They still love you though, don’t worry about that. Be prepared, though, for the heart-breaking moments when they suddenly come out and tell you just how much they really do miss you.
5. Don’t try and run down the ‘other man’
If your ex has another man in her life, then don’t try and wind the kids up to dislike him. I won’t deny that is quite satisfying to hear your kids say, how they dislike mums, new file, but don’t be tempted to use them as a pawn to get back at your ex. It’s not fair and it could really backfire on you.
6. Don’t worry if you are late, or you can’t make it one weekend
So long as you make it on time most times and you don’t frequently let your kids down, they will forgive you for the odd occasion that you are late, or can’t make it at all. I used to get in a panic if was ten minutes late, only to find the kids were quite happy and content watching the TV.
7. They don’t need to be showered with gifts
At first, you feel the need to buy the children gifts and take them on days out every time you see them. Seriously, all they want is to be with you, they don’t need to be doing anything special. Don’t get upset if they say they are bored either, that’s just kids being kids and it’s no reflection on you.
8. You have a right to be kept informed
My one and only bug bear with my ex is that she doesn’t always keep me up to date with what is happening with my kids. Never forget that they are your children too, and you have a right to see their school reports, attend parent’s days and school events and you should be told if the kids are sick or going away on a school trip.
To a child, one of the advantages of having separated parents is that they get to do everything twice! Don’t get depressed because you can’t have Christmas day with them on the 25th of December; have Christmas day a week later. The children really won’t care what date is on the calendar, so long as they have fun with dad, a Christmas dinner and presents!
10. Never stop being a daddyThe most important thing at all is that you never stop being your kids' daddy. When you do see the children, make that time special and spend proper quality time with them. Just because you are not with them every day, that doesn’t stop you being a dad. You are not a stay-away dad, you are not a long distance dad and you are not a part time dad. To them, you are just dad; end of!