I have a theory… I am directing this theory to all single parents for inspiration, but also to married couples raising their children together – that they never take their precious time with their children for granted.
There is a common belief that divorce puts kids at a disadvantage. Many parents may actually choose to remain together, in a bad relationship, to ‘spare’ the children from the negative impacts of divorce. There are obvious disadvantages for children of divorce - two houses and time split between mom and dad. However, I think that if the children’s best interests are always put first, that children of divorce may actually receive MORE love – more focused love.
Divorce, as painful and gut wrenching as the process is, is a second chance for both parents to find happiness – a beautiful opportunity to show children what a healthy loving relationship could look like. How will they grow to recognize and absorb what a healthy relationship looks like if they have no model? If all they witness is indifference, non-loving interactions between mom and dad, what is that teaching them for their future relationships?
A year into my divorce, I now have a good relationship with my children’s mother – the simple goal of parenting after separation. Life improved when I was able to set aside ALL of the emotions around our divorce and put the focus where it now belongs – on our children. We talk and text about the kids throughout the week – discussing behaviours, lost teeth, injuries, fevers, odd rashes, and sleepless nights. We are on the same page with discipline, encouragement, guidance, and are flexible within our time with the children, often helping each other throughout the week and creating incredibly special one-on-one night with each of our two children.
In an effort to make consistency for our children, my ex-wife and I decided to live close to each other – close but not too close. The children are with me at my house Monday to Friday. There is a cycling path through a park between our homes. My walks on this path are very different depending upon the direction. A quick excited step on Mondays contrasts the sad shuffle I take home on Fridays after dropping the kids off, arriving back home to my suddenly quiet and now gloomy home.
Within my new ‘normal’, I try not to take one moment with my children for granted. I, like many other single fathers, am a FULL TIME Dad with part-time kids. When I do not have my children, I am constantly thinking of them, yearning, and planning for our next connection.
I know the ache of Friday’s walk; I am motivated by it. My time with my children is intentional and focused - my love is focused. I am a better parent because I am excited to spend my time with them. My creativity and patience are heightened by my weekly deadline. Like a prisoner on a weekend pass, I want to make every moment count. Mealtimes and bedtimes become cherished events. I am PRESENT with my children during the week and not wasting time that could be best spent with them. I look forward to our time together and being able to plan our time.
Many dads have confided in me that they are also better dads now because of their separation. Their time and love for their children is better focused, intentional, and not “controlled” by mom.
So if you are in a happy marriage, parenting with a partner, YOU ARE LUCKY!! Enjoy, savour, and relish your simple ideal reality – you are always with your children – you say good night and good morning to your children EVERY DAY. Their treasured belongings are not being packed up weekly for transfer to their other bedroom. Your children live under one roof. Savour that and fight for your relationship and family.
With my children being 6 and 3 during this transition, they were/are quite resilient and adaptable. Separation and custody can be much tougher with older children. Children may have many questions and need honest answers; my son is sometimes ‘annoyed’ about this situation and does ask why we can’t all live together anymore. But we assure him that mom and dad are happier now, still friends and still care about each other, but most importantly, we assure them constantly that their world is SAFE. They are loved, treasured, and safe with mom and dad.
Children living in 2 different homes is not the ideal. But children living in 2 happy loving homes can be incredible. For me, when divorce became unavoidable and what was truly best for our family, the children became the sole focus. The cards had been reshuffled and I needed to play this hand well so that my children WIN. If dads WANT and can be involved, the benefits to their children are astronomical.
I love my new life. I am on the other side of the storm and I am smiling again with 2 very happy children. I have a second chance to find happiness and a second chance to show my children what a loving relationship looks like.
Within my children’s new normal, they have 2 energetic passionate parents that savour and enjoy the precious time spent with them. So if the children’s well being is always at the top of the priority list, and both parents are motivated to be involved and sharing their unique gifts, then children of divorce CAN receive as much or MORE love from mom and dad!
Until next time…
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